Jack’s Diner has second DRB hearing, third scheduled

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Jacques Dodier, in cap, listens as attorney Amanda George and engineer Tim Knapp answer the board’s questions. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

On Monday night, the Chester Development Review Board once again took up the application of Jacques Dodier for a conditional use permit to operate a restaurant and apartments on the site of what was Jack’s Diner until 2011 when he shuttered the operation for what was described at the time as renovations.

Where at the first hearing, Dodier barely spoke and Londonderry attorney Amanda George did most to the talking, on Monday, Dufresne Group engineer Tim Knapp took the lead, answering the board’s punchlist of questions from the Aug. 28 meeting.

Those included certifying the height and square footage of the building, showing how the applicant would configure the single street entrance and exit required by VTrans and putting forward a drainage plan.

Knapp told the board that by increasing the grade around the building by 6 to 8 inches, Dodier could reduce the height of the building to 34.98 feet. The maximum height for any building in Chester, according to the Unified Development Bylaws, is 35 feet.

He also said that Dodier’s architect – Jeffrey Goldstone – had determined that the building has a footprint of 4,283 square feet, which is under the 5,000-square-foot maximum for any single building element in the residential/commercial zone. Such a limit breaks up the monolithic mass of larger buildings by segmenting and off-setting several smaller elements thus making the structure seem smaller.

DRB members review the drainage plan submitted by Dufresne Group engineer Tim Knapp

Knapp also submitted a drainage plan that he said took into account the added grading around the building without increasing the flow of water across the lot. Knapp said this was modeled on the Vermont state standard of the 10-year flood or 3.7 inches of rain.

“So the water goes where it’s going now” asked board member Harry Goodell, “and it will flow across Mr. Parker’s drive? That’s not what he wants.” Robert Parker owns property behind the site and has a driveway adjacent to Dodier’s to the east.

A good deal of discussion followed in which members questioned whether an applicant needs to improve the drainage situation or simply not make it worse.

Recording secretary Cathy Hasbrouck offered some research of older permits that showed drainage going through a culvert under the Parker driveway and into a pond area on the property of Payne and Elise Junker. In the interim, several swales meant to channel water to the culvert have been disturbed and the culvert – which belongs to Parker – has become so blocked that no one has been able to find in inlet.

Zoning Administrator Michael Normyle told the meeting that the water in question was coming from rain runoff from the Mountain View neighborhood and is not within Dodier’s control.

Chair Carla Westine asked Knapp if it would be beneficial to the site to use the culvert and ponds. Knapp said it would and Westine suggested he look at past subdivision permits.

“They put in culverts for a reason,” said Westine.

“If the applicant is not increasing the flow, is that not the extent of his responsibility?” asked board member Amy O’Neil. “I feel like we’re caught … where does the responsibility for this water lie?”

With no resolution to the drainage problem, the question became whether to close the hearing and begin deliberations or to recess the hearings and look at the problem some more.

Westine said she was reluctant to close the hearings until the VTrans permit – which includes the roadway access plan – is granted. If the hearing was closed and agency asked for changes to the layout of the property, the applicant would have to come back and start over.

Attorney George said she thought it was “pretty reasonable” to recess the hearing until Oct. 9.

While the permit process continues in Chester, a municipal enforcement suit against Dodier continues to move through the state’s Superior Court Environmental Division. There will be a conference on the matter on Monday Nov. 20 at 1 p.m. in front of Judge Thomas Durkin at the Costello Courthouse in Burlington.

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