DRB to keep flood hazard review open on Chester Jiffy Mart

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2015 Telegraph Publishing LLC

After a contentious hearing on June 1, this past Monday’s Chester Development Review Board meeting was polite and even relaxed in portions as the town’s quasi-judicial land use arbiters once again took up the application of Robert Record and Champlain Oil for a conditional use permit to put a Jiffy Mart convenience store, gas station and two chain restaurants in a 4,980-square-foot building at the corner of Routes 103 and 11.

Development Review Board in action

The Chester Development Review Board, from left, Carla Westine, Don Robinson, Phil Perlah and Harry Goodell. Not in view is Amy O’Neil.

The evening opened with entering final documents into the record and closing the hearing on a conditional use permit for Payne and Elise Junker’s Artisan 103 Market on Route 103 across from the American Legion. If approved, the new use will include a cafe with indoor and outdoor dining (in season) and a wellness studio. Once the hearing is closed, the DRB must issue a decision within 45 days or the use is granted automatically.

In the Jiffy Mart matter, a number of new documents were introduced into evidence including photos of the buildings in the neighborhood and an email exchange about recycling architectural details and the slate roof of the house that now sits where the gas station is envisioned. At the last meeting, Champlain Oil’s Matt Wamsganz confirmed that there are no plans to save the house.

Anticipating that there may still be information forthcoming in the flood hazard review, board members Phil Perlah and Amy O’Neil suggested not closing the flood hearing until later in the process. Closing the hearing would stop the collection of data and testimony and start the 45-day decision clock. The board voted unanimously to recess, rather than close the flood hazard hearing.

Turning to the conditional use hearing and looking at traffic under general standards, Wamsganz told the board that he had received a letter of intent from the Agency of Transportation with preliminary approval of the entrances.

According to Wamsganz,  the AOT letter signed by permit coordinator Brian McAvoy did not anticipate the need for a traffic signal and that in general, they saw no problem with the project.

In an interview with The Telegraph on Tuesday morning, McAvoy confirmed that the letter expressed the state’s intent to issue a permit if local zoning permits were obtained and if conditions regarding stormwater runoff and sidewalk layout and maintenance were met. He also noted that there are five pages of special conditions that go along with the permit.

Champlain Oil's Matt Wamsganz and Bill Dakin listen to DRB questions.

Champlain Oil’s Matt Wamsganz and Chester resident Bill Dakin listen to DRB questions.

Wamsganz introduced the traffic study that Trudell Engineering had done for Champlain Oil and said that while the project would have an effect on traffic in Chester, it would not be a “significant effect” since the station would not be a destination that would bring more traffic to the area, but rather a place where existing traffic would stop.

Citing VTrans 2008 – 2012 crash data, Wamsganz said that this was not a “high crash” intersection.

McAvoy of the Agency of Transportation told The Telegraph that the issuance of the permit is based on the state’s reading of Champlain Oil’s traffic study, but there is a condition that the traffic impact study be updated after one year and after five years to see if the development has had a negative impact on traffic. If so, VTrans will determine the “appropriate mitigation measures” to correct that impact. These could include turning lanes and a stop light, according to McAvoy.

Looking at the report, Perlah asked why the peak traffic day selected in the study was  a Thursday rather than a ski weekend Friday or Sunday. Board chair Carla Westine, noting that Wamsganz did not live in the area, explained that “Chester is on the way to may ski areas and destinations where people come on Friday and return on Sunday afternoon.”

“A peak on Thursday,” said Westine, “may not be a peak for the week.”

Wamsganz told the board that he did not have the expertise to testify on traffic, but if the board would give him questions in writing, he would get answers from his traffic engineer. “I’m not going to say that I won’t have further questions,” said Perlah, who wanted the project’s traffic engineer to come to the next meeting and suggested that the traffic portion be left open until then.

The hearing continued with discussion of signs, landscaping, appearance of the building and the canopy. Chester architect Claudio Veliz noted that it is standard practice to study the surrounding area as part of designing  a building that fits in rather than using a formula design.  Westine noted that that was not required by the zoning regs and Wamsganz told the meeting that Jiffy Mart has several building designs that brought them brand recognition and the applicants felt this one fit in Chester.

Under performance standards, Wamsganz addressed the issue of noise, telling the  meeting that normal hours would be 5 a.m. to 10 or 11 p.m. and that there would be no outside speakers, but he assumes there will be televisions at each pump.

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