November 06, 2013LITTLETON — Joseph and Barbara DiPierre, owners of Crazy Horse Campground, continue to believe they are correct in their appeal to the zoning board. Even with the feeling that right is on their side, the DiPierre's may give up the struggle.
Starting in August 2012, the couple sent several letters to the town regarding their belief that Wal-Mart needed a special exception to allow camper and RV parking.
Via phone last week, Barbara DiPierre said the effort has been long and expensive. "It has already cost us $6,000," DiPierre said.
After a series of correspondence with zoning officer Christopher Hodge, the DiPierre's filed an appeal with the zoning board in September. They wanted the board to overturn Hodge's decision that Wal-Mart was not in violation of town zoning rules by allowing RV parking on its Meadow Street lot.
A hearing was set on the matter last month, but the merits were not addressed. Instead acting Zoning Board chairman Cary Clark said the DiPierre's needed to prove they had standing in order for the board to examine the issues raised in the appeal. The board said only a "person aggrieved" can bring a zoning appeal.
Both Hodge and Joanna Ray, the town's zoning clerk, provided information to the DiPierre's about the appeal process. After deciding to go forward with the appeal, neither the DiPierre's nor their attorney, Brad Atwood, expected to face the issue of standing.
The board did not formally determine the DiPierre's lack standing. The couple was informed, however, that legal advice provided to the town raised the question to the board.
The town's zoning ordinance does not mention that appellants must show how they are a "person aggrieved." The term does not have a strict meaning across all cases. Boards must make that decision in any given situation. Thus, having wording about who is aggrieved might be confusing if placed in the ordinance, Ray said on Monday.
Last week, DiPierre did say town staff had outlined the steps of the appeal process. However, did not expect that the standing question would be raised at the board's hearing. Essentially, DiPierre said, they paid $150 to the town for the appeal process without knowing they first had to prove standing to bring the appeal.
The reason the fight may be abandoned, DiPierre said, was a sense the couple can't win. After being disheartened at last month's hearing, the path to prove standing seems quite large to DiPierre.
Besides, the couple's mounting costs are difficult to justify, DiPierre added. "We have campers who are town taxpayers," she concluded. "Why should they have to pay for this?"
As of Monday, Ray said the DiPierre's have not contacted the town to abandon the process. The standing question was to be addressed at the board's hearing in late October, but the matter was continued until November 12.