DRB upholds Dollar General OK, clarifies findings


In a much anticipated move, the Chester Development Review Board has issued clarified findings of  fact and conclusions of law in the conditional use permit application of Zaremba Group LLC to build a 9,100-square-foot Dollar General store on Main Street across from the Country Girl Diner.

An artist's rendering for a proposed Dollar General store in Chester. CLICK image  to enlarge.

An artist’s rendering for a proposed Dollar General store in Chester. CLICK image to enlarge.

The five-member board (four of whom have been appointed by Chester’s Select Board since the original hearings) have affirmed the original approval of the project, issued in April of 2012 and appealed by a group of opponents called Smart Growth Chester. 

The latest finding was dated Feb. 4, 2014. You can read the DRB supplement here: DRB Answer to Remand Feb. 2014

The clarifications were demanded in June 2013 by Judge Thomas Walsh of the Environmental Division of Vermont’s Superior Court in response to an appeal by a group of Chester residents who petitioned to be recognized as “interested parties.” Walsh looked at the original DRB decision and concluded that its findings were “insufficient for us to conduct the necessary on-the-record analysis.”

Running to 20 pages, some of it in quite lawyerly language, the “supplemental” findings and conclusions address the questions of whether the proposed project will have a negative effect on the “character of the area,” whether it would have a negative impact on traffic and whether the project would be in harmony with the “over-all New England architectural appearance which gives the center of Chester its distinct regional character and appeal.”

In its opinion, the DRB concluded that expert opinion presented on behalf of Smart Growth Chester was not needed for making decisions in matters of aesthetics and rejected the testimony of Jean Vissering, a landscape architect for the project opponents, and instead adopted the role of aesthetic arbiters for Chester. (Page 14. N.) The DRB stated that, “…we do not believe expert testimony is a necessary component of proof in the area of use compatibility or architectural appearance  given the substantial record of other uses and structural appearance … in the area from which we can make our own determination. We therefore respectfully decline to accept Ms. Vissering’s opinions …”

Michael Normyle, Chester town zoning administrator, said on Tuesday, “The DRB made its decision. If the opponents want to go back and appeal, they can. If no appeal is made, then the DRB decision will stand and the parties will have to wait for the Act 250 decision.”

Normyle was referring to a decision by Judge Thomas Walsh, who heard an appeal by Smart Growth Chester and other interested parties to the Act 250 panel’s approval of the Dollar General. It is separate from the DRB approval, but a negative vote by either body would have killed the project.

James Dumont, attorney for Smart Growth Chester, could not be reached for comment. But  Claudio Veliz of Smart Growth Chester, who is also a licensed architect, said his group could appeal the DRB decision on the grounds that the arguments are faulty or it could just wait for the ruling on the Act 250 appeal. “If the Superior Court finds in favor of Dollar General, unless Smart Growth appeals, construction can begin,” he said.

He added that, “The argument that the features in the (proposed Dollar General) building are compatible with the New England architecture is just ignorance.”  New England architecture, he said does not have fake windows, cupolas and barn doors.

Opponents of the project have 30 days from the date of the decision to file a notice of appeal. The conditional use permit application is separate from the Act 250 permit which was appealed to the environmental court in a three day trial heard by Judge Walsh in September. A decision on the Act 250 appeal is expected any day.

 — Cynthia Prairie

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  1. RDF says:

    So who is getting paid off to allow this Dollar Store to be in Chester??? I say follow the money.

  2. Carrie says:

    In 2013, the Select Board rejected all applicants to the Development Review Board (DRB) that expressed interest in preserving the character of Chester, and who might have found valid reasons to not grant this permit to build a Dollar General. Unfortunately it is no surprise the DRB Board has reaffirmed the permit for the Dollar General. Since the Chester Select Board hand-picked these current members from their own pro-big business development cronies this project was guaranteed to be approved.