Old Lantern, neighbors settle longtime dispute

For years the owners of the Old Lantern Inn and Barn in Charlotte have been at odds with neighbors unhappy about noise from the popular party venue.

The issues have spanned local regulatory hearings and decisions and spilled into civil court cases involving the business, its neighbors and town officials.

Recently, however, Old Lantern owners Roland and Lisa Gaujac reached a settlement to end pending lawsuits with neighbors Adrian and Alison Wolverton which will allow the wedding venue to continue operations.

“We are very happy with the settlement,” Lisa Gaujac said. “We can finally just focus on our business we love.”

The legal battles go back to 2015 when neighbors raised questions to the planning commission about the zoning for the Old Lantern. The neighbors objected to noise and cooking smoke and odors from the facility that does a brisk business, particularly in summertime.

The planning commission said the business, which started in the early 1960s, was continually used and grandfathered into current zoning, which the town adopted in the late 1960s. The neighbors claimed that more recent changes to the kitchen at the Old Lantern should have triggered additional zoning review.

In the most recent court case, the Lantern owners proved continuous operation of the wedding barn by gathering over 60 years of newspaper clippings, and providing the details of the over 1,500 events that occurred there over the years.

The Wolvertons did not present any additional evidence to the judge during this most recent trial.

“It’s safe to say the Wolvertons and I are content with the outcome,” said lawyer James Dumont representing the Wolvertons.

After the settlement

On June 25 Lisa Gaujac told the Selectboard: “It’s legally permissible for the Old Lantern as a non-conforming use allowing a year-round event facility hosting events indoors and outdoors, finally.”

She asked that the judge’s summary from the case between Old Lantern and its neighbors be available in the town offices for Charlotte residents and potential future homebuyers in the area to know the background of the property and its legal battles.

The court settlement marked the end of an expensive chapter for the Gaujacs and their business. “Over the last two years it was about $150,000,” Gaujac said.

She said she figures the town and neighbors also spent a fair amount of money in the process, and she added that she hopes the binding decision will deter future property owners from similar legal battles.

However, Selectboard member Fritz Tegatz questioned if the Selectboard was the right venue to share that information. “Vermont is a buyer-beware state, and the town is not responsible to advise anyone of activities – approved or otherwise – on any piece of property,” he said.

Town Clerk Mary Mead suggested Gaujac to record the decision in the land records, making it accessible to anyone doing a search.

There are no more lawsuits pending against the property, Gaujac confirmed.

However, she was pleased to note that there are more than 40 events planned at the Old Lantern for the remainder of the year.

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