JERICHO, Vt. -- A judge has ordered a man to tear down a house to restore a natural bird habitat in a wetland.
Larry Westall built the three-story, 30-foot-high house a decade ago off Browns Trace Road in wetlands deemed important for migratory birds. Superior Court Judge Richard Norton recently upheld a state order that the house come down by June 1 because it doesn't comply with state wetlands rules.
"This is a pretty egregious violation," said Sal Spinosa, director of the enforcement division of the Agency of Natural Resources.
He and other state officials were unaware of any previous case of a house being built in a Vermont wetland. In this case, the Class II wetland has a 50-foot protective buffer because it is considered significant.
The house has not been occupied because of problems Westall encountered in obtaining permits, officials said.
Designed with a porch and windows facing the marsh, the house would potentially disrupt birds and other wildlife, the state Water Resources Board found when it denied a conditional use permit in 2000.
The state must draft a plan for removing the house, Norton said in his order issued at Chittenden Superior Court.
David Sunshine, Westall's attorney, said he is negotiating with the state on a possible agreement. The deal could give the state what it wants and "allow my client to do something with the house that is productive and beneficial rather than just tearing it down," he said.
He declined to discuss whether he would oppose the demolition order if he can't reach an alternative agreement for his client.
In the meantime, Assistant Attorney General Mark Sciarrotta said he was preparing to file an order for removal of the house.
The great blue heron and American bittern are among the birds that use the wetlands and are sensitive to human disturbance. Jericho Center residents also use the pond in the wetlands for recreation.