Don’t wait to contact ‘Permit Whisperers’ about projects

Permits may take longer than you expect

If you’ve been thinking about building an addition, toolshed or adding an accessory apartment to your Charlotte home, you’re not alone. As the weather warms, many residents are dreaming of freshening up their living space, adding storage capacity or other construction. Some may even be planning to build a new home, add to their acreage or subdivide land for sale.

But which of these projects need a permit? Many do, some don’t, and some projects may not even be allowed. How to know the difference? And, where do you start?

Permit Whispers ready to help
Charlotte’s professional planning and zoning staff team, aka “the Permit Whisperers,” stand ready to help. We can answer your questions about what projects need permits, how Charlotte’s land use regulations (LURs) affect what you can build and where, and assist you in the process of getting the permit(s) you may need.

First up, an introduction to the players:ֳ

  • Keith Oborne was recently hired as the town’s new zoning administrator. He brings over eight years of experience in planning and zoning from the Lake George region of northern New York. His roles include handling zoning permit applications for most simple building projects, writing those permits, zoning enforcement and reviewing and writing permits for water and wastewater systems.
  • Larry Lewack is the town planner. He assists applicants who are proposing subdivisions, boundary adjustments and site plans for non-residential projects. He works with applicants to prepare projects for consideration by the town’s development review board (DRB) and staffs board meetings when those projects are discussed. He also assists the planning commission in preparing updates to the land use regulations and to the town plan.
  • Rebecca Kaplan is the planning and zoning assistant. She also works with applicants and staffs the development review board for conditional use and variance reviews. As a licensed architect, Rebecca has a background in project development.

Development review board changes
One important change is the town’s recent consolidation of all permit reviews into a single development review board. Prior to last December, some projects were approved by the zoning board of adjustment, some by the planning commission and some projects by both boards. Now, our intrepid new development review board handles all reviews.

The development review board has been very busy. Its members include Charles Russell, Gerald Bouchard, JD Herlihy and Christina Asquith. The board meets twice per month, on the second and fourth Wednesdays, at Town Hall.

Back to your project ideas: If you’re new in town or new to the process, here’s a comforting fact: 80-90 percent of projects can be approved with a simple zoning permit within two to three weeks of submitting a complete application.

But, please don’t make assumptions and start building without first securing the permits you may need. Projects built without needed permits are subject to enforcement action, including potential fines of up to $200 a day. “Do I Need a Permit? Zoning FAQs.” provides a good introduction. It is available on the town website or here

Because Charlotte has authority from the state of Vermont to approve wastewater system permits, those applications are processed locally. Those permits are received and managed by Keith Oborne, with support from an outside septic engineer contracted by the town.

Projects that require development review board consideration
Please note: If your project involves one or more of the following elements, it will need development review board consideration and approval with additional fees and an extended time frame, which can take two to six months from the original application:

  • Subdivision of land for new building lots or to modify a previously approved subdivision and/or building lot
  • Site planning, for commercial building and shoreline modifications
  • Any building projects or tree removal on Thompson’s Point
  • Adjusting lot lines between parcels, for land swaps and sales
  • Approving a change in use (e.g., from a single-family home to a bed & breakfast inn or to another commercial use)
  • Allowing a variance from lot line standards for setbacks, height limits, etcetera.
  • Appeal of a zoning permit.

Required application forms and fees for these projects vary, depending on the specifics of your project. The permit fee schedule and a link to all permit forms is in the FAQs document linked above.

We realize it can be challenging to understand and navigate Charlotte’s complex land use regulations. That’s why your planning and zoning staff provides free, upfront assistance in the form of a preliminary consultation. We encourage you to call or email us with your questions and to schedule an appointment if you have project ideas but don’t know where to start. Contact zoning administrator Keith Oborne for a meeting to discuss your plans and review what permits are needed at 802-425-3533 ext. 207, or via email.

If you’re not building anything this year but have concerns about a land use project that’s been proposed in town, many details are available on the town website. Here’s a page with links to projects currently under review by the development review board.

All of the projects listed there have had, or will have, public hearings publicized in advance. Adjoining property owners receive written notification ahead of a hearing and have the right to speak and be heard. Another page lists all recent development review board permit decisions.

Outside of the permitting process, the town planner also works with members of the town’s planning commission to improve the land use regulations. We prepare draft updates to these regulations to rationalize and streamline the town’s permitting process. We also look for opportunities to update the community’s vision for its future via updates to the town plan.

The current town plan is due for an update in 2024; that process begins this year.

The planning commission is currently working on two rounds of updates to the land use regulations. These drafts will be presented for public hearings this summer, to be followed by town votes this fall and winter. More details on planning work in progress can be found here.

Your planning and zoning staff can be reached Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with additional hours available by appointment. If you want to get something built this year, it’s best to get started early.

Please call us at 802-425-3533 ext. 2. We’re ready to answer your questions and get you the permits you need.