Issues over proposed bylaws returned to Planning Commission; Missing Link Bridge to be rebuilt

By Shawn Cunningham

For the second meeting in a row, on Wednesday Sept. 4, the Chester Select Board went immediately into executive session. The closed door session was to talk with candidates for the positions of Lister and Planning Commission member.

The board entered executive session at 7:07 and returned at 7:29 p.m.after which they appointed Cathy Hasbrouck to the open lister position and put Randall Wiggin on the Planning Commission. Both appointments begin immediately and expire in March 2014 with the town elections. Planning commission chair Tom Bock abstained from the vote on the Wiggin appointment, noting that the next Planning Commission meeting will be Monday, Sept. 16, when members will take up the Unified Development Bylaws, including questions about and changes suggested by the Select Board and the public during hearings this spring and summer.

Looking at the last two chapters of the bylaws (which combine zoning, flood hazard regulations and subdivision), the board considered the provisions for administration and enforcement as well as a chapter of definitions. Referring to the public meetings held in 2008 to inform the writing of the new Town Plan, Select Board member Derek Suursoo questioned the narrowing of conditional uses – especially in the districts requiring larger lots. Suursoo pointed out that the meetings were held in different times and that landowners might want to use their land in more rather than less ways. “Money is harder to come by today,” said Suursoo.

There was also discussion of the enforcement of a Certificate of Occupancy to ensure that construction adheres to the rules – setbacks for example – but it was pointed out that zoning administrator Michael Normyle works one day a week and doesn’t go out to measure.

“We don’t enforce.” Said Suursoo, “Our enforcement is lacking.”

Julie Hance, administrative assistant to the town manager, pointed out that the “C of O” only attests to compliance with outside zoning regulations, not with safety codes.

The following were among the issues that the Select Board and the public brought up at several hearings to review the proposed Unified Development Bylaws which govern zoning, subdivision and flood hazard regulation.

  • Revisit reduction of conditional uses in most zoning districts.
  • Revisit the change of district from R80 (minimum lot size of 80,000 or 1.8 acres) to R3 (minimum lot size of 3 acres.).
  • Consider regulation of ridgeline development.
  • Revisit stringent noise limits.
  • Revisit language to make regs less ambiguous and more concrete to increase enforcement and reduce suits.
  • Revisit Planned Unit Development standards to avoid stigmatizing affordable dwelling units.
  • Revisit restrictions on saw mill in forestry district and clarify forestry as it relates to agriculture.

The Unified Development Bylaws can be found here.

Entertainment permits for Pizza Stone, Country Girl Diner

In other business, the board looked at two requests for entertainment permits. First, Pizza Stone owner Darlene Doane asked for one-day permits for the nights before Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year. These were needed, she said, because the Pizza Stone’s annual permit precludes Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which are the days before these holidays this year. The board approved all three unanimously.

Country Girl Diner owner Kate Huntington then requested an annual permit for outdoor entertainment at the diner including music, spoken word presentations and movies. Huntington said that most of the entertainment would happen one or two nights a week between 6 and 9:30 p.m. in the spring, summer and fall. Most of the music would be performed by Huntington’s family, she said.

Suursoo thanked Huntington for getting the Country Girl going again, but questioned whether she should go before the Development Review Board for an amendment to her conditional use permit. Select Board chair John DeBenedetti agreed, saying he wondered that too.

Country Girl Diner owner Kate Huntington requested an annual permit for outdoor entertainment at the diner including music, spoken word presentations and movies that would mostly happen one or two nights a week between 6 and 9:30 p.m. in the spring, summer and fall.

After a brief discussion, Tom Bock asked if Huntington thought this was a burden. “I feel it is,” she replied “we probably just won’t do it.”

“We don’t want to deny it,” Suursoo interjected, “It’s just that we have to.”

Board member Arne Jonynas suggested that Huntington would not need a change in her permit if she applied for a few one-day permits instead of one annual. Huntington was concerned that a change in permit could mean becoming a nightclub instead of a restaurant. The board assured her that that was not the case.

After a little more discussion it was pointed out that since no permits would be needed until next year and the definition of restaurant in the new development bylaws allows for limited entertainment, perhaps waiting to apply until the new regulations take effect was the easiest course.

Missing Link Bridge to be rebuilt

In other action, Hance announced that Cold River Bridges was the lowest bidder on the Missing Link Bridge project, coming nearly $90,000 under  projected costs. FEMA has offered $647,000 of the $750,000 requested by the town to cover construction and engineering. The town is appealing FEMA’s decision, hoping to fully fund the project with federal money. The project is slated to begin as early as this fall and be completed in the summer of 2014.

The board entered a second executive session at 9:10 to discuss the Route 103 Solar Farm contract proposal. The board took no action. There were questions surrounding the project during the public comment portion of the meeting, and according to DiBenedetti, representatives of Green Lantern – the company that is furthest along in the process – will be attending the  Sept. 18 Select Board meeting to answer questions from the board and the public.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: FeaturedLatest News

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.