Chester votes ‘yes’ on retail cannabis; Andover voters say ‘no’ to street ATVs Manchester voters reject regional field house proposal

By Shawn Cunningham and
Cynthia Prairie
© 2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Retail cannabis was approved Tuesday by the voters of Chester 318 to 267, an outcome that seemed to surprise both those who were for it and those who were against it.

Officials count the cannabis ballots on Tuesday night. Photos by Shawn Cunningham unless otherwise noted

The article  — Shall the Town of Chester authorize cannabis retailers in town pursuant to 7 V.S.A. 863? — will now allow recreational cannabis shops to open within Chester town limits. Cannabis sales are limited to those 21 and older and public consumption is prohibited. Growing cannabis as an agricultural crop cannot be regulated on a local basis.

About 18 months ago, state lawmakers threw the decision on retail sales to Vermont town voters. On Tuesday, Springfield, Rockingham and Manchester were also among about 41 towns to vote on the issue, and also among the majority to approve it, VTDigger reported.

Following the count at Town Hall, Select Board member Lee Gustafson, who led an informal informational opposition to the retail cannabis, said he was a bit surprised by the outcome. “I’ve spent a lot of time and energy on this issue. I’m kind of tired of talking about it.” But now, with retail cannabis on the horizon in Chester — and barring a fight to bring it back to referendum — he said,  “there is still a lot of stuff” the town and the Select Board need to know about the issue and that the town needs “to work out.” The board, he said, “needs to put their heads together.”

He added that he doesn’t believe “the state is ready to roll it out. I still have a lot of unanswered questions.”

Scott Blair in late January with a copy of his petition to hold the cannabis vote. Photo by Cynthia Prairie

Scott Blair led the petition drive to get retail cannabis on the Chester ballot. Blair, who with his wife Leslie owns a CBD shop and the Southern Pie Cafe on the Green, has long wanted to open a retail cannabis shop. On learning of the outcome of the vote, he said, “This is proof that Chester is ready to be an innovator for this new industry in Vermont.”

His next step, he said, is to contact local farms, find a community location for a shop and to educate the public on the industry.

“We’ll speak about security, making sure cannabis isn’t advertised to children, educating parents so they can teach their children in a way appropriate to them.” He added that bringing high quality products to town will attract a specific clientele and also reflect on the “quality of Chester, our local farms and their produce.

According to Blair, the state will decide how many licenses it will issue in a town. “Competition,” Blair said, “is always good for business. Each business will bring something different to the area.”

As for a timetable on opening a shop, he said, it is up in the air. In the meantime, Blair said he will take an optional step to get qualified by the state Cannabis Control Board before he goes to town government for any necessary approvals.

State Rep. Tom Bock telling the meeting that he had voted against legalization. Courtesy SAPA TV

On Monday night, during the town’s informational meeting at Town Hall, Select Board chair Arne Jonynas told the 100 people in attendance in person and on Zoom that the only issue was whether the town would opt-in to allow cannabis retailers. However, most of those speaking against the article continued to talk about peripheral issues. Others noted that cannabis is now legal, that it will be sold in other towns and that issues such as driving under the influence are statewide issues for all towns whether they opt-in or not.

State Rep. Tom Bock said he had voted against the bill that legalized cannabis and would do it again and town resident Robert Nied argued that while he is in favor of legalization, it would be best to see how it plays out in other towns, then revisit the question in Chester.

Thom Simmons told the meeting that cannabis is in Chester now and that people get hurt when prohibited items are in the black market. “The best approach is to be open and transparent.”

And apparently a majority of voters agreed.

Andover’s ATV ordinance fails to get on the road

The most contentious topic in Saturday’s hybrid informational in Andover was the question of whether the town’s select board should adopt an ordinance to allow all-terrain vehicles to be operated on town roadways, from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily except during mudseason and snowstorms.

On Tuesday, town voters resoundingly rejected the draft ordinance by a vote of 139 to 61. Select Board members — including those running for election — had all verbally promised to uphold the town vote, whatever it may be.

Hank Mauti explains the state’s regulations regarding ATV’s

On Saturday, a few — including a state ATV manual-toting Hank Mauti — spoke in favor of the question. But many more questioned the wisdom of the plan with regard to ATV use by short-term rentals, becoming a mecca for out-of-town ATV riders and the difficulty of enforcing any rules. And it appears that was a predictor for the results of Tuesday’s vote.

This is not necessarily the end of the road for ATVs. Several of those speaking at Saturday’s meeting wondered if a change of wording could result in an ordinance that would allow Andover residents to us the roads but put up roadblocks to outsiders. A select board with three new members may have ideas on accomplishing that.

Manchester Field House rejected by Manchester voters

A rendering of the proposed field house in Manchester. Image provided

A number of mountain towns including Landgrove, Londonderry, Peru and Weston are among those that have been asked to put an advisory article on their ballots to see if the towns support the concept of a $14 million, 67,000-square-foot field house “with the understanding that towns would participate in its construction costs…”

The organization behind the effort put out a chart showing how much would be needed from each town based on grand lists, population and distance from the facility. The field house is proposed to be located at the Dana Thompson Recreation Area in Manchester.

Since Londonderry  and Weston have postponed their town meetings until later this spring, locally,  it was down to Landgrove and Peru to wade in on the issue on Tuesday. According to organizers, Landgrove would have to kick in $109,800 and Peru $325,500. On Tuesday, Landgrove voted 28 to 22 to support the concept. Peru election results were not available at publication time. But according to VTDigger, Manchester voters — who would be called upon to shoulder $3 million of the cost — rejected the article.

When Derry and Weston meet in person, voters will be discussing the project’s ask of $628,050 and $210,000, respectively, although the question now may be moot.

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  1. Susan Starr says:

    Thank you for the excellent article.