Chester approves Rental Registry and discusses budget

Chester, Vt. Photo provided.

CHESTER, Vt. – The Wednesday Dec. 7 meeting of the Chester Selectboard opened with Town Manager Julie Hance remarking once again how lucky the town got with their appointment of Thomas E. Williams as police chief.

The citizens were given a time to bring up any issue not listed on the agenda, there were no comments.

The board welcomed executive director of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns (VLCT) Ted Brady over Zoom to speak. Brady spoke about his background in state and municipal governments, stating that he has been in this position now about a year and a half. He gave some history on the VLCT, explaining why and how it was founded, and how it has changed over time. He spoke on the different programs and opportunities the VLCT makes available, such as ARPA. The VLCT plays a large role in lobbying on behalf of the towns and cities of Vermont; he spoke of legislation it helped to have passed this year, and what it hopes for the next. Some of the major priorities for the VLCT are addressing the housing crisis, ensuring the state government shares its surplus revenue among the state, making remote meetings more accessible, and helping public safety departments. Brady remarked how historically the town of Chester has taken full advantage of the VLCT, reaching out to them up to a dozen times a year.

The board then moved to accept the ordinance to regulate the operation of short-term rentals (STRs) that had been previously put together. One citizen expressed his concern about some of the regulations on hosted versus “unhosted” rentals. His question was met with little response. There were a number of citizens that expressed concern with the company that had previously been referenced as the one that would be used to collect data. The citizens asked about the certainty that this company, Granicus, would be used, as some did not believe this was a good choice. The board specified that the motion approving the ordinance on STRs did not specify which company or companies would be used later on. The board proceeded to vote and pass the motion to accept the ordinance on STRs. Two citizens went up and thanked the board for taking the issue seriously.

Town Manager Julie Hance discussed the town’s overall budget with the board. She stated that while there is still one month of income and expenses to account for, as of right now the town is looking at a deficit of about $180,000. This is blamed mostly on the increase in cost of many things, especially fuel. The price of fuel did not start increasing until after the budget for 2022 was created, the money budgeted for fuel was depleted by July.

The current budget for next year is up around $300,000 from what it previously was, which the board was the first to admit is too much. There was discussion on a number of strategies the board could take to get this number down. Hance had provided the board and citizens present with a few spreadsheets detailing possible cuts they could make to the budget, as well as other funds they could use to relieve the burden from the town. The board also tossed around the idea of raising the costs of a few amenities and/or permits to keep up with inflation. There was nothing set in stone for the budget during these conversations.

The board was asked to approve SEVCA in adding a new member, Elizabeth Cresci, to their board of directors. The motion passed unanimously.

The board asked Hance what the status of the Brookside Trail signage was at the time. She stated that she had received a few samples and mock-ups from the company, and an order just needs to be placed.

After a citizen’s request, it was decided there will be a discussion on what the town will do with the 130-year-old Jeffrey Barn on Route 103 North.

The next meeting will be on Dec. 21 at 6:30 p.m. at the Chester Town Hall.

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