Chester board agrees to sell land to Sandri, gas pumps stay in front

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Sandri’s Michael Behn appears before the Chester Select Board on Wednesday night. Photo by Shawn Cunningham

In a reversal of the plan presented to the board on Aug. 16, Michael Behn of Sandri said his company will not move its pumps to the westside of the existing Sunoco station and add a canopy.

Even so, the Chester Select Board voted 4-1 on Wednesday to sell Sandri a piece of land behind and to the west of the facility for $15,000.

In August, Behn had told the board that Sandri wanted to buy the town land to give the site an exit around the back of the building as well as a lane for a Dunkin Donuts take out window. At the time he asked for quick action, pointing to the need to replace the station’s single-wall tanks before the state’s deadline of Dec. 31, 2017. Behn also had said that the company would buy a piece of property from the owners of the Country Girl Diner to allow enough room for the pumps to be moved and a canopy erected between the station and the diner.

Sandri’s preliminary property plan.

Select Board chair Arne Jonynas recapped the negotiations that had taken place in executive sessions over the past several weeks. Jonynas said that Sandri had presented the board with an appraisal of $5,000 but offered $5,500 with the proviso that the board guarantee that the Development Review Board would approve a conditional use permit for the proposed doughnut shop.

While DRB members are appointed by the Select Board, the DRB is an independent, quasi-judicial body that is charged with applying the Unified Development Bylaws to development applications. A Select board does not have supervisory responsibility or powers over a DRB and trying to influence one would be improper.

In subsequent negotiations, Sandri offered $15,000 for the land and a guarantee of DRB approval and the board asked Behn to come to an open meeting. On Wednesday, Behn dropped the request for the guarantee and answered questions about plans for the building.

Preliminary site plan of new development

Board member Lee Gustafson told Behn that the aging Sunoco is one of the first things you see entering from the south and hoped that the installation could be cleaned up and made more presentable.

Behn said that plan included new faces for the front and sides as well as an interior remodeling. If approved, the Dunkin Donuts would take up about one-third of the building and be located where the cashier is now. The liquor outlet would remain and the cashier would move to the other end of the building. Outside, Sandri would reduce the number of pumps to three and have parking on the west side of the building.

Board member Heather Chase asked about Sandri’s commitment to the communities in which they operate. Behn said Sandri had recently given money to the snowmobile club for a sign and had committed to offering ethanol-free gas at the club’s request. Behn also noted that Sandri is known for keeping its “restrooms always immaculate,” and that Dunkin Donuts is very interested in its community.

Tank replacement begins at the Sunoco station on Thursday morning.

Going forward, Behn said the removal and replacement of the gas tanks would begin on the following day — today, Thursday, Oct. 12 — and that the company had reached an agreement with the owners of the Country Girl Diner in February and hoped to close this week. Thom and Kate Huntington, who own the adjacent property, could not be reached for comment.

Dan Cote moved that the board accept Sandri’s offer of $15,000 plus legal fees and transfer costs. The motion passed four votes to one with Chase casting the no vote.

According to Vermont statutes, the board can sell a piece of town property but it is then subject to 30 days of public posting, during which time residents can petition for a town vote on the sale. A town vote could add months to the process as could the Development Review Board hearings and deliberations.

In addition, it was unclear on Thursday morning whether the town land involved — which runs from the bridge at Pleasant Street to Grafton Street and has been considered for a “river walk” — would need to go through the subdivision process before the DRB.

Planning and DRB appointments

After months of wrangling over who can and cannot serve on Chester’s boards and still more time deciding to interview board candidates behind closed doors, the Select Board voted last night to appoint Cheryl Lipton to the Planning Commission and Gary Coger to the Development Review Board.

The appointments bring both boards back to full strength. Earlier this year, the Planning Board was down three members as two members quit and Tom Bock was elected to the Vermont House and could not make the meetings. The board did not have a quorum and could not meet until Barre Pinske and Tim Roper were appointed in June

The DRB has been operating with alternates since board member Don Robinson died in August 2015 and, earlier this year, DRB chair Carla Westine told the Select Board there was no rush to appoint a fifth member since alternates could do the job. There are three alternates, Mark Curran, Ken Barrett and Frank Bidwell.







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  1. R Farrar says:

    Ethanol-free gas may be purchased at the Shell gas station next to Bibens Hardware, Rt. 106, N. Springfield.

  2. Jim McC says:

    It would be nice to buy ethanol-free gas locally. It would beat driving to Manchester.