Last week Dunkiel Saunders client Champlain Housing Trust ("CHT") received a favorable decision in a zoning enforcement action against its property, Harbor Place, brought by the Town of Shelburne. Harbor Place is a motel that primarily serves homeless people and others in need, many of whom are referred to Harbor Place by the Vermont Department for Children and Families and community organizations. Harbor Place guests receive services focused on helping them find permanent housing.
The Town of Shelburne argued to the town’s Development Review Board that Harbor Place is not a motel because it does not serve the general public, and provides services a Shelburne motel may not provide. The Board ruled in Harbor Place’s favor 4 to 2. It found the Town’s interpretation of its zoning bylaws "impermissibly narrow," concluding that homeless people are part of the general public. Regarding the services available at Harbor Place, the Board observed: "It is no different than a facility that offers transient lodging accommodations and caters to people who have means, such as a motel with a spa or high end concierge services."
CHT hopes this ruling will encourage further work on creative approaches to reducing and ultimately eliminating homelessness, and discourage attempts to use zoning to exclude any group of people from a community. Dunkiel Saunders attorneys Karen Tyler and Brian Dunkiel defended Champlain Housing Trust’s operation of Harbor Place in the case. Read more at VPR.