Chester days from owning Yosemite Fire House

The Yosemite Fire House. Chester Telegraph photo

By Shawn Cunningham
©2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The town of Chester is just a few weeks from being officially recognized as the owner of the historic Yosemite House, located on Depot Street, the town’s attorney, Jim Carroll, says.

Slightly more than three years ago, the ownership became an issue when the Chester Historical Society said it could no longer afford the $1,200 a year to insure the building and wanted to find a new owner.

At one point, a 4 sail” sign was put up on the building. But establishing ownership became a hot potato between the historical society and the then-Chester Select Board.

The society had offered the building to the town, but then-board chair John DeBenedetti was reluctant to take it on. Also resistant to owning the building were board members Bill Lindsay and Tom Bock, while current members Heather Chase and Arne Jonynas were concerned about the stewardship of Chester’s historic buildings.

Chester Board member Heather Chase sees opportunity in owning Yosemite. Photo by Shawn Cunningham.

In 2015, a Chester attorney who that board had hired to do a title search concluded that the town had no property right or interest in the building. But at a later meeting, Carroll noted that his reading of the complex situation was that the town indeed had at least an interest and that if any situation involving the building were to create a liability, the town would be the “deep pockets” that would be sued. At the time, Carroll suggested a “quiet title” action that would allow for anyone with a claim to assert it and the court to sort it out.

Carroll said that the court had found that the rights claimed by the society and previous owners had never been conveyed in deeds and that the town is the owner. With just a few days left in a 30-day appeal period, after which the title will be insurable, the town can do what it wants with the building.

Town Manager David Pisha told those gathered at the April 4 Select Board meeting that the building is now covered by the town’s insurance.

“Now we own it,” said Jonynas, “with all the responsibilities that come with it.”

“Stewardship can be a burden,” said Chase, “or an opportunity.”

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  1. Lew Watters says:

    At last our town nightmare is over. Now we own this building and we ALL can decide what it is worth, how best to maintain it, for what purpose and where to locate it if it can be moved. Were one to look for a like kind of structure in Vermont, there are few if any like it.

  2. David Balous says:

    Now is the time to pick it up and move it up behind the train station and use it for a tourist center before it gets destroyed by the salt and snow or gets hit by a truck.