State puts halt to construction at Jack’s Diner

By Cynthia Prairie

Construction has been silenced at Jack’s Diner since Wednesday, Jan. 25, when an assistant state Fire Marshal issued a stop-work order on the expansion efforts.

Landon Wheeler, the assistant state Fire Marshal, said on Monday, Jan. 30, that he issued the order after owner Jacques Dodier failed to comply with requests for plans detailing sprinkler and fire alarm systems as well as proof of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. “The project can only go so far without permits being in place to address life-safety issues,” Wheeler said.

Dodier will now have to secure a contractor to submit sprinkler and fire alarm plans to the state Division of Fire Safety. And he will have to submit proof that he is meeting ADA requirements. Wheeler said once his agency has those documents, it can take up to 30 days to review them before permits are issued.

Hopes to reopen by August

Reached on Tuesday, Dodier said he is hiring a contractor from Brattleboro to draw up plans for both the sprinkler and fire alarm systems, and is trying to hire an engineer so that he can “comply with town requirements.” Saying that he wanted to “do it right, too” he added that he just wants “to make the town and state happy.”

Dodier also said that he hopes to reopen his popular diner by August.

Jack’s Diner at 521 Main St. has been closed since Dodier decided to upgrade the restaurant during the time that two of Chester’s bridges closed the town off to tourist traffic last summer.

Early in the process, Dodier had received a building permit from the town, but was told by Chester Zoning Administrator Michael Normyle that any additional and new uses would require him to obtain a conditional use permit.

Began construction without conditional use permit

In late September, Dodier was told by Peter Hudkins, chairman of the Development Review Board, to return to the DRB in October with plans addressing elevation, parking, drainage, lighting, dumpster location and site layout, land contours, landscaping and a floor plan. The DRB reviews all development applications including subdivisions, variances, conditional uses, zoning administrator appeals and site plan reviews.

In the hopes of adding a bar and two apartments, Dodier went ahead and enlarged the footprint of the diner, poured a new foundation at the rear of the building and began construction, but without the conditional use permit required since additional and new uses were planned.

Following a number of hearings in late 2011 — in which Dodier either failed to show up with requested documentation or at all — the Chester Development Review Board in early December denied Jack’s Diner the conditional use permit. At the time, Normyle had said that since Dodier does have the building permit, “He can finish building the building but cannot run his business because he has gone from a small diner to a much larger restaurant with a bar and apartments.”

Now, the state has issued the stop-work order as it awaits the required state plans and Dodier still must go back to Square 1 in approaching the town for a conditional use permit.

 

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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