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Disputed cabin can stay — for now

WILTON — A prefabricated fishing cabin on Isaac Frye Highway can stay, says the Zoning Board, after a ruling earlier this month that the cabin, which has been a source of dispute in town since 2012, is an allowed use.

On July 30, 2012, Building Inspector John Shepardson issued a letter to NTV LLC. and its primary owner Sebastian Valente, the owner of 1020 Isaac Frye Highway. The letter informed Valente that a fishing cabin being constructed on the property in place of a dilapidated cabin that used to occupy the space was against the Wilton zoning ordinance.

Though the Zoning Ordinance does not require a building permit for structures such as fishing or hunting camps, the building did not meet minimum area, width or setback requirements, Shepardson said in the July 30 letter. The previous cabin had been grandfathered under the ordinance, but it had been abandoned too long for the non-conforming use to be reestablished, Shepardson wrote. The town’s zoning ordinance states, “a non-conforming use may not be re-established after it is discontinued for more than one year.”

Shepardson was also concerned that the cabin would violate the state Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act, as it was built on a protected shoreline, and flood plain conservation district and the wetlands conservation district ordinances, because the cabin is built within 50 feet of the water. In the letter, he declined to issue a building permit. NTV had not applied for a building permit, and did not do so before moving ahead with cabin construction despite Shepardson’s letter.

The town took NTV to court over the issue, with both sides filing motions requesting the court make a summary judgment, but the court denied both motions and said that if the town was willing to hear the case before the Zoning Board, that was the appropriate venue. The town agreed and the case was dismissed and sent to be decided by the Zoning Board. The main issue was whether or not NTV should have acquired a building permit before moving ahead with construction, or whether the structure they were replacing was exempt under the ordinance which excuses fishing cabins from requiring board approval or a building permit.

After hearing the case, and several continuances that stretched conclusion of the hearing out from March 11 through July, the board issued a judgment on July 8, in NTV and Valente’s favor. The Zoning Board reversed Shepardson’s decision that the existing structures couldn’t be rebuilt or replaced without a building permit. The basis of that decision, according to the judgment, available on the Zoning Board of Adjustment’s website, is that the structures, while severely dilapidated, had neither been “destroyed” or “demolished” at any point in time and, therefore, the Wilton zoning ordinance allows them to be rebuilt or replaced.

The selectmen, any party to the action or proceedings, or any person directly affected thereby may apply for a rehearing of this decision, filed in writing with the Zoning Board of Adjustment on or before August 7.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.

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