Chester board hones proposed regulations on ‘nuisance animals’

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2024 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The lion’s share of the Chester Select Board’s June 5 meeting was taken up with the question of how to make an “nuisance animal” ordinance that isn’t a bit of a nuisance itself. The impetus for this was the problem that a herd of goats roaming at large from their home on Andover Road has caused for neighbors in the Potash Brook Road area.

Board chair Arne Jonynas said that keeping the ordinance simple was better. Telegraph file photo/small>

The board began the process last month with the very detailed 11-page ordinance enacted in Barre City. Board members at the May 11 meeting thought it was a bit much for Chester and Town Manager Julie Hance came back with a model ordinance from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns that weighed in at only six pages and was less detailed.

“Sometimes simpler is better,” said board chair Arne Jonynas as he began a read-through to elicit comments from the members. He also noted that the board would not be voting on the ordinance that evening.

The Barre ordinance had detailed definitions of types of animals while the VLCT version includes lists of both “domesticated animals” and “domestic pets.” As the discussion continued, there were suggestions for adding several animals — like peacocks, which can be aggressive and noisy — to the list.

“We’re going to end up adding every animal on the planet,” said board member Lee Gustafson. Instead, the board decided that adding “including but not limited to” would be sufficient.

Board member Peter Hudkins pointed to the definition of “running at large” and saying that an animal need not be on a lead to be under the owners control. He pointed to electronic collars used in training dogs and said a friend of his is using such collars to contain her herd of goats.

Under “Prohibited Nuisances” the question of “disturbing the peace” was examined extensively. It includes animals making animal noises for more than 30 minutes at a time.  Gustafason said that an animal that’s properly raised and kept won’t vocalize for long periods of time.

Board members Arianna Knapp, left, and Peter Hudkins brought up concerns about aspects of the draft. Courtesy SAPA TV

Board member Arianna Knapp said she was concerned about how the rules would affect residents out in the rural areas of town where people do raise farm animals. There was the suggestion that the town’s zoning districts be used in the ordinance but Planning Commission Chair Hugh Quinn said that problems that exist in the village area could also exist in rural areas. Quinn cautioned the board not to make the ordinance “village centric.”

“We want to be careful that we’re focusing on the problem we’re trying to fix,” said Jonynas, referring back to the wayward goats.

Knapp said she would look into how the state of Vermont defines agriculture, which is often protected from zoning and other local regulations.

After more discussion on topics like “removal of waste” and “impoundment,” Jonynas said he thought it was a “decent run through” for a first read.

Short-term rentals and Class 4 roads

The Select Board also looked at the most recent draft of changes to the ordinance regulating short term rentals finding little to question or change.

“All in all, it looks like we’re OK with this,” said Jonynas. “I think we’re almost there.”

Second homeowner Gene Czarnecki questioned the increase in registration fee from $300 to $600 for “non-hosted” rentals while the fee for hosted rentals remained at $150. Jonynas said it was determined that the non-hosted rentals posed the possibility of greater cost to the town.

Paul Bidgood at an earlier meeting. <small> Telegraph file photo</small>

Paul Bidgood at an earlier meeting. Telegraph file photo

Chester property owner Paul Bidgood returned to the Select Board regarding his demand that the town remove Bailey Hill Road from the road inventory it files with the state every year. Bidgood asserts that the town has already given up the Class 4 road and that the adjacent property owners now own that right of way. Last Wednesday he asked the board to direct the town’s attorney to issue his opinion on Bidgood’s claim in time for the next Select Board meeting in two weeks saying that it seems like a long time.

Bidgood first came to the board with his demand five months ago at the Jan. 3 meeting. The board asked attorney Jim Carroll to review the large volume of documents provided by Bidgood and to research the question of the town’s ownership of the road. An attorney from the Boston area, Bidgood has made demands of the towns of Cavendish and Chester including lawsuits in the past.

During old business – while the topic of Class 4 roads was fresh – Jonynas said the Chester Conservation Committee had discussed possible pilot projects for marking some of those roads for hiking access. He said the committee has helped the town with issues like trail maintenance, but the Select Board will have the final say over any actions the committee takes.

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  1. Robert Sartini says:

    Baily Hill Road – Not to be confused with Baileys Mill Road which we hike down from time to time.