Family Center gets DRB OK for move to larger digs

By Cynthia Prairie 

From left, DRB chairman Peter Hudkins confers with Carla Westine and Amy O'Neil during Monday night's meeting. Westine and O'Neil are the newest members of the board./Photo by Cynthia Prairie

The Chester-Andover Family Center has been approved for a conditional use permit by the Development Review Board so that it can move into the former Curtis’ Bar-B-Q restaurant building at 908 VT Rt. 103 S. to set up its thrift shop and first-floor food pantry. The permit still needs to be formalized with signatures from the DRB members.

The center had to wait more than a month longer than expected.  The DRB has been unable to meet   since mid-April, when it was discovered that the Select Board had failed to reappoint DRB members, whose terms had lapsed in early March. Just last week, the Select Board appointed Carla Westine and Amy O’Neil to the two vacancies. The new DRB then met last night, Monday, June 11, for the first time in about eight weeks, catching up on three issues, including the Family Center.

The charitable organization had hoped to close on its purchase of the building in the first week of July, but according to Family Center treasurer Sherry Willumitis, its attorney has suggested that the closing be delayed one week to accommodate the 30 calendar days allowed to  parties who wish to appeal the conditional use permit approval.

Speaking for the Family Center at the DRB meeting, Willumitis said that plans are not to change the footprint of the building, but to alter the interior by knocking down walls surrounding the kitchen area to open the first floor. She added that the Family Center also will take off the outside pergola and create an airlock entry where the front door stands. Ramps also will be added for handicapped accessibility.

Willumitis added that the building is already outfitted with a sprinkler system but that they will be adding fire and burglary alarms.

New DRB member Carla Westine asked if the Family Center intended to expand hours at the new building.

“We may, since we (will) have two entrances — one for the food shelf and one for the thrift store,” Willumitis said. But, she added, more volunteers would be needed. “We are serving more and more people (at the food pantry) … now, between 70 and 75 families per month from both Chester and Andover,” Willumitis said.

“I didn’t anticipate any problems” last night, Willumitis said on Tuesday. “The few questions that the DRB had, I was able to answer to their satisfaction.” She added that she had not realized that those who do not show up for the meeting could still appeal the decision. “But that is their legal right. It just pushes our closing back.”

The DRB also heard from the Windham & Windsor Housing Trust, which is seeking a conditional use permit to change its building at 517 Depot St. from five one-bedroom and one two-bedroom apartments to six one-bedroom units.  WWHT is a 25-year-old organization that seeks to provide affordable housing — rental and owner-occupied — in Windham and Windsor counties.

Other plans for the house include eliminating a driveway to the west of the home and upgrading the parking area on the eastside by creating defined spaces, including a smaller drive entrance, and seeding with grass. The foundation would also be raised and a sprinkler system would be installed.

Catch basins would be added on either side of the new entrance to help with storm water runoff.

They also intend to have the building, a “Greek Revival/Italianate/Georgian” style house built in 1868, put on the National Register for Historic Places. The hearing was recessed until July 9th, when the applicants must return with more detailed stormwater plans.

Robert Desrosiers, who owns a camp on Popple Dungeon Road, is hoping to demolish the camp, on the South Branch of the Williams River, and replace it with a much larger home farther from the river but close enough to the road to require a variance from the 50 foot front setback.  Part of the property, however, is in a flood plain and part is in a floodway, forcing Desrosiers to alter plans several times. The DRB asked that the plans be clarified for its next meeting.

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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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