Dollar General’s Act 250 hearing set, public invited to seek ‘party status’

After five months of quiet, Zaremba Group LLC – the developer of a proposed 9,100-square-foot Dollar General store on Main Street across from the Country Girl Diner – has filed an application for the Act 250 permit (project No. 2S0699-3) it needs to proceed with its plans.

The District 2 Environmental Commission, headquartered in Springfield, has set a pre-hearing conference for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday Oct. 17, at Chester Town Hall, 556 Elm St.

That preliminary hearing will be held in part to establish who will have “party status” at the formal hearing. Anyone wanting to participate in the formal hearing must apply for party status on or before the day of  the pre-hearing conference. After the Oct. 17 meeting, party status will most likely be closed, although the commission has the latitude to accept testimony from others.

The formal Act 250 hearing, which will be preceded by a site visit, is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Friday Nov. 9, also at Chester Town Hall.

On April 16, 2012, Chester’s Development Review Board approved the project with 35 conditions on a 3 to 2 vote. Since then, four of the five DRB members have left the board including one veteran of the DRB and Planning Commission who voted against the Dollar General and was not reappointed by Chester’s Select Board.

In response to the DRB’s decision, Smart Growth Chester, which has been fighting the plan since the DRB hearings began, filed an appeal with the Environmental Division of the Vermont Superior Court. That court held a pre-trial teleconference with the attorneys for each party including the town. It has yet to schedule a hearing.

The Act 250 process, which is separate from local  zoning laws, evaluates a project based on 10 criteria, including the project’s effect on the environment, local schools and services, aesthetics and compliance with local and regional plans. At the end of the Nov. 9 hearing, the Environmental Commission may adjourn or recess to gather more information. If the hearing is adjourned, the commission must issue a decision within 20 days.

Like zoning decisions, an Act 250 decision may be appealed to the Environmental Division of the Superior Court and, ultimately, Vermont’s Supreme Court. Shawn Cunningham* of Smart Growth Chester said his group is committed to “going as far as it can go” in the process.

On Thursday Oct. 11, Smart Growth Chester will bring attorney James Dumont to Chester to explain party status and help residents who wish to apply for it. Dumont will be in the Community Room of the Whiting Library from 6 to 8 p.m. Representatives of Smart Growth Chester will be available on Monday Oct. 15th from noon to 4 p.m. to help anyone who is not able to make the Thursday meeting, also in the Community Room. For questions or more information, email

— Cynthia Prairie

*Shawn Cunningham is married to the writer of this article.

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has 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, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Kathy says:

    One argument we hear is that people don’t want to drive ‘all the way’ to Springfield for sundry items and that it will be convenient to have them close to home. Do they not realize that should Dollar General be built, Lisai’s might fold and then folks will have to drive to Springfield to purchase meat, cheeses, and cold cuts?

  2. Diana Ashworth says:

    Thank you Dawna for the encouragement. A lot of Chester residents see the dollar store as a good thing, and don’t realize just how bad they can be.

  3. Elaine Durato says:

    I cannot understand General Dollar’s desire to build in Chester, VT. These store’s profits are based on volume. With only 3,000 people in Chester how can they profit? They definitely will be charging higher prices than what the town expects.

  4. Dawna says:

    I live in Sunapee NH. A Dollar General was just built in Newport. They renovated an abandoned building. While they did a nice job making a vacant lot look better, the store itself doesn’t live up to its name at all. I find that the prices are for the most part outrageous, much more expensive than even local convenience stores. The hours they are open are nice if you need something late — they are open until 10 p.m. But the prices leave a lot to be desired. My husband went in for a pound of butter last night after we realized we were out during dinner. It cost $4 and change. Our brand of dog food is actually $2 higher than it is at the pet store. I am not a fan, and hope you all win your fight

  5. Giacomo Acontius says:

    I feel that it is a shortsighted decision by the elected officials of the village to entertain the construction of a Dollar General store in Chester. Dollar General will not provide good paying jobs for Chester and will not be a good neighbor. Such stores draw business away from your neighbors’ stores. Profits earned end up at corporate headquarters in Goodlettsville, TN, instead of in town where the money belongs.

  6. Bryan says:

    I grew up in Chester, and it will always be home for me. Chester’s not the type of town for a Family Dollar or any other commercial chain store. Not having these types of businesses is what has always made Chester such a great place to live and allowed the town to keep its charm.

  7. Kathy says:

    Thank you for the information you have provided.

  8. lew watters says:

    Thank you for staying on top of this. See you on the 11th to gain party status so as to fight this to the finish.