Automotive section of Chester zoning changes to go to referendum

Chester Town Clerk Deborah Aldrich said the town has certified the signatures of 148 voters on a petition submitted on Tuesday, Oct. 7 asking for a town-wide vote on the question of whether to add automotive sales, service and fuel sales to the Residential/Commercial district of Chester. That district runs from the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on Main Street east to Pleasant Street and on Route 103 South from Stone House Antiques to the Abenaki Car Wash.

A loose-knit group that gathered the signatures had collected 165 altogether. The petition required 109 confirmed voters – or 5 percent of the voter checklist of 2,180 registered voters – to bring it to referendum. Claudio Veliz, a local architect who began the petition drive, said, “This is an opportunity for (us) to revisit some of the decisions made by our leadership that may or may not be in the best interest of the town.”

On Wednesday Oct. 15, the Chester Select Board – which approved the bylaws at its Sept. 17 meeting – will set a date for a special town meeting and an Australian ballot. According to statute, the meeting must be warned “not less than 30 nor more than 40 days before” the meeting is held.

On the advice of the town attorney, the wording on the referendum has been changed slightly to reflect the correct name of the zoning district and with a citation of the appropriate section of the bylaws. On the ballot, the question will read:

Should the Conditional Use of “Automotive Fuel/Sales/Service” be removed from the Residential-Commercial (R-C) District as stated in Article 2.4 of the Unified Development Bylaws.

The issue at hand is whether the addition of automotive uses to the Residential/Commercial district in the new Unified Development Bylaws should be reversed. In previous zoning regulations beginning in 1975, there was no automotive use in this district. So voting yes would be a vote for keeping the regulations as they are — without the automotive uses. Voting no would be a vote for adding the automotive uses to the R/C district.

During the public hearing on the zoning changes on Sept. 17, Chester resident Bill Dakin told the Select Board, “Planning creates a place people want to live in.”  Referring to the zoning regulations adopted in 1975, Dakin said, “The people who came before us set the table so we have a place we enjoy.” He suggested that the area in question had the potential to look like Clinton Street in Springfield, which is dotted with gas stations and take out restaurants. He then asked that the town “keep it a community that’s attractive.”

A the time of the vote for the changes, Select Board member Derek Suursoo said, “I wouldn’t mind if this went before the voters. The board has had difficulty with this.”

— Shawn Cunningham
©The Chester Telegraph — 2014

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  1. KD Zuppinger says:

    The wording is confusing. So vote “yes” signs should be put out ahead of the vote. A “yes” vote means that we don’t want our Main Street junked up with gas stations and automotive businesses. A “yes” vote means that we want to keep Chester beautiful. So no thank you on the new regulations.