Chester board OKs Act 250 appeal, orders dog in attack muzzled

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Chester Select Board meeting in person and via zoom for a vicious dog hearing on Sept. 23 Images courtesy of SAPA-TV

In two special meetings last week, the Chester Select Board discussed the Act 250 District Commission’s rejection of the town’s application to extract gravel on the site it bought for a new water tank and took evidence in a hearing about a dog named Edgar that neighbors said was vicious. In the end, the board decided to appeal the gravel project rejection and to muzzle and leash Edgar until his owners move away from Chester at the end of October.

On Friday Sept. 18, the District 2 Environmental Commission denied the Town of Chester’s application to open a municipal gravel pit on a 139-acre property off Route 103 south. After consulting with attorney Jim Goss, the board scheduled an executive session for Wednesday, Sept. 23 to follow a “vicious dog” hearing already set for that evening.

The hearing was to take testimony about an Aug. 17 attack in which Edgar, a dog owned by Greg Adamovich and Betsy Stretton, went after Beau, a dog owned by neighbors Gregg and Patty Nader. The Naders alleged that this was not the first time Edgar had been aggressive toward Beau and that they were afraid to walk along their own driveway for fear of the dog.

Complainant Gregg Nader hands out information at the beginning of the session

Under Vermont statutes, a dog must have attacked a person to be considered “vicious.” A dog who attacks another dog is considered “potentially vicious.” The difference is that only a “vicious” dog can be ordered to be destroyed and so the question of whether Edgar had bitten either of the Naders was crucial to the case.

A dog hearing is one of the “quasi-judicial” functions that can fall to a select board and through personal and business contact, board members Heather Chase and Lee Gustafson recused themselves from the hearing, which went on with the minimum number of three — Arne Jonynas, Jeff Holden and Leigh Dakin.

The Naders recounted a number of incidents in which Edgar had attacked Beau or killed their chickens and all parties made conflicting statements about the incident with the question of whether Patty Nader’s injuries were caused by Edgar or Beau. The board listened to that testimony, accepted exhibits and then allowed time for a number of people to speak on Edgar’s character.

At one point, Stretton noted that she and Adamovich will be closing on a property in West Haven, Vt. on Oct. 31 and taking Edgar with them. The session was recessed rather than adjourned because a letter to the board had been presented before the meeting and Leigh Dakin – who was attending the meeting via Zoom – had not had a chance to read it. A second session of the hearing followed by a deliberative session was scheduled for Friday Sept. 25.

A field of boulders on the site in question Telegraph photo.

With Gustafson and Chase rejoining the meeting, the board went into executive session to discuss their options for dealing with the Act 250 permit denial. At the end of the closed door portion, the board moved to authorize a limited appeal. But while there was no one left in Town Hall, they had forgotten about the Zoom portion of the meeting and did not rejoin the meeting in public session to make their motion – an inadvertent violation of the Open Meeting Law.

The board corrected that violation as the first order of business at its Sept. 25 meeting. Town Manager Julie Hance was authorized to file an appeal and Goss was authorized to negotiate with Natural Resource Board attorney Greg Boulbol with the goal of having the decision revisited by the District Commission. A limit of $5,000 was put on the appeal with more to be considered later if needed.

Also at the Sept. 25 meeting, the board heard more from both sides in the dog hearing and went into a deliberative session that  resulted in an order that Edgar be muzzled and under the physical control of an adult whenever he is outside until Adamovich and Stretton move at the end of October.





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