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State charges members-only resort with multiple permit violations

The state is charging an exclusive private resort in southern Vermont with a series of permit violations.

The Vermont attorney general’s office says the resort, known as the Hermitage Inn and Club, failed to apply for Act 250 land use and water quality permits before starting construction projects.

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It also alleges the business failed to comply with the conditions of existing permits.

In a lawsuit filed in Windham Superior Court, the state says the Hermitage altered a dam and disturbed a “significant” wetland without approval. The suit also claims the resort began building a wind turbine on the summit of Haystack Mountain without the required land use permit.

“They had a pattern of doing what we allege is after-the-fact behavior. They would do the work, then submit an application after it was already done,” says Assistant Attorney General Justin Kolber.

The resort owns 1,400 acres of land in West Dover and Wilmington, including the Haystack Mountain ski area and golf course .

The membership-only club features year-round recreation. According to the resort’s website, membership fees range from $25,000 to $75,000.

Since purchasing Haystack in 2007, Jim Barnes, the Connecticut-based owner of the property, has acquired additional area real estate, including the former Mt. Snow Airport.

The state is charging the Hermitage with 15 counts of violating land use and water quality regulations between 2011 and 2014. According to the lawsuit, in late 2012 a court ordered the Hermitage to stop any unauthorized work and get the necessary permits, but the state alleges the violations continued.

Kolber says typically such violations are handled by state agencies, but the scope and the duration of the problems warranted the Attorney General’s involvement. “The agencies repeatedly informed the Hermitage Inn of what was allowed, what wasn’t allowed and what permits were needed and those communications went ignored for a period of time,” he says.

The complaint says, ultimately, the Hermitage Inn took the necessary remediation steps and addressed concerns raised during 2012 construction.

However, the state contends the company then undertook new unauthorized work, including converting a snow making pond into a recreational area, clearing land, constructing a parking lot and erecting a building.

The state is seeking civil penalties for the alleged violations and wants the resort to hire staff to improve compliance with permit regulations in the future.

A lawyer for the resort did not respond to requests to comment on the allegations.