Chester OKs picnic tables on the Green as restaurants begin to reopen Board reviews landscaping plan for public safety building

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

After a discussion about several aspects of their request, the Chester Select Board on Wednesday, May 20,  gave Scott Blair of Southern Pie Cafe and Jason Tostrup of the Free Range Restaurant permission to put five 6-foot picnic tables on the east end of the Green for the use of outdoor diners.

Earlier in the day, Gov. Phil Scott had telegraphed that his administration would allow outdoor dining as of Friday, May 22.

From left, Scott Blair, Jason Tostrup and Matt Wade place a picnic table on the Green after the town gave the OK. Photo by Jeannie Wade.

Blair told the board that the tables would start 30 feet from School Street and 11 feet from Common Street and continue west to 200 feet from School Street. Each table will have information about social distancing and direct diners to bus their own tables.  The two restaurants will clean the site twice a day and provide their own trash cans. He also said that other businesses along the Green are generally in favor of it and some had donated money toward building of the tables.

“I see this as a special situation,” said board member Jeff Holden. “We’ve had situations in the past where businesses have tried to use the Green for their own and it’s always been a mess.” Holden suggested there should be an end date for the having the tables on the Green.

Board vice chair Heather Chase asked how long Blair would like to have the tables out, noting that at the last meeting she had envisioned it for one season. Blair said he would like to see them in place through the fall foliage season as a test and review it again for next year.

Jonynas moved to allow five tables until Columbus Day with Blair and Tostrup managing any trash generated.  In an interview later, Blair said that the tables are also for public use, “to bring some life to the Green.”

Town Manager Julie Hance said while she does not see the town citing businesses for moving outdoors to do business under the circumstances, she planned to send a letter to all the restaurants in the town to be mindful of the “performance standards” under town zoning bylaws. These include noise, pedestrian safety and other issues.

“If we get complaints, then we’ll have to do something,” said Hance.

Hance also noted that many restaurants do not have permits for outside consumption of alcohol, the town does not have the authority to allow it and that owners should consult with liquor control authorities. In addition, Chester has a liquor ordinance and currently, no alcohol is allowed on the Green.

Then on Friday as expected, the Scott administration allowed restaurants and bars “to reopen for limited outdoor seating, including for the sale and consumption of alcohol.”  In addition to the existing health and safety requirements mandated by the state, “reservations or call-ahead seating is required with strict limits on table distance and occupancy.” Restaurants must have a log of their customers’ contact information. And those serving alcohol will need to file a notice with the state liquor control before reopening for outdoor service.

Landscaping plan for Public Safety Building

Wunderle (inset) presents a drone based rendering of the building and then the building with landscaping

Chester landscape architect Scott Wunderle of Terrigenious presented the landscaping plan he created for the Public Safety Building to be built on Pleasant Street this year. The board gave Wunderle the go-ahead to do the work at its last in person meeting on March 18 before it moved to Zoom.

Wunderle showed the board the drone photographs of the site followed by sketches from the same perspectives with plantings added. He explained the purpose of various plants – screening the site from neighbors, softening the architecture and masking things like propane tanks from the street.

Noting that the various plantings required a variety of soil depths, Wunderle said that having the plan finished allows for the contractors to know where to place good top soil at depths appropriate to the plantings that will be done in the future. Wunderle said this would save money as the areas would not have to be excavated and filled with good top soil after the building is completed.

Maintenance of Jeffrey Barn discussed

Historical Society President Ron Patch told the board that he would like to grounds maintenance to the Jeffrey Barn, which sits on Route 103 north across from Trebo Road. Over the years, a number of discussions about the barn’s future have taken place, but no practical answer has been found.

Ron Patch explains his proposal for the Jeffrey Barn to the board

Among several suggestions, Patch would like to see the town cut back the brush and small trees growing through the stone ramp that leads from the road to the barn door and remove vines growing on the brick silo. He would also like to see the property generally mowed and maintained. Patch told the board stone fence posts should also be erected in front and a large stone with a plaque paid for by the Chester Historical Society.

Holden, who said he had tried to mow the area in the past, told Patch he is behind the idea. Hance said that Kirby Putnam of the Highway Department said he has people who could work on this as they are available. Holden also said he could donate some stone fence posts for the project.

Board chair Arne Jonynas said dressing up and cleaning up the area was a great idea. “I’m all for it.”

The Select Board also authorized Green Mountain High School to place three signs on the Green recognizing its class of 2020.

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