Stowe’s Development Review Board has upheld an administrative ruling that a Pucker Street construction project is in compliance with its town-issued permit.
In a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the board voted to affirm that Sarah McShane, the town’s zoning director and administrator, was correct when she denied an appeal from Heath Eiden, who asserted his Pucker Street neighbor was violating permit.
“The zoning administrator essentially indicated that there are zoning violations,” said Stowe-based lawyer Bryce Simon, who represented Eiden before the board.
On Oct. 11, McShane issued a permit to Matthew and Mara Karlin to renovate a barn at 1186 Pucker St., next door to Eiden. Since then, there has been no love lost between Eiden and Karlin, with the former asserting that the latter’s project does not conform with the permit issued.
Among other violations, Eiden asserted that the height of Karlin’s barn exceeds the height allowed, that the roofing material differs from the material allowed, and that Matthew Karlin is operating a business out of the barn.
“The industrial garage that he’s built, it’s clear to any of his workers that have talked to me or people I can offer as witnesses, that he has a business going on and it’s not a storage barn,” Eiden said.
Eiden also asserts he has been the target of harassment by Karlin and his employees.
Karlin, who operates a landscaping and masonry business, denied the claim that he was operating a business out of the barn and said the heavy equipment on the property is related to the construction work there.
“It’s definitely still a construction site. I have no running water in there. I’m just getting drywall installed right now. The trucks there yesterday — I had electricians, I had plumbers, I had people doing drywall,” Karlin said.
Karlin also denied Eiden’s assertion that the finished space on the second floor of the barn is office space for his business, saying his office in his home, located up the hill from the barn.
“It is definitely not an office,” he said. “If anyone saw my office, I have a beautiful office in my house with an amazing view and I’m not going to move my office down there.”
Earlier this year, Eiden contacted McShane to complain the work was not in compliance with the permit issued. McShane visited the site and identified numerous violations, including a door that was not part of the original plans and differences in grading, the curb cut and roofing material.
On Aug. 30, Karlin applied for a second permit to address those differences; Eiden appealed to the Stowe Historic Preservation Commission — noting Karlin’s home is among the oldest in town — which discussed the issue at its Sept. 25 meeting.
However, the commission is advisory only and has no authority over project permits. On Oct. 24, McShane issued Karlin a second permit that allowed the changes he’s made.
The issue before the board Tuesday night was McShane's decision to issue that second permit. Simon — Eiden’s lawyer — was seemingly unaware that the second permit had been issued.
Eiden, who operates Stowe Media Group — a video production company — out of his home, said he could provide evidence with video he has shot of the ongoing construction site that demonstrates Karlin is violating permit conditions.
“My office is about 10 feet away from everything that is going on all day long. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t record this action as evidence of proof,” Eiden said. “If it’s a storage barn, how often can he go in there before you call it a commercial business?”
Eiden also asserts he has been harassed by Karlin and his employees.
McShane said zoning regulations do not offer a definition for “commercial use.”
“In my eyes, if there were obvious signs of retail sales, customers, signage — those things all indicate to me that there is some sort of commercial use,” McShane told the board.
Karlin said he plans to install a privacy fence between the properties in the next few weeks.
“I was kind of hoping we could put the whole thing to bed because it’s been a nightmare, just having the neighbor constantly filming my wife and kids and me and everyone working on the project,” he said.
While it is clear there is conflict between Eiden and Karlin, the issue has not yet involved local police, who are frequently called by residents with property-line disputes.
“As far as I know, that’s a civil matter. We have no cases pending. We’ve told him (Heath Eiden) to call us if he has any issues, and so far he hasn’t,” said Detective Sgt. Fred Whitcomb of the Stowe police. “We’re just hoping they can resolve this in a neighborly manner.”