To the Editor: An open letter to the Development Review Board

The process that began – for me at least – on July 25, 2011 with a hearing on subdividing the Zachary’s Pizza House property to build a 9,100-square-foot Dollar General is coming to a head. You, the members of Chester’s Development Review Board, will soon announce the results of your deliberations on the issue. Those of us who have opposed this project thank you for the patience you have shown us as we learned the ropes in this process.

We have tried to make the case that this project is out of scale and that it grows Chester retail at a pace that will injure a local economy in ways that will make Chester a less attractive place to live and visit and will be nearly impossible to reverse. We have argued that Chester’s very well crafted Town Plan calls for development that supports a vibrant economy with rewarding and satisfying jobs. It encourages supporting established local businesses.

If the DRB were to turn down the project on these grounds, some legal experts believe that the environmental court would not uphold it on appeal. Others disagree, stating that most Town Plans in Vermont don’t have the depth and detail of Chester’s. Pick your evil. Would you rather be overturned by the court in upholding the spirit and letter of Chester’s Town Plan and Zoning Regulations, or let a huge eyesore of a retail store come to town to hobble local businesses based on the opinion of one lawyer?

On the bright side, there is one point that is sufficient to turn this application aside and it resides in the very regulations that you said were the only basis on which you could judge. Can you really say that a new 9,100-square-foot, one-story steel and concrete block building with two fake windows, plastic siding and minimal landscaping fits this requirement stated in Chester’s Zoning Regulations:

“That all construction of new buildings, as well as any exterior alteration, fencing, lighting, reconstruction or renovation of existing building adhere harmoniously to the over-all New England architectural appearance which gives the center of Chester its distinct regional character and appeal.”

The center of Chester is often defined as the area of Main Street between Lover’s Lane and Maple Street. Think about the appearance of that area. Sidewalks, trees, two-story buildings. Look at the Whiting Library, the Fullerton Inn, the Academy Building, Buttonwood Farm and dozens of Victorian houses and ask how the Dollar General plan harmonizes with the character of the center of Chester.

The many residents – your neighbors and taxpayers – who have come out to many meetings to oppose this project implore you to make the right decision. Turn down the Dollar General Project.

Shawn Cunningham*
Smart Growth Chester

Shawn Cunningham is married to the editor and publisher of The Chester Telegraph.

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  1. Hello Friends,
    We are following your battle against Dollar General with great interest. We have been fighting a proposed Hannaford in Hinesburg since January 2011 and our path has been similar to yours in many ways.(creating a group, raising money, hiring experts, etc). With the questions we have raised for the DRB and the redesigns from Hannaford, our local process has stretched out longer than yours. I would love to be in more direct contact with Shawn (of Smart Growth Chester.)Good Luck at Act 250 and with your appeal!
    Catherine Goldsmith
    Responsible Growth Hinesburg