Act 250 hearing for Dollar General continues Thursday

Planning commission offers alternative plans

The District 2 Environmental Commission has set Thursday, Jan. 17 to reconvene its Act 250 hearing on the proposed Dollar General project for a 1.37 acre parcel of land on Main Street across from the Country Girl Diner in Chester.

The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. on the 2nd floor of Town Hall, 556 Elm St.

During the hearing, the three-member body will take final testimony from the applicants, the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission and the Agency of Natural Resources.  The testimony will address changes suggested on the parking lot and building design.

The Southern Windsor County commissioned two alternative site plans for the Dollar General. This is Plan A.

Those changes were suggested during a memo storm following the beginning of the Act 250 hearing in early November.

In the interim, the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission spoke with David Cooper, attorney for the Zaremba Group, the project’s developer, and the state Agency of Natural Resources to attempt to resolve its concerns over the site plan and flood plain issues. According to a memo from Tom Kennedy of the SWCRPC, “The Applicant … felt that the revised changes they made to the site plan addressed the … concerns and additional changes were not warranted.”

A call put into Cooper was not returned by deadline.

The planning commission disagreed with that assessment and decided to hire an architect to “illustrate that changes to the site plan could be made that … improved parking, pedestrian and vehicular circulation as well as lessen the impact to the flood plain.”

Reducing impact on flood plain

This is Plan B.

Robert Haight, AIA, of Windsor, created two plans in which, according to Kennedy, “circulation is improved, and the impact on the 100 (year) flood plain is reduced since the parking lot in the rear of the building could be used as flood storage in a flood event. The purpose of these sketches is to simply show that (the commission’s) concerns can be accomplished without undue hardship to the applicant.”

On Dec. 20, Kennedy suggested that the Environmental Commission issue Zaremba the permit if it met two criteria: shifted the building closer to Main Street to minimize flooding problems and added pedestrian walkways between the pizza restaurant and the Dollar General building.

During a recent interview, Kennedy said, “We think their layout isn’t pedestrian friendly.” He added that his organization reviews projects on two criteria, “Does it have a substantial regional impact and can we improve upon it?”

He added that four or five years ago, the Route 103 Corridor Study was clear about what it wanted to see along the corridor. “The project does not fit with some of the recommendations of the plan,” Kennedy said, adding that the site plan can be improved upon, including the internal circulation. “We aren’t opposed to” the project, he said, “We are saying that it can be improved by the conditions of the Dec. 20th memo.”

The District 2 Environmental Commission is made up of Stephan Morse, former Vermont House speaker and former head of the Windham Foundation; chair Michael Bernhardt, a former member of the state House from Londonderry, and Stanley Borofsky, owner of the Sam’s outdoors stores.

— Cynthia Prairie

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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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  1. Lea Mitchell says:

    I don’t Live in Chester but I visit some and to me having that type store on a main street (OK, any street) in town will take away from the lovely feeling of the town. The old-looking stores there are so much better for the ambiance of Chester. Leave those cheap stores for Springfield and the other nearby cities. I bet Chester folk don’t mind driving a little to keep the town a good old fashioned village. Remember the saying about Chester; A Vermont town the way it should be, or something like that. Don’t cheapen the town to where that saying doesn’t mean anything anymore.

  2. Claudio Veliz says:

    These alternatives are a vast improvement!

    Now, instead of an ugly parking lot, with an ugly building behind it intent on destroying Chester’s economy, we will be graced with an ugly building and an ugly parking lot next to each other intent on destroying Chester’s economy. Ah, the smell of progress.

  3. Melody Reed says:

    Thanks for this news, was just wondering how it was going. Sounds like it’s a done deal unless the developers refuse to adopt simple changes. Maybe that will be their face-saving out (since they know they aren’t welcome in Chester). I only HOPE!