State Government

News report: Act 250 delayed Waterbury gun shop, stopped sugarhouse at Mormon historic site

The new Parro’s Gun Shop in Waterbury is scheduled to open August 7. According to a report in today’s Burlington Free Press, it was delayed eight months during Act 250 review.

By Guy Page

An unsettling report on the front page of today’s Burlington Free Press describes what many Vermonter developers say has been the unhappy reality in Vermont for decades: Act 250 officials raising costly, unexpected roadblocks.

“Legislation causing delays, ‘sad’ stories” by veteran reporter Dan D’Ambrosio had not been published online as of 10:15 AM today. However, the paper is available in ‘hard copy’ on newsstands.

Act 250 is Vermont’s landuse and development law, passed in 1970 and the subject of lengthy, in-depth legislative review for over two years. Today’s Free Press covers two apparent Act 250 horror stories: a long-delayed approval for Henry Parro’s new gun shop on Route 2 in Waterbury, and repeated denials to approve a sugarhouse and gift shop near the Joseph Smith Memorial, a state historic site in Royalton honoring the founder of the Mormon religion. 

Parro’s is the biggest retail firearms store in Vermont. The expansion, Parro’s Gun Shop Police Supplies and Indoor Range, reportedly was four years in the planning and regulatory approval. The official grand opening will be August 7.

Act 250 approval was delayed eight months, at an added cost of $120,000, the Free Press reports. According to the site’s architect, a 35-year veteran of shepherding projects through Act 250, Parro’s Gun Shop:

  1. Should not have needed Act 250 permission at all, because Waterbury’s stringent subdivision regulations should have exempted it from Act 250 oversight.
  1. Paid $6,500 in questionable impact fees for a roundabout that had already been built, mostly with federal funds. 

During the Act 250 process, the VT Dept. of Transportation sought a $46,000 traffic impact fee for a roundabout built years ago, despite having no impact fee program in place and no definition of necessary proximity. And the roundabout had already been mostly paid for by federal funds. VTrans settled for $6,500, the architect reportedly said. 

  1. Had to pay $28,000 for a 68-ft. buffer between the project and the Winooski River – even though 50 feet had long been the traditional required maximum distance for buffers. 

In comparison to Parro, John Lefgren was a ‘small-fry’ with less ambitious plans. First he built (without a permit) a gift shop and deli near the Joseph Smith historic site to serve the nearly 50,000 visitors from all over the world, most of them making pilgrimages to the birthplace of the founder of their religion. After neighbors flagged his building to state officials, Lofgren noted an agricultural exemption in Act 250 and planned a sugarhouse operation. 

The project was denied “because it was out of character with the area,” Joe Greene – who also was architect for the Parro project – said. A rural location next to a state-established historic site and tourist draw was – somehow – deemed ‘out of character’ for a sugarhouse with a gift shop. On the same road as a John Deere dealership.

The end result of six years’ effort, including a failed appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court, was Lefgren putting his property up for sale, at a price that will recover about half of the money already sunk into it.

For two years, the Vermont Legislature has been revising Act 250. A vote on a final version is considered likely next year. It remains to be seen if the Legislature will approve a bill that addresses long-standing concerns about the misuse of Act 250 as an impediment to development in the Green Mountain State.

Categories: State Government

10 replies »

  1. It’s a conundrum as I have seen Act 250 work well and prevent a seriously inappropriate and hazardous project from happening in a quiet rural residential area. At the same time, what was the point of putting roadblocks in the way of a well established store like Paros? The tendency to use permit applications to extract money from applicants is dubious at best. We should be using Act 250 to prevent seriously inappropriate endeavors from happening; not just throw up roadblocks to prevent projects. Especially when one considers the number of people employed by Paros as well as the tax receipts it brings in, it boggles the mind that our government would put obstacles in their path.

  2. Both of these reports reflect utter insanity at any level that would require these people to endure such. Collectively, around the state, and of course in the ski areas are similar operations that have been in place for years. This stupidity on display here in both of these cases, is exactly why we are dead in VT business wise. No one is going to go through the nightmares of ACT 250 if they can build and carry on reasonably somewhere else such as NH. I used to live in Royalton, and I am familiar with the Joseph Smith complex… a very well run, and beautiful setting and a sugar house would certainly add to the mix of the display there. I am not Mormon but I support the effort and support the people who have been enduring for way too long here; and I support the gun shop as well. This is uncalled for.

  3. a much needed 40 unit senior complex in Newport was squashed due to act #250 now it will never be built ! many other potential businesses say the costs and regulations are too much! they give up! In a state that needs housing and jobs this is a disaster and shameful!

  4. You can count on any revisions to Act 250 to be full of radical left ideas about what is appropriate development and it will be considerably harder to get anything built that isn’t a renewable energy project. The lefist majority will be oblivious to the impact of their foolishness on business owners and tradespeople because hardly anybody in the legislature owns a real business or works with their hands.

  5. Act250 is an excuse to give or deny approval. For giggles would be interesting to present request with BLM backers to see if approved.

  6. Vermonters should express our derision about using Act 250 as a bludgeon by patronizing Parro’s. Big box retailers such as Walmart and Dicks have already caved in to the anti-gun leftists by cutting back on types of firearms and ammunition that they sell. Parro’s is worth the drive from anywhere…a good place to spend your “stimulus check”.

  7. The Marxist Regime wants all your property. Act 250, Land Conservation, a List of Landlords who own Homes for Rent, all adds up to Private Business Owners and Homeowners getting forced out of their private property.

    I bet it’s in the works, if not already on the books, new taxes on land and house sales. It’s all designed for the government to gain control over all private property, businesses, etc. without the government showing up and physically taking it.

    What about the eviction moratorium? What’s going to happen to all the Landlords who cannot pay the taxes or mortgages because they’ve received no rent?

    Marxist Regimes love chaos, then they can come in and be the “savior” to the people. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Watch out, they want all of what you have. History repeating itself.

    Major corruption in local government needs to be stopped.

  8. PRIVATELY OWNED – NOT but GOVERNMENT OWNED – YES! That’s the deal – are you getting it yet? This is theft plain and simple.

    I will be supporting Paros bigly!!

    NEW ELECTION COMING!! (and not 2022)