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After Zoning Battle, Shelburne Motel That Provides Emergency Housing Will Stay Open

Patti Daniels
The Shelburne Development Review Board voted 4-2 in support of Harbor Place, which offers emergency housing to the area's homeless population.

A motel that provides shelter for the homeless can remain open after the Shelburne Development Review Board this week said the facility's zoning permit was valid.

Champlain Housing Trust bought the former Shelburne Econo Lodge in 2013 to offer emergency housing to the area's homeless population.

Last year, the town issued a zoning violation saying Harbor Place wasn't open to the general public. The violation notice came after area residents complained about an increase in crime around the facility.

The town argued that Harbor Place would need to apply for a new permit to operate the homeless shelter.

Champlain Housing appealed the violation, saying the group was in fact only running a motel and that it did not need a new permit.

The Development Review Board this week voted 4-2 in support of the motel and said the customers, who happened to be in crisis and experiencing homelessness, were in fact members of the general public.

Champlain Housing Trust spokesman Chris Donnelly said the ruling could have implications in other communities that are working to develop alternative housing for the homeless.

"I hate to think that communities would be using zoning to keep out people that they would rather not have in their town," Donnelly says. "So I hope it sends a message that we should be looking for creative ways to reduce and eliminate homelessness."

Donnelly says Harbor Place saves the state about $1 million over the last three years by offering a lower-cost alternative to having homeless people stay in a traditional motel.

And he says area social services can be more successfully administered in the motel, which is run as a non-profit.

Update 3:50 p.m. An earlier version  of this story included incorrect information. Harbor Place has saved the state $1 million over three years, not annually.

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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