Chester board re-appoints Hudkins, sets up local cannabis commission

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Judging by the people attending last Wednesday’s Chester Select Board meeting, the main event appeared to be the three-year Planning Commission appointment that had just one candidate, incumbent Peter Hudkins.

DRB member Harry Goodell told the board he had worked with Hudkins on several boards and asked them to reappoint him. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

With commission members Hugh Quinn, Barre Pinske and chair Cathy Hasbrouck in the audience, the board had scheduled an executive session to discuss Hudkins’ reappointment. Hudkins became something of a lightning rod last February when he made remarks critical of the commission’s work rather than giving the report that the group’s members had approved.  A week later, the commission ousted Hudkins as its chair but he remained as a member.

During the public comment period last Wednesday, Development Review Board member Harry Goodell and former Select Board member Bill Lindsay spoke on Hudkins’ behalf. Lindsay told the board that it should stick with the commission it has and give it time to work and that the town needs to be a business friendly community. Meanwhile, Goodell said he has worked with Hudkins on three boards and believed he should be reappointed.

Following an executive session on the appointment, the board voted 3-1 to reappoint Hudkins, with Heather Chase being the lone no vote. Board Chair Arne Jonynas then said that while the chair doesn’t usually vote, he felt it was important to do so on this occasion. Jonynas said that if this vote was being taken last year, he probably would have voted no, but now he was voting yes. He did not give a reason for the change in his opinion.

First Chester Cannabis Control Commission formed

Former select board member Bill Lindsay suggested that the cannabis commission include members of the public and school staff

With the recent vote to allow retail cannabis sales in Chester, the board was presented with the choice of whether or not to create a local cannabis control commission. While several board members said a commission would have little real authority, the board was in favor of creating one and would act as the commission in the same way that it is also the Board of Water Commissioners.

Lindsay told the board he thought there should also be members of the public on the commission including representatives of the schools “because it affects children.” He also asked whether having a commission would open the board to any liability and suggested getting a legal opinion.

Jonynas said they should start out with the Select Board and “put out the word that if any citizens from town want to be involved, they too can be involved.”

Scott Blair, who initiated the petition that brought the issue to a vote, said he supports the idea of the Select Board being the local commission and said he wanted to “make it 100 percent clear that this is for retail, not consumption.”

Board member Lee Gustafson asked when the board could begin working on a nuisance ordinance

Board member Lee Gustafson asked when it would be appropriate to look at a nuisance ordinance. Such ordinances and zoning are among the ways that towns can have a bit of control. Town Manager Julie Hance noted that ordinances are the purview of the Select Board while zoning bylaws are crafted by the Planning Commission.

“I think it’s a discussion worth having … because there are other issues we don’t want to be facing as a town related to X-rated industries or other things that could be coming our way,” said Gustafson, who has collected ordinances from other towns and said he was happy to distribute those.

Jonynas asked if that should be on the board’s next meeting and members agreed.

“Let’s get the information and see where it goes,” said Jonynas

Route 10 speeding discussed

Julie Ravlin, left and Lori Quinn asking the board for help with speeding and aggressive driving on Rt. 10

During the public comment period, Lori Quinn and Julie Ravlin – each of whom live on Route 10 – spoke about problems they see with speeding and unsafe driving on that road. Quinn said that drivers come past her house so fast that she is in fear when she pulls out of her driveway.

Ravlin said that driving on the road can be nerve-wracking with other drivers passing her when they can’t see what’s coming ahead of them. She also said that clients of her home business are nervous to be driving on Route 10. Ravlin also said that while she has lived on the road all her life, it has only been in the past couple of years that she has experienced the aggressive driving that she now sees.

Board chair Arne Jonynas told Ravlin and Quinn that the town’s authority over the road was limited to enforcement

Jonynas told Quinn and Ravlin that because Route 10 is a state highway, the Select Board is limited in what it can do about the speeds, but the town can help with enforcement and could start gathering data for conversations with the state. Quinn said that lowering the speed limit wouldn’t help, but enforcement would and she offered the use of her driveway for police who are running radar.

Ravlin said she would be interested in seeing how many crashes are happening now as compared with the past. Hance said she would pull the crash data for the road and noted that the state is in the preliminary stages of redesigning the road.

“It’s in the early stages of it,” said Jonynas who represents Chester on the state’s Traffic Advisory Committee. “So you’ve got quite a few years before it happens.” Hance said that this would be the time to give the state input on the problems.

Sidewalks, Spater plaque and DRB appointments

Board member Leigh Dakin asked the board look at putting a sidewalk on Rt. 103 south to the high school

Board member Leigh Dakin said that in a future meeting she would like to talk about a walkway “from the high school into town.”  Hance said there had been a feasibility study of that a few years back although not a full scoping study like the one done for a proposed sidewalk on Church Street.

Hance told the board that grant money from the state’s “bike/ped” program would be opening up soon and that could fund a full scoping study for a walkway along that stretch of the state highway.

Town Manager Julie Hance explained that a state grant program could fund a study for a sidewalk to the high school

The board approved the Chester Townscape’s request to place a plaque on the Church Street bridge, near Meadow Road, recognizing Tori Spater’s role in founding the organization, which works to beautify the town with a number of projects throughout the year. Jonynas noted that Spater was “moving out of Vermont to Chittenden County” and spoke of her other volunteer efforts and the college scholarship she gave for a number of years.

With relatively little fanfare, the board reappointed DRB members Harry Goodell and Phil Perlah to three-year terms.

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  1. Lee,
    That is correct, and the story notes that after the 3-1 vote, Arne Jonynas stated that while he does not usually vote, he felt it important to do so in this case.

  2. Lee Gustafson says:

    Note of clarification – the vote to reappoint Peter Hudkins was 4 to 1, not 3 to 1.