Chester board picks plan for Church St. walkways

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Chester Select Board has chosen a sidewalk construction plan from among three in its efforts to make walking easier and pedestrians safer along Church Street from Main to Route 103 in the Stone Village.

Back on July 24, Christina Haskins of Dufresne Group conducted a “local concerns” hearing for the construction of a sidewalk along Church Street from Main to Route 103 in the Stone Village. Last week she returned to the Chester Select Board with a set of three alternatives for such construction.

Christina Haskins of Dufresne Group introduces the hearing Photos by Shawn Cunningham

Haskins started by telling the meeting that a fourth alternative is to do nothing. She then outlined the differences among the three designs. Essentially, the differences have to do with how many times a pedestrian will need to cross the road to stay on the sidewalk as well as how ditches, culverts and utility poles are handled.

In addition to maps comparing the routes, Haskins also presented an evaluation matrix giving a side-by-side comparison, listing the impacts, issues, necessary permits and costs of the three plans.

Alternative No. 1, which had only one road crossing for pedestrians but would require two new bridge walkways, was estimated to cost $1.3 million. Alternative Nos. 2 and 3, which require one bridge walkway but four pedestrian crossings, were estimated to cost $1.28 million and $1.18 million respectively. Executive Assistant Julie Hance said that the work would have to be grant-funded and the town could apply for the same grant that will be funding the upcoming sidewalk work on Depot Street. That grant for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure requires a 20 percent match.

“This has been on our minds for a while,” said board chair Arne Jonynas, “a safe loop to walk around town for a lot of people.” Jonynas asked Haskins if Dufresne had a recommended choice. Haskins said that No. 3 was not only the least expensive but also had a favorable set of impacts compared to the others.

While the handful of Church Street residents who came to the meeting had generally favorable reactions to the plan, they still wanted the town to take steps to reduce traffic and speeds on the street. Tom Elgan suggested a “speed table” at Meadow Road where there will be a crosswalk. A speed table is like a speed bump only long enough that all a vehicles wheels will be on the table at the same time. Board members noted that such features give the town’s snow plows trouble. Residents also asked for a ban on large trucks driving through the area.

Haskins told the board that when they choose an alternative, Dufresne will do some more work on the plan and produce a report that could be the basis for a grant application.

The select board voted to adopt plan No. 3.

Normyle asks for back up on temporary signs

Zoning administrator Michael Normyle came before the board to ask for support in enforcing the town’s sign ordinance. Normyle told the meeting that the un-permitted use of temporary signs – sandwich boards and election-style yard signs – by some makes it difficult for him to tell others they must get a permit and follow the rules.

Zoning administrator Michael Normyle asks the board to back him up on illegal signs.

Normyle noted that a number of people do adhere to the letter of the law by getting a permit, putting the signs only on their own property and not in the state or town right of way and taking the signs in at night. By the same token, he said, other businesses have the attitude that they will do what they want. He said he has discussed this with those whose signs are in violation and encouraged them to come to the planning commission to talk about signs but they have not.

“I’d like to get some support so I can be consistent,” said Normyle.

Recently, Normyle told the board, he picked up several signs that were illegally placed and put them inside the back door of Town Hall where the owners could get them. Now the signs are back up.

Board member Lee Gustafson asked if there was a mechanism — such as fines — for enforcement. Normyle said there was not but he suggested using town officials to pick up the signs. He also noted that he was not talking about event signs for churches or charities.

Board member Ben Whalen asked what made those signs different from the business signs if the idea was to be consistent.

“How does anybody know they need a permit,” asked board member Leigh Dakin, who said she didn’t know a permit was needed for putting up a sign.

Normyle said it’s easy to find the regulations on the town website and it’s the responsibility of the person putting up the sign to get a permit.

Jonynas asked Normyle if he had the legal right to pick up the signs, to which he responded that it was a matter of getting forgiveness rather than permission. Gustafson asked if someone put a sign in your yard would you feel you have the right to remove it.

“Maybe there is something we should do so it has some teeth,” said Jonynas.

“I kind of like those little signs,” said Barre Pinske, who serves on the Planning Commission. Pinske pointed to signs like those pointing to “native corn” have been put up for years and are part of the town culture and asked if they really have an effect on the town.

High Street speed limit; new town manager search

The board continued its discussion of reducing the speed limit to 25 mph on High Street with some confusion on the process that needs to be followed under state law. Jonynas noted that the law said that the town could set the limit and if there was no objection after five years it would be permanent.  Hance said that a traffic study was needed but that the Regional Planning Commission can do it at no charge. She added that she will consult with the commission on the issue.

  • In preparation for advertising for a new Town Manager, the board approved the job description and set the salary range for the position at $60,000 to $75,000. That figure came from looking at a salary survey of town managers in Vermont. The board will name those on the search committee during its special meeting on Thursday.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: Latest News

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Leave a Reply

First name or initial and full last name required. No aliases accepted.