Burlington property owner ordered to pay $66K for illegal parking lot

Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 5:44 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A Burlington property owner is facing what might be a record fine for violating the city’s zoning regulations

The Handy family has owned the former Pearl St. Mobil property since 2004. After closing the old gas station in 2017, they have used the property as a parking lot, something the city has said is not allowed under current zoning regulations. Vermont’s Environmental Court this week ruled against Handy’s, ordering them to stop using it as a parking lot and pay the city nearly $67,000 in penalties.

City officials say they’ve been trying to bring the Handys into compliance since 2018. “Everything that happens should be done with a permit and all of the neighboring properties, that’s exactly what’s happened. So, at this property, that’s not what was happening and it’s fair for everyone to enforce the zoning violations,” said Bill Ward with the Burlington Department of Permitting and Inspections.

Charlie Handy is one of the owners of the property. He’s frustrated he can’t make money by renting out his property to local workers in the area. “They want us to pay taxes but we’re not getting any protection. We can’t rent our properties. I own a property, I pay taxes on it. They don’t want me to do anything with it. What can I do?” Handy said.

After ignoring requests to bring the property into compliance, the city began formal enforcement proceedings. In addition to the $66,759.92 fines, the Environmental Court ruling orders the Handy’s to cease the parking operation within 30 days.

Handy says he’d like to redevelop the lot for housing -- which is permitted -- but says with the lost parking revenue and the penalty, it will be harder to achieve that goal.

Adam Hammerschmidt, a property owner across the street, says the graffiti and building don’t bother him or his tenants. He says can understand a property owner wanting to rent out some spaces for extra money. “assuming it is a legit business. I’ve even given them a reference. I said call across the street if you need parking. I know they offer it as well,” Hammerschmidt said.

Former City Council member Adam Roof represented Ward 8, where the lot is located. He says it’s all about a tradeoff. “Parking is a real issue in Burlington as well. But from my perspective, we can’t have it all. We have to prioritize. For me -- and having served this community and having lived here for a long time -- I’m going to prioritize the need for new housing and affordable housing over the need for parking,” Roof said.

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