Chester residents petition to put zoning change to a vote

©The Chester Telegraph — 2014

A group of Chester residents who oppose a change in zoning regulations adopted by the Select Board on Sept. 17 filed a petition on Tuesday, Oct. 7,  requesting that the town of Chester hold a vote to decide whether that change should be removed from the new Unified Development Bylaws.

According to Claudio Veliz, an architect who organized the petition drive, Chester residents collected 165 signatures (109 were required) of Chester voters on a petition asking “Should the Conditional Use of  ‘Automotive Fuel, Sales & Service’ be removed from the Commercial-Residential Zone as stated in the Unified Development Bylaws?”

The use would allow sales and service of vehicles and the sale of gasoline in the district that encompasses Main Street from St. Joseph’s Church to Pleasant Street.  Zoning regulations have prohibited such uses since zoning was adopted in 1975, although the Sunoco station predates zoning and was grandfathered in. Another portion of the district stretches along Route 103 south near the American Legion — roughly from Stone House Antiques to the car wash.

At public hearings, members of the Planning Commission, which worked on the new bylaws, stood by the change calling it “appropriate use” and said that the change brings the regulations into line with the businesses that already exist there. Planning commission chairman Tom Bock has also said that conditional uses require review and approval by the Development Review Board.

Opponents fear that the rule change will lead to strip development on Main Street and point to Chester’s town plan, which calls for “mixed use” development that would combine commercial, retail and residential uses in that area. Veliz contends that mixed use development is the best kind of development for a healthy local economy. “The key,” said Veliz, “is that it be well-designed.”

According to state statute, zoning regulations go into effect 21 days after they are adopted, unless 5 percent of the town’s voters petition for a vote. If the Town Clerk’s office validates enough signatures on the petition, it will go to the Select Board, which will then set a date for a town meeting and a vote by Australian ballot.

— Shawn Cunningham


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  1. Wayne says:

    I’m still curious how they came up with particular type of business to specify in the ordinance. Did someone look down Main Street and say to themselves, “Well I only see two gas stations in this small town. I think there needs to be more. And what’s this? Not a single used car lot!? How are we to look like yet another economically depressed small town if we don’t have a bunch of nonsensical industrial businesses lining up our beautiful main street?” Because when I think of Chester, I want the first thing to pop into my head being The Place to Go for Used Car Deals!