Chester junk ordinance to get more tweaking EMS bldg. panel sidesteps feasibility study for Pleasant St. site

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The intersection of Rt. 10 and Chandler Road last September (above) and last week. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

The proposed junk and junk vehicle ordinance,  which was presented in a “red-lined” version by town attorney Jim Carroll at the Chester Select Board’s April 4 meeting was back in a more readable version on May 2, but the discussion was much the same.

Last September, a number of Chester residents asked the board to do something  about several properties on which the accumulation of vehicles and other forms of scrap had become health and safety issues. These included two at the corner of Route 10 and Chandler Road and one on Amsden Hill Road.

Carroll was asked to research junkyard ordinances that had been successful and bring a draft, but successive snowstorms postponed his presentation until April. Carroll had cautioned the board that such regulations on turn questions of property rights and definitions of junk.  He further noted that enforcement can take time and money and expose the town to liability or even the cost of cleanup if the action ends with the town owning the property.

Concerned with the expansive definitions of the ordinance, Suursoo notes that everybody has junk.

The question of whether things are visible from the road and whether there is jurisdiction beyond that prompted board member Dan Cote to say that the town should be involved if there are environmental issues such as heavy metals, chemicals, tires and batteries that could be seeping into well water.

Board member Lee Gustafson noted that the state has rules about such pollution and said that it isn’t under town jurisdiction.

Chandler Road resident Mike Reeb warns the board to stick to health and safety – not aesthetics

“We shouldn’t have a document that we aren’t going to enforce,” said board member Ben Whalen,

“Yes, but then you’ll never have a document,” said board chair Arne Jonynas.

“Everybody’s got junk,” said Chester resident Derek Suursoo, noting that under the definitions of the ordinance just about everything that is not stored indoors is junk.

Whalen agreed, expressing concern that neighbors who are mad at each other could use the junk ordinance as a weapon.

“I have seen that,” said Suursoo. “There’s no discretion, scale is the issue, where does junk pose a problem, a hazard?”

Chandler road resident Mike Reeb agreed, urging the board to stick to “concrete issues, like health and safety, not aesthetics, keep aesthetics out of it.”

Board member Heather Chase advocates for working with residents before enforcing rules

Gustafson suggested that before the town gets to enforcement and fines, there should be a plan for mitigation.

Board member Heather Chase agreed, saying that the town might have more success working with people.

Jonynas asked for a few tweaks – noting that adding a mitigation plan would be a major one. The board plans to continue considering the ordinance at its May 16 meeting. If the ordinance passes, voters have the option to call for a vote on it. Jonynas pointed out that attempts to pass such an ordinance in the past have failed at the ballot box.

EMS building plans review

EMS Building Committee chair Lee Gustafson gave the board a brief report on the meetings of the committee to date.

EMS Building Committee chair Lee Gustafson reports on the progress of its meeting

While the feasibility study done by architect Claudio Veliz recommended placing a new fire station and new town garage on the town garage property, then taking down the old building, the committee is revisiting the Pleasant Street site. It is also looking at trying to correct several code violations in the old garage while cleaning and re-insulating it. To read the feasibility study, click here: Part 1;  Part 2;  Part 3;  Part 4;  Part 5;  Part 6;  and  Part 7.

As part of the process, the committee has asked Craig Jennings – who worked on the past EMS building designs that were defeated at bond votes – to help with looking at what would be needed to rehab the old garage.

Jonynas noted that the committee meetings are open and that it would be great to hear from the public. The next meeting will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Monday May 14, 2018 at Chester Town Hall, 556 Elm St.

Economic Development Fund policy rewrite

SRDC director Bob Flint explains the changes in the Economic Development Fund Policy

Town Manager David Pisha and Bob Flint, executive director of the Springfield Regional Planning Development Corporation, said they have revamped the policy governing the use of the Chester Economic Development Fund. In the past, the fund has been used for loans to local businesses (Chester Laundromat, Misty Valley Books, Williams River Grill, Heritage Deli and Barre Pinske for example) and as bridge funding for town projects.

Recently the fund was used to pave and stripe Common Street on the south side of the Green and to pay for an earlier town website that was not particularly well-received or successful.

For about two years the fund has been managed for greater income by Peoples Bank wealth management.

Among the changes are a geographic preference toward using the funds in the Village Center District area and allowing up to two percent of the earnings of the fund to go toward beautification projects in Village Center, which would not need to be paid back.

Board member Dan Cote, who owns the Inn Victoria in the Village Center, thought that was a good idea, especially around the Green.

In addition, the new policy allows for gifts to the fund that can be targeted toward beautification or other priorities.

Jonynas said that this was a first read for the board, and Pisha said he would like to put it on the agenda for the next meeting.

Housing Trust explains home repair program

Representatives of the Windham Windsor Housing Trust were on hand to explain the program by which low-income residents can get low-interest loans of $2,000 to $20,000 for home repairs and energy efficiency upgrades. The repairs can include structural problems, plumbing, septic and electrical failures and mold, asbestos and lead paint remediation. You can find more information on the program here.

Water commissioners raise rates

Before beginning its meeting, the Select Board met as the town’s water commissioners and raised the equivalent unit rate from $52 to $54. The unit rate has been gradually increased to reach $60, which is aimed at bringing the overall water rates to one percent of the water district’s median household income. This is a condition for the negative interest rate loan that snipped $800,000 off the cost of the water system upgrade done last year.

In other business

Ambulance coordinator Dan Cook explains the challenges of staffing a volunteer service

Ambulance coordinator Dan Cook told the board that based on the trends, the Chester Ambulance Service could reach 450 calls this year and that he wants to go ahead and hire the full time attendant that is in this year’s budget.

The position helps cover the weekday hours when volunteers are generally unavailable. There was discussion of who would supervise the position and what the attendant would do during downtime, but the board did not object to Cook hiring the position.

The Select Board also voted to accept the information booth in front of the cemetery from the Okemo Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce. The booth is on town land, but the building belonged to the Chester Chamber of Commerce until it was submerged into the Okemo Chamber. The chamber has paid the property taxes on the value of the building, but in recent years has balked at paying for pumping the small septic holding tank in the building. For a time, the chamber opted to close the bathroom until the Chester Economic Development Committee began working with the town to keep it open and finance the pumping. There was discussion about cutting the cost of hooking the booth up to the sewer system but the Select Board felt the town should own it if that were to happen.

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  1. Susan Leader says:

    In regards to Chester’s proposed junk ordinance: I am not a Chester resident. Nevertheless, I can’t resist quoting the late great Peter Diamondstone of Brattleboro who famously said, “I choose to be ‘the dandelion on the manicured lawn of the rich’ “. Perhaps there is some sort of an analogy here … In any case, I fail to see how such an ordinance could be applied in a fair way, one person’s junk being another person’s treasure.

  2. Philip M. Perlah says:

    In addition to the two sites off route 10, there is another off route 11 going west to Londonderry, near Andover Road. At that site, the “recycling” is piled 5-6 feet high right up the edge of the road.