To the editor: An open letter to the residents of Chester

The Steering Committee would like to express our gratitude for the opportunity to participate and help create the Village Center Master Plan for Chester. It has been a tremendously rewarding experience for all of us.

The Chester Select Board was very thoughtful in nominating a diverse group of engaged citizens with different perspectives and backgrounds. Collectively we were able to approach this project from numerous points of view and present a final document we all support wholeheartedly. We want to thank the Select Board for their confidence and support during this past year. We want to give special thanks to Town Manager David Pisha and Executive Assistant Julie Hance for their passion, energy and leadership during this process.

This year-long project has served to highlight the amazing strengths and attributes of our beloved town. It has opened up numerous new opportunities to help fulfill our potential as a community.

We want to also recognize SE Group for the impressive role it played as the consultancy in the creation of this plan. SE Group placed a high priority on seeking public input throughout this process.

Its consultants started this initiative with a strong understanding of the culture and assets of our town. From the beginning, the approach they took was always about “rediscovering”what shaped Chester, not trying to change or reinvent Chester. The emphasis was on building upon what works, fixing what needs to be fixed and assuring that the results enrich the lives of our residents and our visitors. The committee is grateful for their work and their leadership throughout the process. This whole initiative was made possible by a grant from the Vermont Stronger Communities, Better Connections program. We also want to recognize the help we received from Richard Amore of the Agency of Commerce & Community Development and Jackie Cassino of the Agency of Transportation.

The Village Center Master Plan will serve as a template and framework for years to come. It is already proving valuable to the town as we continue to develop and draft our Town Plan and seek to secure federal and state grants and other available programs. The Depot Street Sidewalk/Street Improvement Grant is a shining example. The Village Center Master Plan was instrumental in securing this $800,000 grant from the state.

Chester is a special place. We have a vibrant and intact historic district that is central to our character and attracts locals and visitors from near and far. We have a strong and robust arts community, sports and recreation opportunities, numerous locally owned businesses and an abundance of natural beauty. We are also centrally located within the Okemo valley along two major state roadways, which makes us unique in the region with easy access.

A thoughtfully managed development plan for our Village Center is vital to the economic well-being of our entire town. A vibrant Village Center will have an enormous positive impact on the overall town.

The committee urges all residents to review the Master Plan and the recommendations and initiatives within. Some of the initiatives are ambitious and will require debate over how to fund and when to implement. Others are simple and will be quite easy to execute. Your support of this plan is critical and will help ensure that Chester becomes the place to live, work and play in Southern Vermont.

You can find a copy of the plan here. Thank you.

The Village Center Master Plan Steering Committee
Scott Wunderle
Jason Rasmussen
Hugh Henry
Rick Paterno
Barre Pinske
Claudio Veliz
Carla Westine
Kelly Arrison
Bob Flint
David Pisha
Julie Hance

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