Abandoned property, noise regulations of concern in proposed development regs

By Karen Zuppinger

The Chester Select Board tackled details within Article 3 (General Use Standards) of the proposed Chester Unified Development Bylaws during its regular board meeting last Wednesday, seeking clarification on a number of sections.

Select board member Arne Jonynas asked if Section 3.6 on Damaged Structures and their disposal applied to abandoned properties or only to properties that have been damaged. He specifically asked if the Select Board has the authority to act if someone starts a project, then abandons it before completion, especially if the board believes the property to be hazardous.

Julie Hance, executive assistant to town manager David Pisha, said the section doesn’t mention abandoned property.  Board member Tom Bock, acting in his post as chair of the Planning Commission, said the board has addressed some abandoned properties, but to add that specific language to the bylaws would take time and require amendments.

Chester resident Claudio Veliz asked what the process is for clearing an abandoned site and making it safe. Bock replied that the town would first have to condemn it, but reiterated that there is nothing in the current bylaws that specifically addresses this issue.

In the proposed regulations, noise could not be above 60 decibels between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. and above 70 decibels between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Sixty decibels is the sound of a normal conversation, 70 decibels is how loud two people would have to talk to be heard from 10 feet apart.  It is also TV audio

Select Board member Arne Jonynas sought clarification on Section 3.27-H that regulates signs at gasoline and service stations. Under the proposed bylaws, all gasoline price signs would be confined to the pump island. Jonynas asked if this meant that gasoline and service stations can no longer have large, free standing signs showing prices off to the side and in front of a store, to which Hance replied yes. She added that existing signage will be grandfathered in, but new price displays of any kind must adhere to the new regulations.

Board member Derek Suursoo addressed Section 3.12, on home businesses, asking if the limit of four employees was restricted to only those working on premises. He also asked if the limit covered full, part-time and seasonal workers. Hance said that the regulation addresses having a total of four full-time employees working at a specific location at any given time. She said that it would be permissible for the home business to have additional employees such as sale representatives not working out of the home.

Suursoo also asked if a person is exempt from local permit requirements if he sets up any type of agriculture practice, such as farm stands, within the commercial residential zone. Hance said yes, as long as he abides by the rules in Section 3.28.

Chairman John DeBenedetti asked whether Section 3.22 A – the Performance Standards regulating noise levels – might be creating an undue burden on the town. In those proposed regulations, noise could not be above 60 decibels between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. and above 70 decibels between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Sixty decibels is the sound of a normal conversation, 70 decibels is the sound of conversation between two people standing 10 feet apart as well as TV audio.  He asked who would measure the noise levels, the town or the person making the complaint and what happens if a person already owns a piece of equipment that exceeds the permitted decibel levels? Bock said that he would take concerns back to the Planning Commission to see if it could come up with something else.

Village Center designation


Click for a larger map of the proposed Village Center area.

In other action, Hance submitted the proposed Village Center designation map to the board.

According to the state, the Village Center designation allows businesses located within the area to receive priority consideration for state grants and other resources. Commercial property owners also qualify for tax credits to support building improvements.

Chester’s  main Village Center area includes properties that abut Route 103. It also includes  the Green east to the post office and north to Town Hall.

Several buildings were not included in the designated area and the board asked has to attempt to include them into the map before returning to the board for its final approval. Those buildings include NewsBank and its two adjacent corporate housing buildings on Main Street, Vermont Hardwoods on Route 103 south of Town Hall and the survey building on School Street, near the Williams River.

Hance said that Caitlin Corkins of the Vermont Division of Historic Preservation said that the area extending back to the river is not considered a village designation area.

Bock also noted that Vermont Hardwoods was not included on the map and he would like to see it

 A 10-year-old, $24,000 bill

Board member Suursoo said he was refusing to sign the warrants before him because one of them contained a $24,000 bill from the Vermont Agency of Transportation that is nearly 10 years old.

Pisha said that was for the repairs on the Grafton/Chester Bridge. Pisha added that the AOT said that the lost bill had been an oversight and that the town had a three-year window to satisfy the debt.

Board members Bill Lindsay and Jonynas said they would like to see an itemized bill.

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About the Author: Karen Zuppinger in a freelance writer and Chester resident. Her work has appeared in Vermont Magazine and Assisi's Online Journal of Arts and Letters. She is a winner of America's Best Short Fiction Award.

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