Airing of zoning proposals continue, Fire Department seeks uniform, training funds

By Karen Zuppinger

Jason Rasmussen of the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission attended last Wednesday’s Chester Select Board meeting, bringing along a video presentation to help explain some of the proposed changes to the Unified Development Bylaws.

Mike Westine believes the town is moving too quickly to change minimum lot sizes in some districts to 3 acres.

Mike Westine tells the Select Board he believes the town is moving too quickly to change minimum lot sizes in some districts to 3 acres. ON THE COVER: The Select Board listens to public comment during last week’s hearing. Photos by Karen Zuppinger.

During this particular meeting, the Select Board was seeking public comment on Article 1, which establishes authority and purpose of the bylaws, and Article 2, which set zoning districts and their standards. Future meetings will designate specific articles for public comment.

Several residents and select board members asked questions and raised concerns about the changes, including Article 1, Section 1.3, Line D, which state that “where these Bylaws impose a greater restriction upon the use of a structure or land that is required by any other statute, ordinance, rule, regulation, permit, easement or agreement, the provision of these Bylaws shall control.”

Board member Bill Lindsay asked for a clarification. Rasmussen said that in the instance where more than one governing body has zoning regulative authority within a particular area, the new stricter town bylaws will supersede all other laws and regulations.

Board member Arne Jonynas asked that if a piece of property is bisected by different zones does the stricter law apply to the whole parcel or only part of it? Rasmussen said he was uncertain of the answer.

Article 2, setting zoning districts and their standards, garnered the most interest. This section of the bylaws explains how the districts in Chester will be zoned and subdivided.  Rasmussen’s video presentation included maps outlining the current zone compared with the proposed changes. Here is the map of the proposed zones within the downtown area, with overlay districts here And the whole town zoning map is here.

Lindsay wanted to know why the Village Center on the map was concentrated in along the Main Street corridor, and did not extend to Depot Street to include businesses that operate in that residential-commercial area. Lindsay, who owns a house and a laundromat in that section of Depot Street, asked if it was possible to create two village centers.

Julie Hance, executive assistant to town manager David Pisha, said that they could consider redrawing the map to include the Depot Street area. She also said that the Village Center for zoning purposes is not the same as the designated Village Center that the town is considering for economic development.
The Village Center zone has minimum lot size, setbacks, permitted and conditional uses and other standards. The designated Village Center is proposed by the town but must be approved by the state. That would give businesses within the district eligible for some state and federal loans.

Chester resident and chainsaw artist Barre Pinske said that he’d be in favor of extending the map to include his studio, located on the corner of Route 103 and First Avenue. Pinske said it would encourage business development along the Route 103 corridor, which he called a “gold mine.”
“Wealthy patrons coming up from Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York to vacation at Okemo and Killington stop in my shop all the time. I sell everything that I make,” Pinske said. He added that he had to give other artists several jobs because he is so busy. “It would be a missed economic opportunity for the town not to devote the time and resources to that area.”

Mike Westine said that he owns two lots, one within the residential-commercial zone and one within the residential-only zone. Westine questioned the thought behind not extending the RC zone to the end of Coach Road, which is runs west from Depot Street. He also said he believes that the plan to increase the minimum lot size from 1.79 acres to 3 acres is too much too fast.

Resident and land surveyor Gary Rapanotti said that the new state regulations for wastewater systems that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2007 dictate a change in zoning laws. The regulations state that there needs to be enough space for a septic system and a replacement system and both have to be certain distance from any potable drinking water. “It is nearly impossible for a landowner to comply with these rules with a lot sized under 3 acres,” he said. Here is the link to the 2007 changes.

The concern for people who bought a large amount of acreage for the sole purpose of later subdividing it to give to their heirs or to sell for additional income is moot if the lot cannot comply with current state law, Rapanotti added.

New grader for the town, funds for fire department needs

Aside from discussion on the bylaws, the board approved the purchase of a new road grader. Town Public Works director Graham Kennedy said that the town will be purchasing a Caterpillar grader with an extended three-year warranty for $186,500. The other option was a John Deere

Fire chief Matt Wilson urges the Select Board to help his volunteer department with uniform and training funds.

Fire Chief Matt Wilson urges the Select Board to help his volunteer department with uniform and training funds.

grader for $218,000.

The town will also keep the current grader, offsetting about $8,700 that it cost each spring to rent another grader. Without the extra grader, Kennedy said, it would take “almost a month and a half to get to all the dirt roads.”

Fire Chief Matt Wilson presented changes to the Fire Department rules, which he said had not been updated since 1999.

He added that most of the proposed changes would not require additional funds.
Wilson said that since the hours for the fire safety courses had doubled, he believes that the bonuses paid to firefighters attending the courses should also double, to $1,000 and $2,000.

Wilson also said he would like money added to the budget to pay the full price of all new firefighter uniforms after they have served for two years. Currently, only half the cost of the uniforms is covered for the on-call, paid for service, 17-person department, and some can’t come up with the other half.

Wilson asked that $2,000 be made available to cover the projected cost of buying the uniforms.
Wilson added that the fire department has raised $22,000 through a series of donations to help pay for items not covered in the towns budget.

  • Rotary Club donated $1,500.
  • Yosemite Engine Company (comprised of past and present firefighters) raised $17,400.
  • The Rescue Squad donated $4,000.
  • Brian Benson and Benny’s Garage donated time and discounted services for the department.
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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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  1. JT Dunn says:

    Support Chester Firefighters!!