Chester Selectboard tours locations for Greenhouse project

CHESTER, Vt. – Prior to their Wednesday, June 2 meeting, the Chester Selectboard toured two possible sites recommended by the Chester Community Greenhouse Committee for their proposed Chester Community Greenhouse & Gardens project: one location behind the Academy Building and the other on Canal Street. The tour helped move the project further along in the planning process.

A concern for the Canal Street location was the presence of Chester’s emergency back up well, which according to regulations, has to have a 200-foot setback radius all the way around it. Right now, with that status, it would make that location unavailable for the greenhouse project. Board member Jeff Holden said that the water department was working with the state to establish a secondary well put up on the Jeffrey well aquifer and perhaps take the Canal Street well out of service. If the well were not a designated back up, a pump could be used to get water directly from the well for watering at the greenhouse.

The CCGC expressed a preference for the site behind the Academy Building and with this recent development that eliminates the Canal Street location out of consideration if nothing changes with the well’s designation.

Board member Heather Chase said that esthetically, the location behind the Academy Building is ideal.

CCGC board member Robert Nied said that historical significance of the greenhouse, which was a 1936 greenhouse donated from Grafton, would fit in wonderfully with the historical significance of the Academy Building.

Changes to the Academy Building itself would need to be made to hook into use the bathrooms already in the building. Bathroom reconfiguration in the Academy Building has been discussed many times in past years for access by information booth visitors.

Board member Lee Gustafson asked about neighbor input to date, impact on property values, need for fencing, external gardens, other aspects of site maintenance including tree trimming and removal. He also asked about whether the greenhouse would have a say over what kinds of plants were grown, specifically if someone wanted to grow cannabis. Gustafson said he would have a problem with that, since it would “not be in keeping with community values.”

Nied said they would define those limitations in their user agreement, which would limit cannabis growth, invasive species, pesticides, and in keeping with organic standards, to be determined by best practices.

Holden said that he expects to have an answer about the well on the Canal Street property in a month or two. Board Chair Arne Jonynas said that they were not able to make a decision immediately since they still needed to hear back from the town attorney as well. Gustafson said they also needed to consider some of the other uses for the either site. Specifically, the Academy Building has historical reenactments, additional parking during festivals, and other events, and overflow for the cemetery.

Other issues discussed were public access, including tourist traffic but including security for the plants growing there; education, mentoring and other possible programs; and sustainable funding for operation expenses.

Jonynas said that whatever the concerns are as they continue discussions, he feels confident they can continue to move forward, being “a huge positive for the community in a lot of ways.” The board will continue to include the issue on the agenda.

Coin Drop policy was presented with the board offering suggestions. Holden suggested the group would have written state permission with them. He also suggested limiting number of people in the road to four people at a time, as well as mandatory safety vests. Gustafson suggested signage be placed further away from either end of the drop should be included and also that coin drop collection be restricted to those groups whose services specifically benefit Chester residents. He also suggested adults only be allowed to stand in the roadways. The board will limit the coin drop to one location only, from the between the entrance of Mountain View to Marshall Road. The total number of coin drops each year will be limited to two. The coin drop will be revised and approved in a future meeting.

Resident Sarah Weingardner donated 0.3 acres of her property to the Yosemite Firehouse restoration project to help provide parking on the left side of the building.

Vermont Youth Conservation Corp will be clearing a mile-long trail beginning in late June, clearing a trail to Brookside Bridge and coming into the village behind the Academy Building.

Jonynas discussed suggestions from Chester Historical Society’s Ron Patch on Jeffrey Barn improvements that could easily be done by the town to preserve the area. Lee Gustafson expressed concern over the liability of having volunteers going in and out of the barn for repairs.

The next Chester Selectboard meeting will be Wednesday, June 16 at 6 p.m.

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