Alternative plans spark strong objections from Dollar General developer, engineer

By Cynthia Prairie

Speath Engineering and developer the Zaremba Group vigorously defended their site plan for a Dollar General store proposed for Main Street in Chester after the Windsor County Regional Planning Commission offered two alternatives during the continuation of the Act 250 hearing last Thursday. Click to view Alternative A and Alternative B.

The hearing was held before the District 2 Environmental Commission at Chester Town Hall on Elm Street. One of the three-member Environmental Commission was absent. Linda Matteson, Vermont Natural Resources Board commission coordinator, on Friday said that now that the hearing is over, absent member Stanley Borofsky will listen to the tape to see if new information came out of Thursday’s meeting. The commission will then deliberate and can take as long as it believes is necessary before issuing a decision. Members could, she added, ask for more information. The members in attendance were Stephan Morse and chair Michael Bernhardt.

From left, Environmental Commission members Stephan Morse and Michael Barnhardt with coordinator Linda Matteson. ON THE COVER: Chris Ponessi of Speath Engineering tells the commission that his plan for the Dollar General site would withstand a 100-year-flood./Photos by Cynthia Prairie

The RPC alternatives move the proposed 9,100-square-foot building closer to the street and pushes the parking to the back. One alternative turns the building 90 degrees with the long side of the building facing Main Street.

RPC executive director Tom Kennedy told the Act 250 commission that his organization sought to address three issues with its new plans: Internal circulation, flood plain impact and parking.

Of his plans, Kennedy had said earlier, “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.”

Tom Kennedy of the Windsor County Regional Planning Commission offers two alternative site plans for the proposed Dollar General.

During the hearing, attorney David Cooper, who represents Zaremba, objected to the alternatives and said, “Our burden of proof is that our plan meets the criteria, not that it is the best alternative.”

Kennedy said, “By turning the building and having the parking in the back, it would help flood storage” because the parking area could act as such storage.

But Cooper told the Environmental Commission, “We have looked at the alternatives and don’t think they work for a number of reasons. … The state agency that is overseeing … has approved our plan.”

He added that his “engineer can show that the alternative plan does not mitigate the state flood plain situation as much as our plan.”

In defending his plan, Chris Ponessi of Speath Engineering, said, “We try to minimize impact on the environment. … everything on my site plan works now in a 100-year flood.”

Zaremba traffic consultant David Saladino also noted that the alternative plans also cut the number of parking spaces on the Dollar General site from 31 to 19.

Kennedy said, “There are not fewer spaces. There are more spaces on the Zachary’s (Pizza House) side. The total number of parking spaces is appropriate.”

But Matt Casey of the Zaremba Group said, “The typical customer will look at the spaces and see only 19.”

At one point, commission member Stephan Morse questioned why the RPC would be concerned with improving the site plans.

Kennedy responded, “What we try to do is look at a project: Does it have a regional impact and can we improve a plan? You can accept or reject our comments but it is what we do.”  Attorney Cooper then said, “I have not heard Mr. Kennedy object before that this project has a substantial regional impact.”

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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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