UDBs adopted, questions on procedure persist

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Cote raises the question of the second public hearing. Photos by Shawn Cunningham unless otherwise noted.

The battle over the adoption of Chester’s Unified Development Bylaws came to an end with the Select Board voting unanimously to approve the document as presented, but not without questions about the way a change in the number of public hearings was handled.

Board member Dan Cote raised the question, noting that three constituents had asked him about the second public hearing that was discussed under the previous board but not held.

At the final session of the first public hearing on the document on March 1, the former board learned that a second public hearing – although planned – was not necessary to fulfill the legal requirements.

Brian Mosher tells the board that there was not enough notice that a second hearing would not be held.

Then-board chair John DeBenedetti announced that there would be no second hearing.

Without prior notice, residents who did not attend the first hearing but planned to speak at the second hearing – including Brian Mosher – were out of luck. Mosher said he had thought “something was up” and asked for the board’s meeting packet for the March 1 hearing. Mosher said the packet contained nothing about the change.

Amy Mosher asked the board when they had received a memo saying that only one meeting was necessary.

Board member Heather Chase told Mosher that it was “a day or two before the meeting.”

Mosher said that she had spoken with DeBenedetti the afternoon before the meeting. “He said, ‘Don’t worry, there’s still going to be another meeting,’ ” Mosher told the board.  DeBenedetti was at the March 15 meeting and did not challenge Mosher’s assertion.

Questions notwithstanding, the board pushed on with the adoption process.

Veliz asks to read a statement. Photo courtesy of SAPA-TV

Chester resident Marilyn Mahusky told the board that she had a simple solution that might settle the controversy. But board chair Arne Jonynas said he would allow comments on the process of moving toward adopting the bylaws but not on the bylaws themselves.

Claudio Veliz asked to read a letter that he had sent to the town, but Jonynas said he would not allow it and that it should have been brought up in the earlier hearing.

“Not knowing the content of the letter, you are making that decision?” Veliz asked.

“Yes,” said Jonynas.

“That’s shutting down democracy,” said Veliz.

Newly elected board member Lee Gustafson moved to adopt the bylaws.

Board member Ben Whalen argued that what was happening is democracy and, as Veliz answered, Jonynas cut him off.

“I think you should sit down,” said Jonynas.  “This isn’t going to be a discussion between you two, it’s a discussion between the public and the board.”

Newly elected board member Lee Gustafson moved to adopt the bylaws and, after the vote, Cote asked that the board move forward with naming new Planning Commission members and giving them the task of looking at eight points that he had heard during the discussion of the UDBs and reporting back by July 1.  The Select Board agreed in principle.

Fall Festival approved

Nancy Rugg, left, and Malcolm Summers. Summers suggests that the process for approving the use of The Green could be streamlined.

The Chester Rotary’s Malcolm Summers and Nancy Rugg asked permission to use the town Green for the annual Fall Festival, which will take place on Saturday and Sunday Sept. 16 and 17. Summers outlined the group’s needs as he has in years past, then asked if in the future there could be a streamlined process of applying for permission.

“I come and give the same spiel every year,” said Summers. “It would be good if I could just go to David.”

Jonynas said that a streamlined process would be welcome but that in the end it would have to come before the board for a vote.

After more discussion, the board approved the Rotary’s request.

Paper of record

The board looked at the proposals of The Chester Telegraph and The Vermont Journal for acting as paper of record. The paper of record is where the town advertises legal notices such as tax sales, public hearings and town meetings.

Last year The Telegraph asked to be considered for the designation noting that there is no definition in statute for that term or for the word “newspaper.” The Telegraph functions as a newspaper in every respect aside from publishing on paper. At that time, Pisha provided the board with a letter from town attorney Jim Carroll that acknowledged the lack of definition but suggested to play it safe by advertising in a conventional paper and the board voted to do that although three members said they would prefer to advertise in The Telegraph.

On Wednesday, Jonynas expressed hesitation that putting all the legal notices online would leave older residents out, while Chase said she felt that younger people get their news online and only advertising in a conventional paper would exclude them. Several members asked about the cost of doing both and whether there could be two papers of record.

Last year, the board questioned the cost of publishing online and in print and learned that other towns were charged $9.50 per column inch while Chester was paying $12.  Vermont Journal publisher Robert Miller told the board that the town is charged more because its ads also appear in The Shopper.

On Wednesday, The Telegraph pointed out that for the past year at least, the second section – where legal notices run – of both papers are identical so paying extra for The Shopper is unnecessary. Representing The Journal Vince West said he would not change Miller’s offer.

It was decided to look into the question and make a selection at a later meeting.


In addition to adopting a procedure for interviewing candidates for appointment to the Planning Commission and Development Review Board, the board appointed Stephanie Whitney Payne to a vacant seat on the Whiting Library Board of Trustees.

After Town Meeting, the board also appoints people to fill a number of offices from Animal Control Officer to Weigher of Coal and as usual, all incumbents (which can be found in the town’s annual report) were returned to their posts with just a couple of exceptions. Jack Cable was appointed as a Fence View replacing J. Leon Spaulding and Ben Whalen was appointed to replace Heather Chase as Clerk to the Select Board. All appointments are for one year.

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