CHESTER, Vt. – At the Wednesday, Feb. 21 Chester Select Board meeting, board members discussed topics including the town’s zoning administrator position, a proposed solar farm and the investment performance of the town’s Development Fund, ducking to avoid the occasional drowsy wasp awakened by unseasonably warm temperatures.
The Chester Planning Commission has nominated Michael Normyle for an additional three years as zoning administrator, a term that would extend until March 2020, and is seeking the Select Board’s approval. Normyle has been serving in the position on a temporary basis for about a year. Filling the position is challenging: the job is demanding and viable candidates hard to find, and the Commission’s nomination of Normyle comes after what Town Manager David Pisha describes in a memo as “considerable deliberation.”
Board members voiced concerns and confusions over the structure and oversight of the zoning administrator position. “The Planning Commission is making the recommendation, right? And we say yea or nay,” said Select Board Vice Chair Heather Chase, “but people need feedback to do a good job. And whose role is that to provide evaluation…and show direction where we want the person to go?”
“The zoning administrator, by statute, is a confusing position in and of itself…it is not an employee of the town of Chester,” said Assistant Town Clerk Julie Hance, later adding that person in the position “doesn’t technically report to anybody.” The appointed administrator could, however, be removed by the Planning Commission in conjunction with the Select Board – providing there were cause to do so. After a lengthy discussion, the board decided to table the issue until the March 14 meeting, allowing time for research and consultation with legal counsel.
Remus Preda and Gary Gibbs of People’s United Bank gave a yearly presentation about the investment performance of the Chester Development Fund. The fund is invested following an Investment Policy Statement drafted in 2015; the statement provides a policy and ensures consistency for the fund as the makeup of the Select Board changes over time. The investment strategy ensures that the fund maintains purchasing power and enough liquidity that funds can be accessed quickly when needed. Performance over the lifetime of the fund’s investment – 29 months – is 10 percent, while the past 12 months have seen a 15 percent growth.
Bruce Genereaux, representing Eddy Road Solar, detailed a proposal for a 500kW AC net-metered solar farm on 3.5 acres in the southwest corner of the town. The new site would be roughly the same size as the town’s existing solar farm along Vermont Route 103. Genereaux requested that the board draft a letter endorsing “preferred siting” for the project.
The proposed site sits in an infertile depression, within a gravel pit quarried for road building in the 1960s. The proposal includes screens of vegetation, which, coupled with the site’s naturally tucked-away aspect, means that the installation would, in theory, be barely visible from surrounding roads and property. The board requested a site tour to get a better feel of the project.