Chester Select Board discusses Whiting Library problems Adopts new Village Green zoning, gets update on police assessment

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

At the close of the June 1 Chester Select Board meeting – in looking toward future agenda items – board chair Arne Jonynas brought up the topic of recent developments at the Whiting Library saying, “Through an extremely unfortunate series of events our library board is without a quorum…”

Board chair Arne Jonynas said the town is finding itself in legally “uncharted areas” but said “the library will survive”Telegraph file photo

Jonynas was referring to the recent resignations of six of the library’s seven trustees after the public became aware of accusations of censorship regarding the “pausing” of a reading program called “Drag Queen Story Hour” which was planned by the library staff .

He also noted that Library Director Dierdre Doran has resigned effective June 30 and said “…we are in uncharted areas in how to handle this. There are a lot of legal aspects to it that we are not sure how it’s going to work.”

Jonynas said that Town Manager Julie Hance has spoken with town attorney Jim Carroll about how the library continues. Because the library is a separately managed town entity, there are issues like paying the bills and the staff in the absence of a board that should be approving expenses and writing the checks.

“When I look at the situation, I just can’t help but think that it could have been handled differently and having a much more positive outcome. But sadly we are in the situation we are now,” said Jonynas. “The library is the soul of our community and it’s devastating to me that we are in the situation we are.”

Board member Lee Gustafson asked if the select board had any purview over the library and Hance said that the Vermont legislature, which set up the library system in the 1800s, only gave the board authority to appoint library trustees when there is a vacancy.

“So the question is what happens when you’re in the interim waiting to make appointments,” said Hance, noting that Carroll said “don’t close the doors” to the library and that he is confident that he can find a way – legally – for the town to pay necessary bills and payroll until a quorum can be appointed.

“What we have to get through is a two-week period,” said Hance. The board will interview candidates and appoint new trustees at its June 15 meeting.

“The library will survive,” said Jonynas. “Sometimes out of controversy comes learning and growth…we really need people to step forward and help.”

The Chester Select Board will be addressing the vacancies by interviewing and selecting applicants for the membership on the Whiting Board of Trustees at its June 15 meeting. Anyone wishing to serve as a library trustee should contact Julie Hance at Town Hall. Her email address is and the phone number is 802-875-2173.

Village Green hearing and adoption

The board heard from members of the Planning Commission including Cathy Hasbrouck, Peter Hudkins and Hugh Quinn, who explained the purpose of a new Village Green zoning district that is meant to bring the properties from School Street to Cobleigh Street on the south side of the Green into conformance with zoning. This was a public hearing required before the board could adopt the change.

Members of the Planning Commission present the Village Green district and take questions Image courtesy of SAPA TV

This makes items like setbacks from the street reflect the actual conditions that predate the zoning that was instituted in the 1970s. Hudkins explained that the zero setback “works for the buildings that are there now,” but for new construction the building code and conditional use process should take care of any problems.

Select Board members asked a number of questions having to do with changes to allowed uses. Hasbrouck explained that there were some changes, but they were geared toward simplifying and recognizing the uses that have been there before.

“It definitely looks like you’re adding a lot more flexibility and common sense to the document for sure,” said Jonynas.

The boundaries of the district

Hasbrouck also explained the definition of “formula business,” which would prohibit large companies like Starbucks from setting up on the Green.

After the public hearing was closed, the board voted to adopt the new district.

The Planning Commission also proposed eliminating the fee for registering as a Home Occupation for three years. The fee is currently $50 of which $15 covers  the cost of recording the designation in town records. That recording fee would remain under the proposal.

DRB member Scott McDonald asked why not just eliminate all but the recording fee forever as a way to encourage people to register their businesses. Home Occupation is protected in statute from town interference, but the town is trying to use this to get a better picture of how many businesses there are in Chester.

Select Board member Ben Whalen moved that $35 of the $50 fee be waived for two years and that passed without opposition.

Police Department assessment under way

Hance told the board that consultant Jim Baker was now at work on his assessment of the Chester Police Department. So far Baker has spoken with all the police officers and is talking with town department heads.

Town Manager Julie Hance explained how Police consultant Jim Baker is going about the assessment of the department. Telegraph file photo

Hance said Baker is planning on holding focus groups with people from different areas of town and interests and that Baker will be developing a town-wide survey. These efforts are to gather people’s opinions about the department and what residents and property owners would like to see the police doing.  Hance said the survey would have some “rather pointed questions.”

The Telegraph asked whether the information gathered would be publicly available or if it the final report would be the only information given to the public. Hance said she would like to speak with Baker about that and was not comfortable answering until she had a chance to do that.

Hance said she expected the final report around mid-July.


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