Scrap the Dinosaurs

The aesthetics police are alive and well in Vermont.

Vermontasaurus is (not really) held together with bubble gum and duct tape but nothing really is level or plumb. On the other hand, the Downing’s cross is straight, true, and well lighted. Really well lighted.

Vermontasaurus is a 25-foot-tall, 122-foot-long Americana folk art “dinosaur” that Brian Boland and a host of volunteers found in a scrap wood pile at the Post Mills airport in the town of Thetford, Vermont. The airport caters primarily to hot air balloons and gliders. The Town required a $272 permit for it. The state Natural Resources Board notified Mr. Boland he would need an Act 250 permit.

Richard and Joan Downing built a 24-foot cross outside their private chapel in Lyndon, Vermont. They light it during holy seasons. Lyndon’s development review board limited the number of days it can be lit. Officials now want the cross removed under Act 250 rules.

Blasphemy. Both cases.

Vermont’s Land Use and Development Act, Act 250 of 1970, created nine District Environmental Commissions to review large-scale development projects. The 10 criteria have changed little in 40 years; the reach of the environmental commissions has extended into everything from crosses to parades.

“It’s art, not edifice,” Brian Boland said. I agree.

Mr. Boland, a hot-air balloon designer and pilot, runs the 52-acre Post Mills airfield. He had a pile of broken wooden planks and other debris on the edge of his property. Volunteers spent nine days with splintered two-by-fours, half a bunk bed ladder, the rotted belly of a guitar, and one rule: no saws, no rulers and no materials other than what was in the scrap pile.

The result of random carpentry is a Shelburne Museum -sized slice of roadside American folk art that made the Smithsonian Magazine.

Lyndon’s Municipal Manager Dan Hill said that Act 250 decision came because the cross’ “aesthetics it did not meet the character of the neighborhood.”

Right. The Downings own about 800 acres of rolling Vermont land. They opened the chapel five years ago, in 2005, for their family of seven children and the 35 foster children. The chapel is open to the public. They added the cross two years later. Three other Dozule crosses have been built in Vermont.

The neighbors who apparently do not drive around looking at holiday lights in the neighborhood at Christmas, say the cross looks like a neon sign for a business.

“We just think that they’re infringing on our rights to practice our religion, and I think that they’ve gone a little too far in this case,” Mr. Downing told News Channel 5.

The state has not yet decided if a permit is required or, as Mr. Boland says he might have to dismantle Vermontasaurus entirely.

Lyndon expects a court ruling on the cross in November.

A man’s home apparently is no longer his castle in (liberal) Vermont where the neighbor and the state knows better than the landowner.

Here in Vermont, people believe the ultra-restrictive state land-use law can override the Constitution and that this is a good thing.

The Boland and Downing position is very simple. They have every right to do pretty much anything but spread bedbugs or shoot at their neighbors on their own land.

2 thoughts on “Scrap the Dinosaurs

  1. This is a microcosm view of what is wrong with America. Too many people think they should be meddling in other peoples’ business. At the very least, that’s a piece of it.

    Good story. Thanks.

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