To the editor: Chester Planning Commission hasn’t rushed process

Letters to the editor logo 3In my role as your Zoning Administrator, I have the unique position and pleasure of hearing numerous perspectives on zoning applications.  This includes the owner/applicant’s point of view along with those from the Planning Commission, the Development Review Board and state officials.   It is encouraging to see and hear the input regarding the proposed amendments to the Unified Development By-Laws.  In an effort to clarify some points where there may be confusion,  I will offer the following:

  • The proposed UDBs are by no means perfect, yet they are a significant improvement
  • The Planning Commission has been reviewing these amendments at numerous warned Public Hearings since December 2014, and I am confident they are not rushing this process.
  • The agendas for the previous hearings have alternated between different sections of the UDBs, and subsequent discussions among the PC members and citizens were detailed and at times animated (a good democratic process)
  • It is unfortunate that the town’s website has not been developed faster, but I can assure you that all PC and DRB public meetings have been properly warned in a timely fashion
  • These warnings included a summary of the rationale behind the proposed changes along with several key examples
  • As citizens we all have the right and responsibility to gather information to help ourselves form educated opinion
  • In addition to comments from individual citizens at the numerous meetings, the PC members considered detailed perspective from the Development Review Board
  • Considering the DRB is the enforcement arm in the local zoning process, their input is invaluable
  • The PC and the DRB do not always see eye to eye, although the proposed document is a very good balance of their opinions
  • These proposed amendments include but is not limited to: cleaning up grammatical errors, re-inserting uses and misc. information (not carried over from the previous version) that was acknowledged to be an oversight, along with new language giving the DRB & applicants some flexibility within guidelines, revised district mapping, etc.
  • I would encourage everyone to focus more on the Standards that each application is closely scrutinized by verses the name of a business.   Twenty years from now and maybe in shorter time, there will be new businesses that no one had anticipated.
  • How the application will be reviewed and conditioned ( if approved) should be of more concern than what the nature of the business is right!

I would agree there may be room for some more minor adjustments, but it is frustrating to hear suggestions that the Planning Commission should now slow down and review it all again.  Zoning and the necessary changes from time to time is not unlike growing up in a large family.  Mom and Dad could very rarely make everyone happy, but the families that stuck together as a unit thrived.

And finally, there is currently one open seat on the Development Review Board, and there maybe two soon.   Volunteers are needed.  Common sense and a commitment is more important than technical expertise.

Just my cents!

Michael Normyle
Chester Zoning Administrator

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  1. MJ Miles says:

    Let’s be clear the NEW zoning regulations make processing of raw materials only possible in the joke of location on Elm St. That is called industrial. The industrial park is not even fully located in an industrial zone. It’s been there for a long time. It should be zoned industrial. Common sense. You cannot process firewood except in the industrial zone. Really this is Vermont we all process firewood in our back yard but according to our current zoning we shouldn’t be!! Note commercial processing should be by conditional use. Read the definition: it incorporates your neighbors’ input. That I feel should be a notation for firewood processing for commercial reasons making the location subject to common sense. It can’t go just anywhere. There are businesses that have previously operated legally but can’t now. So all I can say is please common sense. The average everyday Joe ought to make sure you get a say in what works for you and go to the meetings. Bummer has to be tonight one of the biggest vacation weeks of the summer or we would be there!!!

  2. Marilyn Mahusky says:

    With all due respect Michael, to you and the Planning Commission, I and others disagree with your statement that the proposed bylaws are “a significant improvement.”

    In all districts, both proposed and conditional uses, if approved, would vastly change the rural character of Chester.

    A comparison of the proposed changes to the 2007 and 2014 bylaws reveals the addition of wood processing in most residential districts – just one example of the proposed changes. Also significant is the proposed expansion of the industrial district to include property on the corner of Elm Street and Route 11.

    To push through these changes — and some of the other proposed uses — will forever change the beauty and character of our town. I urge the Planning Commission to defer further consideration of the bylaws, and turn its focus to developing the new Town Plan.

  3. MJ Miles says:

    Exactly what I tried to iterate in a future response I made but you did it so much better.