J&L shelves Armory expansion plan; 2nd snafu, VTrans objection arise

By Shawn Cunningham
©Telegraph Publishing LLC — 2014

Peter and Nathalie Klepp, owners of J&L Metrology, continue to work at securing the permits needed to move their business to the former Chester Army Reserve Center on Route 11 west. But as soon as one problem was set aside, two more arose at a meeting of Chester’s Development Review Board on Monday, Nov. 24.

The loading dock would be built off of this area. Telegraph photos.

The loading dock would be built off of this area. Telegraph photos.

At the initial conditional use permit meeting on Monday, Nov. 10, it was discovered that the new Adaptive 3 district — created by the Planning Commission in the new development bylaws specifically for making the armory attractive to development — did not take into account the armory building and grounds.

The new district has a minimum lot size of 3 acres and a maximum lot coverage of 10 percent. And while the armory parcel is approximately 3.2 acres, the existing armory building and garage are about 16,000 square feet – covering 11.4 percent of the lot. This makes the armory a “non-conforming structure” and makes any expansion a complicated issue.

The Klepps had planned to build a ramp for unloading trucks and covering it At this Monday’s meeting, they said that they would shelve their expansion plan to move forward with the conditional use permit.  The construction of the loading dock would have added to the value of the property, which will not be on the tax roles.

DRB chair Carla Westine said that the board had questioned the Planning Commission about its intent in limiting lot coverage in the area to 10 percent. According to Westine, no one on the commission could recollect the thinking behind the limit and the town would need to examine five years of meeting minutes to see if there is anything that would give the board any direction in accommodating the expansion.  According to an examination of successive drafts collected by The Telegraph, the A3 District was newly added in the March 31, 2014 draft of the bylaws, so the extensive search may not be necessary.

A state agency has recommended using the second drive, foreground, as egress for the Armory. But the new owner says a drive would run over its septic field, in background. Telegraph photo.

A state agency has recommended using only one of two driveways as access. Pictured is the second smaller drive, with a septic field behind it.

It was also reported that the A3 district had not been designated in the existing sign ordinance and so the Klepps’ plan to add a 22-square-foot granite sign to the property along with a 24-square-foot sign on the building is also in limbo. Westine noted that it is not the function of the DRB to issue sign permits. That falls under the duties of zoning administrator Michael Normyle.

The snafu in the new regulations means that it is not clear whether the building is entitled to two 24-square-foot signs or two 12-square-foot signs. Normyle proposed a “common sense” solution of allowing the 24-square-foot sign on the building since that was about the size of the Army’s sign and allowing a 12-square-foot temporary sign until the Planning Commission is finished revising the sign regulations. That review is expected to take a year.

Normyle also reported that Brian McAvoy of the Agency of Transportation had sent him (and not the Klepps) an email saying that he had made a site visit and offering the opinion that the state of Vermont would not allow the building to continue to have two “access points” or driveways. In the email, McAvoy asked if it was not possible to have one access point and “drive around the back of the building.” Peter Klepp pointed out that this would mean driving over the septic system. He added that he had the impression that McAvoy was going to contact him for a site visit but he was unaware that he had already visited.

Westine and the board noted that the access permit is not in their purview and declined to admit the McAvoy email into evidence. After more discussion, the board voted to close the hearing. According to statute, it must decide to grant, deny or grant with conditions, the permit within 45 days. If no decision is announced in that time the permit is granted by default.

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