Chester planning panel to hold public hearing on zoning change

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The Chester Planning Commission will hold a public hearing concerning a proposed amendment to the town’s Unified Development Bylaws (which includes zoning regulations) at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 1  at Town Hall, 556 Elm St.

The Chester Planning Commission at a recent workshop on bylaw modernization

The amendment concerns legacy uses and adaptive reuses and the change would affect every zoning district within the town. Both proposals refer to “non-conforming” parcels, which means a use that was allowed under previous zoning regulations but is not allowed under the current ones. Such a parcel could continue to operate as a nonconforming use, but once that use is discontinued, there is a limited amount of time before it loses the right to re-start in that use. A copy of the amendment can be found here.

The legacy use change would allow for a parcel’s former use to be re-instated even after being discontinued beyond the time limit if the use is shown to have had a benign history and to be part of the town’s cultural heritage. A conditional use hearing would be required and it would be up to the applicant to demonstrate the parcel’s history and cultural significance.

The adaptive re-use change would “allow a specialized structure that has outlived its original function to be given a new use that is not currently allowed in the zoning district” where it is located. A conditional use hearing (with additional standards to be considered) would also be required for the adaptive reuse.

The commission’s hearing will not be the final word on the amendment as state law requires that bylaw amendments be adopted by the Select Board after it holds its own public hearing. If the Select Board has minor objections to the amendment (spelling or grammar corrections for example) it can fix those and adopt the final version. If the Select Board believe there are larger or more serious problems with the amendments, it must send the amendment back to the planning commission with its objections for further work.

The Planning Commission is also continuing work on “bylaw modernization.” It held the first of four workshops with Jason Rasmussen of the Mount Ascutney Regional Commission on July 18. According to commission chair Hugh Quinn, a future workshop will look at issues of affordable housing with representatives of the Windham & Windsor Housing Trust.

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