To the editor: Reasons to vote Yes

Vote “YES” on Nov. 18, to remove the proposed addition of auto/sales/service/fuel on Main Street in Chester. This is why:

In response to M.J. Miles’ letter to The Chester Telegraph challenging perceived and actual claims by those opposing the addition of used car lots, fueling stations, and other auto service outlets along Chester’s Main Street, it is agreed that verifiable, accurate information be made available to voters concerned with this issue.

The wording change in Chester’s new Unified Development Bylaws (UDBs), addresses a general condition, not a specific case. While some look at the current proposed construction at Routes 103 and 11, the zoning text allows for full strip development all along Main Street in the particular zones in question. Nothing in the new UDBs prevents that. A gas station next to car lot next to a box store and a pizza restaurant and so on all the way to the post office is possible under these regulations. That is strip development, which can be so destructive to a town’s economy and character.

The alternative the State of Vermont is encouraging with all other communities, “Mixed Use Development” is described by The American Institute of Architects (AIA) in one publication as: “Purposefully including a variety of appropriate uses within walkable distances [that provide] convenient access to services while creating a vibrant backdrop for commercial and social exchange.”

Mixed-use development includes commercial establishments (pharmacies, retailers, coffee shops, etc.) on ground floors, professional offices on second floors and residential units on upper floors. Parking is usually to the side or rear and landscaping and public spaces are often included. Here is how such development can be far more beneficial for Chester.

Chester’s Green is a good example. Cars, businesses, residences, pedestrians, bicyclists are all coexisting there successfully. It’s one of the community’s current success stories.

What’s so good about mixed use development? A town can reap many times more tax revenue from mixed use- than from single-use development, providing the opportunity to reduce property taxes, giving the town the leeway to make  improvements in its infrastructure and improving the town’s attraction to tourists and companies considering relocation.

Mixed use also allows for higher quality streets, encouraging pedestrian and bicycle traffic, which generates more income for local businesses and attracts higher-end employers to a community.

Strip developments – gas stations or not – may be good for out-of-state corporations that take money out of our community, or the vested local interests looking to make a quick profit, but they can be terrible for our local economy. An example of what Chester could be forfeiting, financially, should this strip development proceed: “The Smart Math of Mixed-Use Development”:


Regarding crime, perpetrators are attracted to communities with unwatched parking areas because they know retail chains tend to rarely spend money on monitoring cameras. If so, it’s likely that allowing this strip development will help worsen crime. Mixed use development, on the other hand, stimulates pedestrian traffic, a great deterrent to crime.

Also, mixed use development is more likely to welcome local and regional businesses. Once a strip development takes hold, it’s like an invasive plant and can discourage local and regional businesses because corporate chains tend to make the local economy worse, diminishing the interest by other local and regional outlets.

Would large auto-related businesses consider moving onto Main Street? No one can tell. Five years ago, who would have predicted the likes of a Dollar General coming to Chester? But the zoning has been put in place to allow it.

The corporate models for doing business are proprietary information, but what we can see is that the models don’t care about the character of our 250 year-old New England treasure, which we all want to preserve. We have to care about that and not allow short sighted zoning to chip away at one of our greatest assets.

There is a claim that those of us trying to help Chester prosper are discriminating against auto services. No one within our group is discriminating against anyone, least of all automotive outlets. We all own vehicles that need fuel and periodic service. The question is where those services should be located in our town and what form they should take.

So here’s an alternate to the current situtation: Vote Yes and ask the Planning Commission to change the Commercial-Residential zone out on Rt. 103 to Commercial. Keep the convenience store portion of Jiffy-Mart where it is, serving the pedestrian market which is so large for them. Turn the fueling area of the property into an outdoor seating area. Move Jiffy-Mart’s fueling operation east of the new car wash, likely increasing business for the car wash in the process. Add big rig overnight parking there,  which could add revenue for Jiffy-Mart. Then, encourage mixed use developers to invest in the area from Zachary’s to the bridge on Rt. 103. Invite them to build high density retail, office and residential that will yield more tax revenue and greater economic impact than gas stations and car lots.

This is a little vote with massive implications for the town. Help all of us – not just a few – prosper and enjoy living here: Vote “YES” on the 18th.

Claudio Véliz, AIA


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  1. Mary Jane Miles says:

    Mr. Veliz, you make comments that the car wash would be a good location for automotive use but, as you know, that is also part of the R-C district and voting yes will eliminate that area as an option.

    This process was not new. It took a great deal of time and many public meetings to come to the final zoning regulations that were recently enacted.

    There were many opportunities to discuss this. In the end, the result is what we have. The location that concerns you is not part of the town Green. If you have an issue with a proposed plan, then deal with the issue. Do not change a larger vision to deal with the singular one you have in mind.

    Zoning works both ways. It is not an end all or be all. When you start to try to enact zoning regulation for every particular outcome you end up adding a high level of constraints.

    I have read “let’s bring back the charm of Chester” in writings by others.

    Are you referring to when Chester was a vibrant community that had several more gas stations, a pharmacy and more than one grocery option? Or are we living in the used furniture and antiques only business? Variety is the spice of life and our community has many houses for sale already and this is not the result of our future, but our current status.

    Yes think of the future, excessive restrictions don’t always work. Look at towns without zoning and see (Pittsfield, Cavendish). They are not full of sprawl.

  2. Claudio Veliz says:

    Ms. Miles,

    I don’t believe anyone is discriminating against an industry or business. Everyone who cares about the town’s economy and livability would certainly desire such services, but they are desired in helpful locations that will lessen the harm done to the town’s appearance and functions. The car wash has set the obvious and helpful precedent.

    If the strip along Main Street is converted to one-story, single-use food/retail/fueling, it is no longer able to be developed as a higher density (2-3 stories – similar to the Green) mixed-use area and the town can lose millions over time as a result. It will receive so little in tax revenues from strip development that it may even lose money once the town’s cost of service provision is calculated.

    The quality and appearance of the town’s Main Street will also suffer. No corporate chain designs in an architecturally compatible way for a specific location unless under pressure. They do not see such actions as cost effective. Also, they see their typically unattractive building designs as part of their branding (think golden arches).

    As companies and businesses see Chester looking more like other failed towns with strip- or corporate chain outlet development, they will see the community as less unique, less desirable. Look at all the strip development in Springfield. Has that helped it attract a healthier economy?

    Finally, if tax revenues are able to be increased with higher density, mixed use development, then Chester residents will also enjoy the opportunity to see their taxes decrease and the local economy strengthen. But such actions require vision and collaborative planning with all of us working together.

    Let’s keep our town’s healthy options open: vote YES on Tuesday.

  3. Mary Jane Miles says:

    Hello Diane,
    Our Industrial park does not make a public location for a gas station nor does it make sense to place a gas station on Elm St. which is zoned Industrial. These are also the only locations zoned as such. However, I have to ask since when does a gas station require industrial zoning to operate? Just because the zoning accomodates the businesses that have been in these locations for years does not mean you will have sprawl. It just makes sense that they operate under proper zoning regulations.
    MJ Miles

  4. Diana Ashworth says:

    I agree with Claudio because he understands that we don’t need to turn Chester into Springfield or Bellows Falls to bring in tax money and jobs. Vermont isn’t anti-business – it is anti-sprawl. A good example would be our billboard law. It could be argued that it is anti-business to not allow billboards in Vermont. However, anyone who has driven into Hartford understands that billboards are a blight on the landscape. We do have an industrial park. What efforts have been made by the town to seek out businesses to begin filling that park – businesses that will provide good paying jobs?

  5. KD Zuppinger says:

    The more I read the less I understand. I have already voted on the issue, so I guess I can go lay down now.

  6. Mary Jane Miles says:

    Also for clarity Mixed Use is part of the zoning in the current regulation for the R-C District. In fact, it is also under Conditional uses as is Automotive Fuel/Service/Sales in alphabetical order it is No. 7 Mixed Use.
    MJ Miles

  7. Mary Jane Miles says:

    Mr. Veliz, I still cannot apply logic to your format. Simply said, your intention of discriminating against the Automotive portion of zoning will not prevent strip malls in any other format. As I mentioned, I am not aware of strip malls that center around Automotive fuel or retail sales. I lived in Pittsfield, VT for many years before moving to Chester. We had NO ZONING. Can you imagine Walmart and Target did not move in and why not they had no zoning restrictions they could have jumped right in with making Route 100 the automile! You know why? Because common sense within the town did not and still does not allow that to happen. I vote NO! Simply because to limit one industry makes no sense to me. I vote NO! Simply because these types of businesses have been in Chester and the zoning is VERY APPROPRIATE for the businesses that are there in the R-C District and because logically this business entity is not the sole cause of all the statistics you mention.
    MJ Miles

  8. Brian T. Heybyrne says:

    Mr. Veliz, enlighten me please … Just exactly how does leaving the regulation as-is discourage business from coming to Chester? Just to be clear, as an informed voter I’m voting NO. The zoning regulations should be left alone.

  9. tina stocker says:

    I think Chester needs to bring more businesses to this town and make it more of a town for the residents than just for tourism.

  10. Claudio Veliz says:

    By voting NO, Mr. Heybyrne may be countering what he – and I – want(s). The net result of a NO vote is to discourage businesses from coming to Chester. Does anyone in Chester really desire that? I think we all need to work together to encourage the Planning Commission to look at the big picture of where Chester is going. There has been way too much focus on what a few want to do to make their profits at the expense of the rest of the Town. Two quick examples? Jacks and Zachary’s Pizza. Are those examples of business success? They were approved for development by some of the same leadership who are pushing for this new auto servicing effort. You know the saying, I’m sure: “measure twice, cut once.” Together, shouldn’t we all measure this one more time before pulling out the scissors?

  11. Brian T Heybyrne says:

    Sorry, Vermont is anti-business enough. I’ll be voting NO.