Logging business appeal dismissed

LITCHFIELD – William Morin’s logging business has barely made the cut. But if his neighbors have anything to say about it, he won’t be chopping much longer.

The Planning Board appealed the decision that Morin’s commercial business could be operated in a residential area to the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Code Enforcement Officer Roland Bergeron approved the use June 10 before referring Morin, 19, to the Planning Board for site plan approval. The business is located at 80 Pinecrest Road.

In a 3-2 decision Wednesday night, the ZBA voted to dismiss the Planning Board’s appeal because it was out of its jurisdiction.

ZBA bylaws state that an appeal must be made within 30 days of a site’s approval. Bergeron allowed Morin to use the 30-acre residential property for receiving, processing and delivering logs 151 days ago.

The lawyer for the Planning Board, David LeFevre, argued that the use of the site for commercial purposes only became an issue for them on Sept. 15, when Morin brought his site plan to the board. They filed the appeal on Oct. 13 – safely within the 30-day limit, he said.

John Ratigan, who represented Bergeron in the appeal, said 30 days means 30 days. He said the Planning Board received a letter informing them of the commercial use approval directly after the June decision. Ratigan said if the board disagreed with the decision in June, it should have appealed shortly thereafter.

“If they were aggrieved tonight, they could have been aggrieved then,” Ratigan said.

Three of the five voting members of the ZBA ultimately agreed. Residents of the area around Morin’s logging business did not.

When the meeting began at 7 p.m., town hall was full of angry Pinecrest Road residents who do not want the traffic and the noise of commercial business near their homes. Several people expressed concern about trucks constantly coming and going from the property to drop off and deliver the logs being processed on the site.

Aside from saying the 30-day rule was not applicable in this situation, LeFevre told the ZBA Morin should not be able to conduct a forestry business on the site because it is zoned for residential and agricultural uses only. He said Morin’s type of logging could not be classified as agricultural because it is not being used as part of a farming business.

However, his argument failed to sway the ZBA because its initial concern was to decide if they should hear the appeal in the first place.

After deciding the case was out of their jurisdiction, zoning board members said it is up to area residents, who were informed of the business less than 30 days ago, to appeal the commercial use.

Laura Gandia, a ZBA member who voted not to hear the case, said the appeal was untimely and therefore, out of their jurisdiction. She said she understands the neighbors’ concerns, but had to look at this case based upon who was making the appeal.

“I sympathize and empathize with the abutters, but our appeal tonight is from the Planning Board,” Gandia told the audience.

After the decision, a group of about 10 area homeowners gathered in the lobby to decide how to stop the commercial use of the property. The group planned to meet at 1:30 p.m. Friday at town hall to discuss and file the appeal.