By Ethan Putnam, Community News Service

Spear’s Corner Store was once again the topic of discussion at this past week’s Zoning Board meeting.

While still embroiled in a wastewater permit dispute, Carrie Spear and her lawyer, Liam Murphy, came before the board to ask for changes to a conditional use approval granted on Feb. 22 that allows for the addition of a deli and a new wastewater system.

The board had previously voted to reconsider the approval at their March 10 meeting, after Murphy, on behalf of Spear, sent a letter to the board requesting changes to the language of the approval.

The first item was related to the phrasing of the ownership and operation of the store and the deli. Murphy asked to have the word “owned” omitted from “owned and operated” because he wanted to leave open the possibility of someone owning the retail store, while someone else owned the deli.

Stuart Bennett, vice chair of the board, pushed back, saying that such an arrangement would be akin to Charlotte Crossings, where it would “turn the building into effectively a multi-operation commercial business.”

Murphy argued that those cases weren’t the same, since the store and deli were connected.

The following changes that Murphy and Spear wanted were related to the maximum number of employees allowed and the maximum hours of operation.

The initial permit capped the store to three employees and limited business to seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Murphy pointed out that a business can have many more employees on the payroll than work at the business at the same time. With the deli, there may be need in the future for more than three employees on shift at the same time.

“There may be times when they need more than that. There could be prep workers, somebody who is not out front, they’re a baker or whatever. And our wastewater system is approved for six employees. We’re asking that we would be allowed to have a maximum of six employees working at one time,” Murphy said.

Murphy and Spear also wanted to extend the hours until 10 p.m.

The bulk of the meeting was spent discussing outside food service and amending the board decision that banned seating, and food consumption on the premises, including in the deli, general store, parking lot or on adjacent property of Spear’s.

The rigidity of the current permit was what compelled Spear and her lawyer to seek an amendment to the language. The language effectively prohibited the consumption of food on the premises under any circumstance, which Murphy described as “brutal.”

Community members at the meeting spoke up in favor of having outdoor seating at Spear’s.

“I think [outdoor dining] is a good thing. I mean, that’s what towns are all about, gathering places and sharing stories and supporting local businesses, and I think we should support this,” said Mike Dunbar, owner of Charlotte Crossings.

The board agreed to discuss the changes during an executive session at the end of the meeting.

Community News Service works in a partnership with The Charlotte News and other local media outlets to provide opportunities to University of Vermont students.