Jack’s Diner returns to Chester DRB with expanded plans

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

An architect’s drawing of the front of the proposed Jack’s Diner. Photos by Shawn Cunningham, drawings provided by Town of Chester.

With lawyer Amanda George doing most of the talking Monday night on behalf of Jack’s Diner owner Jacques Dodier, the Chester Development Review Board began consideration of a new plan to complete the long-dormant project on Route 103 South.

Dodier is asking for a conditional use permit to operate a 78-seat restaurant and bar with two three-bedroom apartments on the second floor. The plan calls for adding a large, wraparound porch to the front of the existing building. According to George, the restaurant would have a 68-seat dining room and a 10-seat bar and would serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and close at 10 p.m. at the latest.

Bob Parker explains the storm water runoff problem to the DRB during the site visit.

Most of the site visit, which preceded the formal hearing, was taken up with establishing land boundaries and looking at issues surrounding drainage across the property from the Mountain View development.

Bob Parker of Pineview Road and 103 Artisans Marketplace owners Elise and Payne Junker pointed out the problems that engineers for Dodier must overcome to prevent damage to their properties. 103 Artisans is just south and Parker’s driveway is between the Junker and Dodier properties.

Road access was also an issue, with the Agency of Transportation requiring that the business have just one entrance and exit point along the road. A single driveway would require more space for cars to maneuver and something to block cars from entering just anywhere. In an indication of how wary the board is of Dodier’s construction and compliance track record, chair Carla Westine told him she hoped that the solution would not be “an old iron pipe in a piece of concrete with a chain.” George assured her that would not happen.

A proposed site plan for Jack’s Diner shows two entrances, but the Agency of Transportation is asking for a single entrance and exit.

“How can we review the (zoning) criteria with uncertainty about the traffic flows inside the lot?” asked board member Amy O’Neil, who also asked if Dodier had applied for an AOT permit.

George said he had not.

Looking at dimensional standards, Westine asked about the height of the existing building and George told the board the building was 34 feet 11 inches. That drew a laugh from the audience since the town-wide maximum height is 35 feet. Randy Miles asked if it would still be under the maximum “including the ridge vent and shingles.”

O’Neil said that the height needed to be certified and architect Jeffrey Goldstone said that could be done.

There was also a discussion of safety including emergency egress. Goldstone told the meeting that the building would be equipped with sprinklers and as such did not need a fire escape. Miles asserted that the second floor windows were 4-inches thick and that those could not be broken to escape. Goldstone said that the windows are standard double pane windows about 1.5 inches thick and that while they could be used for egress, that is not required with the presence of a sprinkler system.

Dodier, left, and George, center, listen as the site visit begins. Dodier began construction on the 4,900-square-foot addition to the diner in 2011 and later tore a good deal of the original building down.

Included in the safety discussion was the structural integrity of the building, since it had been left to the elements during several years when construction halted. It was agreed that a structural engineer would check the building out.

The longest discussion of the hearing revolved around the drainage issues. The applicants said that three possible solutions were either unworkable or rejected by neighbors so the plan was to let the stormwater “dissipate on site.” Board alternate Mark Curran suggested a dry well for storm water storage and the board asked Dodier to provide more detailed engineering drawings taking neighbors’ concerns into consideration.

Elise Junker read a letter into the record saying that she and her husband Payne are excited about the project finally being finished, but that they have misgivings about Dodier’s ability or willingness to follow through on the promises made during the hearings.

Elise Junker reads a letter stating her misgivings as George and Dodier look on.

“Another half-finished project with trash and building materials blowing in the wind is not acceptable to neighboring businesses or homes or the rest of the town,” said Junker, “Mr. Dodier does what he wants, when he wants, with little regard for how it effects others around him. A specific building schedule with oversight from the town and or state is vital to a successful outcome. ”

With a number of plans and other information due from Dodier, the board recessed the hearing and scheduled it to resume on Monday, Sept. 25.

George is also representing Dodier in a lawsuit brought by the Town of Chester for zoning violations. A conference before Judge Thomas Durkin of the state’s Environmental Division in Burlington is scheduled for Sept. 11.

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  1. Randy Miles says:

    It is long overdue for Jack’s Diner to be dealt with. It has been an eyesore for far too long. I too am a business owner in Chester and have to abide by the rules and bylaws, like it or not. Good people and business owners make mistakes but also work quickly and honestly with officials to correct the problem. This has not been the case with the owner of Jack’s. There is a track record with red flags like the 4 th of July.

    I have many concerns with allowing this to move forward.
    1. The owner’s track record.

    2.How he left his business yard a mess for every one else to look at.

    3. Windows, many are I believe 4″ thick (bullet proof) no one could break them inside to get out or if needed the fire department could not break them to get in. We do not want to here another Coconut Grove fire.

    4. Weight of the windows. Solid windows weigh a lot, need to check to make sure structure can support them and they are held in place properly not just by wooden trim. If one of the windows ever came free who ever was under it, would not make it. Jack testified that his windows he put in himself are not 4″ thick solid windows. But 1 – 1 1/2 inches thick double pain. Lets find out the truth?

    5. Glad to see the DRB is looking into water run off and traffic flow in parking lot.

    All in All I support business of all kinds in Chester. I think we could use another restaurant and the location is good. What we don’t need is a business owner who is only in it for himself and does not abide by the same rules that the rest of us business owners have to. This has led to caution for any-other business owner looking to expand or open a business in town.

    To say let’s forget about the past and move forward, I say red flags red flags. Caution! Make sure there are quick ways to deal with any bylaw rules that are broken now and in the future. Like fines that are put in place and used. Notice to close if until back in compliance. I myself would like to see a new investor buy the business and work with the town. Last I do agree there are times that towns should govern with a lighter hand. I also believe there are times towns should govern by the letter of the law with every ‘t’ crossed and every ‘i’ dotted. I guess Chester is about to cross this bridge now. Sincerely, Red Flag Caution.

  2. Barre Pinske says:

    I sure hope there is a reasonable solution to this situation. I’m my opinion this is not a time to judge or to throw stones. It’s a time to nurture the best possible resolution. I hope everyone involved in moving this forward keeps in mind the eyesore this is and what it could and can be.

    We have rules we need to follow but we do not need to make things more difficult than they need to be or dig through every regulation to create more issues. Creating bigger problems will have that place sitting there for years to come. I hope we can get some community support for a quick and successful solution. Completing a project of this scale is a lot for a private person to pull off.

    I wish Jack a lot of luck and hope it’s successful.

    Barre Pinske is a member of the Chester Planning Commission