Chester board, residents ask about public use of land after foundation purchase

Robert Perschel of the New England Forestry Foundation explains the plan to raise $3.5 million to purchase 1,811 acres off Lovers Lane. All photos by Shawn Cunningham.

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2017 Telegraph Publishing, LLC

Around 50 people attending the Wednesday Sept. 5 Chester Select Board meeting heard about two efforts to conserve natural resources in Chester, one at the end of the process and one just beginning.

At the beginning of the meeting, Town Manager David Pisha told the board that the Vermont River Conservancy had – earlier that day – closed on a piece of property that would ensure and improve public access to the Rainbow Rock swimming hole. In addition to completing the purchase, the Conservancy also transferred title to the property to the town.

Later, Robert Perschel of the New England Forestry Foundation introduced his organization and explained its plan to raise the funds to purchase 1,811 acres off Lovers Lane from the Tomasso family for $3.5 million and put it into a conservation easement.

Click map to enlarge. Boundary lines are in orange.

The 73-year-old foundation owns 147 properties and has easements on 144 more totaling 1.2 million acres.

According to Perschel, the foundation practices sustainable forestry with an eye toward fostering and conserving wildlife habitat. Typically the group logs small portions of its properties – 20 to 30 acres at a time, in accordance with a property’s forest management plan. Perschel said that, as much as it can, the foundation tries to accommodate public use of its properties as “community forests.” He also praised the Tomasso family for its stewardship of the land noting that there are no invasive species on the property.

The sale to the foundation would not include several houses and other buildings on a 131-acre parcel, but it does include a log cabin built in the interior of the property. Perschel told the meeting that the foundation does not like to own buildings, but does keep a few.

Residents questioned the impact on the grand list and wanted to know what public use the land would have.

Residents questioned the impact that the sale would have on the grand list. Perschel said that the land is in the state’s current use program and would remain there and the foundation would pay the property taxes.

When asked about public recreational opportunities on the land, Perschel said that his organization would work with the public in deciding what could be done on the property.  Hiking, biking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling are allowed on other foundation properties, but what would be allowed and where they would be allowed on the Tomasso property would be a function of what’s best for the forest. Perschel said that off-road vehicles like ATVs would be prohibited.

Saying that he had hunted on the property years ago, before it was posted, Gary Pollard asked if the foundation would allow hunting and fishing. Perschel told the group that hunting and fishing is allowed on most of the foundation’s properties and that there are some very good fishing spots on the Tomasso land.

“I know,” responded Pollard.

Perschel noted that the deadline for the purchase is the end of the year and that the fundraising would be tough but it was under way.

“We’ve been to New York to talk with people who are interested in this area,” said Perschel.

The foundation is planning an open house on the property for Oct. 7 with a rain date of Oct. 8. The public will be welcome to tour the property then.

Chester considers sharing assessor with Windsor

Windsor Town Manager Tom Marsh, left, and Windsor Select Board chair Rich Thomas discuss the possibility of sharing one assessor with Chester as a full-time post.

Windsor Town Manager Tom Marsh and Windsor Select Board chair Rich Thomas were on hand to discuss the idea of the two towns sharing an assessor.

With longtime listers retiring in both towns and the increasing complexity of the job, each town has been interested in finding a professional assessor to work for it part time.  But if the towns can agree to share an assessor as a full-time position with benefits, they might find a stronger candidate.

Marsh said that he and Chester Town Manager David Pisha would need to work out the details and that everybody would need to be in agreement. “This doesn’t work unless you have everyone on the same page,” said Marsh. He told the board that Windsor would be the employer, and Chester would contract for the services.

Board member Heather Chase said the agreement would have to include Chester’s participation in hiring, evaluation and supervision.

Marsh suggested a hiring committee made up of representatives of both towns with a contract to be drafted when a suitable candidate is found. He said that posting for the job needs to begin right away to be able to have someone on board at the end of October.

Fire truck grant application and Master Plan presentations

Master Plan committee chair Scott Wunderle addresses the next steps toward adopting the plan.

Board member Ben Whelen, who is also assistant chief of the Fire Department asked the board to allow the Yosemite Engine Company — the department’s non-profit fundraising arm — to pay a specialized grant writer to apply for a federally funded Assistance to Firefighters Grant. The grant would pay 90 percent of the cost of replacing the department’s 1985 Mack tanker which is “old and rotting” according to Whalen.

The town would be responsible for the remainder of the estimated $300,000 cost and having the town sponsor the application would carry more weight than “a not-for-profit with no assets,” said Whalen.

The board approved the application with Whalen recusing himself from the vote.

Scott Wunderle, chair of the committee that has worked on the Village Center Master Plan, presented the board with the final draft of the plan, which will be discussed at a board meeting on Sept. 27.

Informational meetings for the public will be held at:

  • 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19 at American Legion Post 67, 637 Rt. 103 South and
  • 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 22 at the NewsBank Conference Center, 352 Main St.

 

 

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  1. mike leclair says:

    There is at least one or more class four roads running thru the Tomasso property. Hopefully the town is not going to consider giving up this public roadway. Class four roads belong to us, the taxpayers, and are controlled by the town. Also, the public access for hunting and fishing needs to be given high priority due to the large acreage involved where deer management will be taken into consideration.

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