To the editor: Go before Planning Commission to seek bylaw changes

Chester has a Development Review Board charged with the task of reviewing each application for Conditional Use on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the project meets the requirements of the Unified Development Bylaws.  Those bylaws include general, specific and performance standards that must be met before a project is permitted.  In the interest of full disclosure, I am an appointed member of Chester’s DRB and I speak not for the DRB but as a business owner in Chester whose property will be negatively impacted by removing Automotive Fuel, Sales and Service from the Residential-Commercial (RC) District.

If Mr. Veliz would like to ask the Planning Commission to change the RC district on Route 103 to Commercial-Industrial the venue to do so would be at one of their public hearings.  Unfortunately (and unwisely) I did not participate in the hearings the planning commission and the Select Board held prior to adoption of these new bylaws.  Now my first and best option is to bring my concerns to the next planning commission hearing.  At the Oct. 20 planning commission hearing I asked that “amend zoning bylaws” be warned as an agenda item for their upcoming hearings.  Asking the voters to remove automotive uses from the entire RC district is not likely to protect Chester in the manner described by Mr. Veliz.  There are a few problems with his proposal of Nov. 10.

Chester has already adopted Mixed Use Zoning.  Mixed Use is defined in the new bylaws and is allowed as a conditional use in the Stone Village, Residential 20,000, Village Center and RC districts.

Mr. Veliz says, “Move Jiffy Mart’s fueling operation east of the new car wash …”  East is across Route 103 from the car wash.  If you meant south, on the same parcel as the car wash, then a yes vote will eliminate that possibility as the car wash parcel is also zoned RC.

To speculate that Jiffy Mart is or should consider moving its fueling operations, or even separating its convenience store from its fueling operations seems like Mr. Veliz is planning well outside his realm as an architect/concerned citizen of Chester.  Proposing big-rig parking on someone else’s land?  Where is big-rig parking defined or zoned in Chester’s bylaws?  While it’s great to encourage certain types of developers, in reality our community does not have the ability to pick and choose which developers ultimately invest in Chester.  We have the ability through our Unified Development Bylaws to permit with conditions or deny any project brought forth by a developer.

The planning commission spent many hours with the assistance of the Southern Vermont Regional Planning Commission to develop bylaws that would encourage growth in Chester while protecting the property owners and residents of Chester.  To even hint that the planning commission has any type of agenda other that what’s in the best interests of Chester is downright insulting.  Is the document perfect?  No.  But the way to improve it is to continue to work with the commission and not to attack and bully.

Removing Automotive Fuel, Sales and Service from the RC district has many consequences other than protecting our community.  Your YES vote will not help my business prosper or help my employees enjoy living here.  That’s why I’ll vote NO on Nov. 18, 2014.  Chester residents, we hope you get out there and make yourself heard: Vote your conscience and use your common sense before you cast your vote.  You’ve done it before, you can do it again!

Amy O’Neil

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: CommentaryLetters to the Editor

About the Author:

RSSComments (3)

Leave a Reply | Trackback URL

  1. Amy O'Neil says:


    I did not intend to imply anything other than that I did not attend any Planning Commission or Select Board hearings on the zoning bylaws. Yes, I know Mr. Veliz did and since he was still dissatisfied with the bylaws as written he petitioned for a vote to have them changed.

    What I am trying to point out is that the change presented to the voters, if passed, seems much more far-reaching than its original intent and I am trying to point out some of those changes.

    A YES vote will negatively impact my property so I am voting NO. The new Unified Development Bylaws as written also negatively impact property so I will return to the Planning Commission until I am satisfied that the commission has done all it can to address my concerns.


  2. Just to set the record straight, The Chester Telegraph reported on the meeting when Mr. Veliz appeared before the Planning Commission to express his feelings about the Automotive uses in the RC district before they were adopted. Readers can find this article here.

    A week later we reported on the meeting at which the Chester Select Board adopted the bylaws where several local residents and business owners and educators – including Mr Veliz expressed their doubts about the Automotive uses. Readers can find that article here.

    We should all acknowledge all the people who actually come out to participate in the processes of our local government whether we agree with them or not.

  3. Michael says:

    In a conversation I had with a businessowner in town last year, she recalled a great advertising effort that promoted Chester as “Chester is Charming.” Adding gas stations and car dealers in the RC zone does not help the aesthetics of town, which affects businesses, which impacts our ENTIRE community. Let’s make Chester charming again or we will have empty retail spaces for rent and the rest of the town for sale. Developers need to respect our town and not just the dollar. Let’s invest in a better Chester.