Salvage yards neighbors ask Chester Select Board for help

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Tires and a derelict truck at the edge of Amsden Hill Road. Photos by Shawn Cunningham unless otherwise noted

Neighbors of three properties off Route 10 in north Chester are asking the town’s select board for help with accumulating junk. Approximately two dozen people concerned with the situation attended the Sept. 6 board meeting.

Two properties – one on either side of Chandler Road at the intersection of Route 10 — and a third on Amsden Hill Road are operating salvage businesses, according to the neighbors who say the situation is a danger to public health and safety and welfare.

Chandler Road resident Mike Reeb explains the situation to the Chester Select Board.

Speaking for his neighbors, Mike Reeb told the board that at 118 Amsden Hill Road, piles of metal, wood, plastic and tires have grown and edged out into the road, reducing sight-lines and effectively making one lane of travel.

“At times, you have to go right down the middle of the road,” said Reeb.

At Chandler Road, a sign at the house on the west side of the road invites people to drop off scrap metal resulting in piles of household appliances, gas grills and other objects that sometimes grow to a size that blocks the sight-lines of drivers pulling out onto Route 10.

A sign along Rt. 10 at Chandler Rd. encourages people to drop scrap there.

“We have to inch out onto the road,” said Becky Haskell noting that there have nearly been accidents at the intersection.

Gary Rapanotti told the board that last December, he was driving down Amsden Hill Road while a school bus was driving up. Trying to negotiate the bottleneck, the bus – with children aboard – went into the ditch. Calls to the school transportation chief last week were not returned.

“You can’t plow it, you can’t mow it, you can’t ditch it,” said Roads Superintendent Graham Kennedy, who lives near the Amsden Hill Road property. Kennedy said that when a plow hit a car sitting right next to the road, the town ended up paying for the damage. “They got $900 for a $50 car,” said Kennedy.

Resident Gary Rapanotti tells the select board about a school bus mishap caused by a blockage on Amsden Hill Road as neighbors listen.

“The town has a maintenance right-of-way. It doesn’t own the land,” Kennedy explained the following day.

“It’s a business,” said Kennedy noting that the tenant takes old tires for less than the disposal price. “There’s 200 to 300 tires there – all within a year or so – and those aren’t going anywhere.”

“There’s an inoperable pickup truck there that was brought in with a tow bar and hasn’t moved since,” Reeb told The Telegraph. on Friday. According to Reeb, that was in the late spring or early summer.

A view of the collection of vehicles, equipment and other items a on the east side of Chandler Road at Rt. 10.

Beyond roadway safety, Reeb noted that there were other concerns, including possible environmental impacts of putting 55-gallon drums and vehicles and other engines near the stream that runs through the property. Others mentioned the presence of rats at the Amsden Hill Road site.

In the winter, according to Reeb, the occupants at Amsden Hill Road have a power line and a hose running across the road to Chandler Meadow Brook. “I guess they were getting their water from the stream that comes from the beaver pond.”

The property as recorded by Google Street View in 2012

Saying that their focus was safety and public welfare, Reeb said he and his neighbors had complained to Zoning Administrator Michael Normyle, Police Chief Rick Cloud and Town Manager David Pisha. Reeb said he hoped the select board could help.

On Tuesday, Normyle said he had “initiated a formal complaint with the state to put the state on notice and to begin the process to see what the town’s legal remedies are to eliminate the situation.”

He added that he’s been working on all three properties “on different levels.”

Board chair Arne Jonynas asked what the board could do legally and suggested that Pisha contact the town attorney to know its options. “This gets into some sensitive areas,” said Jonynas. “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”

Neighbors say that the pile of scrap on the west side of Chandler Road is sometimes so large that it blocks drivers’ view of Rt. 10

Noting the health issues, board member Heather Chase suggested a first step might be to have the town’s health officer go out to the houses.

Several members asked that if this was a salvage business, wouldn’t the owners need a permit? Chester resident Kelly Arrison suggested that as salvage yards, they would need a state permit, which comes with strict rules.

Board member Lee Gustafson said the town needed something enforceable on the books, but cautioned against putting the town in the position where enforcement includes or results in the taking of property that could result in hefty costs for cleanup.

“If I had to prioritize them, 118 Amsden Hill would be the worst, that stuff isn’t going anywhere,” Reeb told The Telegraph, “followed by the house on the west side of Chandler Hill. At least that scrap pile ebbs and flows.”

Reeb said that the salvage yard behind the home on the westside continues to grow. “It used to be a pretty nice mobile home and the guy who used to be there was not happy with the place to the west,” said Reeb. “My concern is that it gets ever closer to the stream.”

“It’s been this way since I was a kid,” said board member Ben Whalen. “It’s hard to believe we have never pursued this.


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  1. mike leclair says:

    I don’t see this problem in Woodstock or in many other towns for that matter! Maybe we should contact them for a solution and save thousands of dollars/tax dollars trying to reinvent the wheel. P.S. When the town allows neighbors to devalue our property, do we get a reduction on our property taxes?

  2. Jessica says:

    As someone who is a neighbor to most of these residents and who grew up in this town, I have seen it go down hill for a long time. My neighbor who shares my property line also had a yard full of junk. I wake up daily looking at it. There are rats, mice and other critters prowling about because of the trash and junk left out. I contacted the town because I have seen them dump feces and urine from a 5 gallon bucket in the back yard right next to the stream that runs through there. These people need to be fined, arrested or whatever it takes to get the area cleaned up.

  3. Amy says:

    I am the owner of the Amsden Hill property we have been fighting for a year to get the couple living there out and clean up our land. They clearly destroyed it and never paid a dime while living there. Even the local police couldn’t help us get these people gone.

    Neither I nor my husband were notified about any meetings until this article about our property. We would have liked to have been contacted so we could then assure neighbors and the town that we are in the process of getting it cleaned up. It is a huge mess and it’s very overwhelming to figure out where to even start tackling it, but we are on it and we are not going to leave it that way. The people who caused all this damage to our land are finally gone and the mess will be gone soon too.

    This has been a horrible ongoing ordeal for my family and I and we do apologize to neighbors and the town for how it got so out of control. ~ Amy

  4. Gregg Nader says:

    Calling these residence/businesses “salvage yards” does an extreme disservice to contemporary salvage operations that observe current safety, environmental and fluid recycling guidelines in a professional manor.

  5. Sue says:

    I understand salvage yards are a means of employment for some people, but to have it haphazardly be left in a state of disarray, obstructing views and causing safety issues, is not acceptable. Safety is the most important thing, and when these salvage yard owners don’t take care of the ‘stuff’ left off for them, then that is a problem.

    Also, the salvage yard on Amsden Hill Road has conveniently posted a ‘No Trespassing’ sign and some yellow caution tape around their salvage yard….That should make is so much safer for all of us who have to drive that road…. (Not!)

    Why are Chester residents more upset by vehicles with business signs on them parked in their private driveways than having to see so many salvage yards in their day to day travels? Food for thought….

  6. john smith says:

    While the blocking of the road is an issue, more than likely careless people dropping it off, there must be a sane resolve. Some of these people do this to survive.

  7. Tina says:

    Our property values go down because of these places, but yet we still have to pay taxes clean those places on Rt 10 up. They are rat infested.