Chester board hears about affordable housing, public trees and historic buildings

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Chester Select Board did a lot of listening at its Sept. 21 meeting, with presentations on affordable housing and public trees as well as monthly financial updates and more than half an hour of public comments.


Wendy Harrison of the Windham Windsor Housing Trust explains the organization’s programs to provide affordable housing. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

Wendy Harrison, director of Development and Community Relations for the Windham Windsor Housing Trust, presented a slide show that explained the trust’s mission to provide safe and affordable housing. The trust does housing development, property management and encourages homeownership through a number of programs. Harrison told the board that while the trust is a non-profit, it owns properties like the recently rehabbed house across from Lisai’s, through for-profit partnerships that pay property taxes.

The slideshow included a number of performance statistics like how many apartments the trust rents (667),the number of people living in those apartments (1,088) and how many disabled Vermonters it serves (221). Harrison told the board that the trust’s Homeownership Center helps people who might never have been able to buy a home through education, counseling and “share equity” grants.

Board member Arne Jonynas presented a public tree inventory of the downtown conducted by the Vermont Urban & Community Forestry Program staff based on field work conducted by VT UCF staff and members of the Chester Conservation Committee. The goal of the study was to identify and record the condition of town-owned trees in the public right-or-way and to identify places to plant trees.

Jonynas said that in addition to cataloging public trees, the report makes recommendations for maintenance and appearance of the trees. Town Manager David Pisha said there were budgetary issues. “The town has only done (pruning and dead tree removal) in the cemetery,” said Pisha.

Jonynas said it might be better to be proactive and save money by preventing problems.

Vox populi

Frank Bidwell offered to help organize the board’s old business list in a database program and asked about getting people to participate in the town budget committee. But Bidwell’s main question had to do with how the town was setting priorities for maintaining the historic buildings that it owns.

Chester resident Frank Bidwell suggests a committee to assess and prioritize work on town-owned historic buildings.

Chester resident Frank Bidwell suggests a committee to assess and prioritize work on town-owned historic buildings.

Bidwell suggested a committee of townspeople who could look at the various structures, prioritize work, coordinate plans and fund-raise.  Pisha told Bidwell that this sort of thing would be covered by the Village Center master planning exercise that is now getting under way and will continue through next year.

Board member Dan Cote pointed to the town’s Hearse House, which has been repaired through the work of a volunteer organization, Chester Townscape. Board members agreed that with $5,000 appropriated in the budget and a $5,000 grant from the investment income of town funds, Chester Townscape was able to raise the balance of the money needed to complete the $40,000 project.

Troy Rietta of the Chester Rod & Gun Club told the board that the organization would be offering free use of the ranges to Chester residents every day from the third Saturday in October until Dec. 31 every year. Rietta said that this was in response to questions asked at town meeting about what taxpayers get in return for making the club’s ranges and buildings exempt from property taxes.

Lee Whiting appeared on behalf of the Chester Snowmobile Club, which needs to do some fundraising due to the dry winter last season. The club earns some of its income from grooming trails and there wasn’t anything to groom last year. Whiting asked if the club could use the small green in front of Town Hall for an event or for selling things on a Saturday or Sunday. He told the board that he wanted to make sure the town was open to the idea before working up a plan. The board encouraged him, but said he ought to check in with Police Chief Rick Cloud. Whiting said he would return with a proposal.

Stephen Davis asked the board how the town “can get to yes” regarding signage that tells visitors how to find places in town like the Green. “The Pinnacle (recreation area) is a great facility,” said Davis listing its many features. “But unless you know about it, you could drive Route 11 and never know it’s there.” Davis said that having signs to let people know what Chester has to offer would result in a lot more people stopping.

Pisha said that, again, this would be covered by the master planning consultants.  Executive Assistant Julie Hance said it would be a year: “You can’t just throw up signs. Master planning takes time.”

The board also approved a two-for-one Vermont Historic Preservation grant for $40,000 to work on the windows of the Academy Building. It also decided that – with new accounting software and the change from cash to accrual basis accounting – the board would switch to quarterly reviews from monthly reviews of financial reports. The board will still receive shorter reports each month with detailed reports being generated every three months.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: ChesterFeaturedLatest News

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.