By: Maria Moore
Six weeks ago I filed a complaint with the Zoning Officer. The complaint addressed a simple matter, or so I thought. It was regarding a storage unit which had appeared in a town park in a residential neighborhood and which nobody seemed to know anything about. It’s not that it’s so small that you wouldn’t see it: A metal structure approx. 10 ft. x 14 ft. with bright yellow stickers on it sitting in the corner of an open field must have been noticed by at least the town crew which was up there quite often, cutting down limbs from the trees, mowing down meadows and keeping the grass on the field nicely clipped.
I checked with Rec – which normally has a say on what is placed in a town park and for how long – but this time, Rec didn’t know anything about it. This led me to the Zoning Office to ask about the storage pod and how it got to that park and the answer was rather surprising: “I don’t know where that park is,” our Zoning Official replied, adding: ”Unless I have a complaint, I don’t know anything about it.” Hearing this, I filed a complaint stating:
“Pod left on town land w/out zoning approval, stadium lights use after dusk in town park without zoning approval. My personal complaint as a resident.”
I filed this complaint in person on Thursday, September 29, and as of today, Sunday, November 12, I have yet to receive a response. Practically every week I’ve stopped into the Zoning Office, only to be told the complaint was being worked on. After 6 weeks, I asked specifically what was being worked on since, to me, it seemed a pretty cut-and-dried question: Is the storage Pod (an accessory building or structure in Zoning parlance) legally located in the town park or not?
“It’s really much more complicated than that!” I was told. ”It all depends on whether the use that it’s an accessory to is legal or not, and that is what I’ve been working on,” the Zoning Official responded.
And that led me to read through the zoning regs, and ponder awhile and make a couple of calls to others more familiar with the regs than I am. And the answer, it appears, is as simple as I had thought: Whether the use that it’s accessory to is legal or not, the structure requires a permit. Of course, if the use at the park is itself illegal, then a special exception would have to be obtained before any permit could be obtained, before any storage pod could appear in the town park.
The pod is still there, although the use that it’s an accessory to has ceased.
And as for the floodlights mentioned in my complaint? They were in use in that residential zone 4-5 times per week for a couple of months, without any zoning approval. They are now gone, as they were last year at this time. But come next summer, will they return again?
Residents depend on zoning regulations and the officials they hire to enforce them to safeguard their neighborhoods from inappropriate usage. In this particular neighborhood, the inappropriate usages have been allowed to continue for months with no interference from Zoning – or any other town agency one would normally expect to respond to inappropriate usages that disrupt a neighborhood for months.
This inappropriate usage took place at Brodie Park South from August through the end of October. Brodie Park South is in a neighborhood that is zoned residential. The inappropriate usage could just as easily have happened at Chapin Park, or Callahan Park or at Brodie Park North, all in residential zones. The zoning regulations apply there too, but would they be enforced in a timely way?