Planning board makes a few changes to Chester zoning regs

By Cynthia Prairie

There were few but nonetheless vocal members of the public at Monday evening’s Planning Commission 90-minute hearing to garner feedback on its proposals that, when approved, will create Chester’s first Unified Development Bylaws. Those bylaws revise and combine zoning regulations, subdivision regulations and flood hazard standards.

Following Monday’s meeting, the five-member commission has 30 days to make any changes it decides before sending the recommendations on to the Chester Select Board, which must still hold two public hearings to get feedback before voting on the bylaws.

From left, Roy Spaulding points out his property to zoning administrator Michael Normyle as Select Board member Arne Jonynas looks on. Photos by Cynthia Prairie.

From left, Roy Spaulding points out his property to zoning administrator Michael Normyle as Select Board member Arne Jonynas looks on. Photos by Cynthia Prairie.

One of the 10 men in the audience questioned a supplemental standard for the Village Center District on Building Orientation, which says, “Buildings shall front toward and relate to frontage streets, both functionally and visually, and not be oriented toward parking lots. The front facade shall include the main entryway and pedestrian access to the street.” One member of the public asked if this requirement would eliminate the door yard, a side entryway that usually opens to a parking lot.

But Planning Commission chairman Tom Bock assured that the facade fronting on the street was the important factor. That said, the four Planning Commission members in attendance decided to eliminate the second sentence that would have forced architects to work in main entryways and pedestrian access within the facade design.

Another resident expressed concern that the Utility Design requirements would force all utilities – including electric lines underground at an enormous cost. But member Naomi Johnson said that that section really just applied to water and sewer service.

Audience member Bill Dakin addressed the new Adaptive 3 District that would apply to several properties at Route 11 West including the Stone Hearth Inn, The Motel in the Meadow and the Armory, which is currently up for sale. Both the Stone Hearth Inn and Motel in the Meadow host music shows, either on weekends or for the annual Music in the Meadow fund-raiser for cancer research.  The Planning Commission decided to add “arts and entertainment” to the district’s conditional uses. The district was created to help develop the Armory. The commission, which had added “light industrial” to make the property more attractive, agreed to come up with a definition the term.

Resident Roy Spaulding asked that the residential-commercial corridor in Gassetts be extended north along the eastside of Route 103 to include the Spaulding Auto Repair site. He stated that while commercial spot zoning along Route 103 was used in other towns, such as Rockingham, Ludlow and Cavendish, this would be a matter of just extending an existing district.

The board agreed to make that change.

Questions also revolved around sign regulations, which now allow signs within the Village Center to be twice the size – 24-square-feet – of signs outside the district. Also, owners of home occupations can only have one sign at not more than 2-square-feet.

Bock said that the board did not want to address the issue Monday night because it intends to address it at every one of the board’s 10 or so meetings following approval of the zoning regulations by the Select Board. Bock said he expected it to take a year to get a satisfying sign ordinance in place, but that the board will have a public hearing on the issue and any new sign proposals would still have to be approved as an amendment by the Select Board.

The commission was asked to reconsider their addition of an automotive and fuel sales use to the residential/commercial district. Such sales have not been allowed in that area since the advent of zoning in 1975.  Rumors that Jiffy Mart wants to build a station on the corner of Routes 11 and 103 across from the Sunoco station have been circulating for sometime. The commission was reluctant to take action,  leaving the new use in place. Gas sales at the existing Jiffy Mart and at the Sunoco predate zoning and are grandfathered in.

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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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