Chester Selectboard hears from Planning Commission, mentions Whiting Library

The Chester Selectboard heard from the Planning Commission on their proposal for the Unified Development Bylaws amendments. Photo provided

CHESTER, Vt. – At the Wednesday, June 1, 2022 Chester Selectboard meeting, the Chester Planning Commission outlined a proposal for the Unified Development Bylaws that makes adjustments to regulation for buildings built in town. There was also some discussion on appraisals for a solar field, the Police Department Assessment, a grant application for the Town Water Department, and a brief mention of the Whiting Library and the resignation of its director and several trustees.

In regards to the proposal presented by the Planning Commission, the majority of the conversation revolved around how the amended bylaws would allow the Town of Chester to retain its “character,” a consistent consideration for the selectboard and many citizens of the town. Cannabis retail was mentioned, but the focus of the discussion was on keeping franchise businesses out of town. Cathy Hasbrouck of the Planning Commission detailed how the commission defined “formula businesses,” and the strict regulations involved if one wanted to come to Chester, specifically mentioning how they didn’t want a store like “Starbucks” coming in to oust Southern Pie Company. The selectboard passed the proposal, with no questions from any in attendance.

Discussion of the solar fields, Police Department Assessment, and grant application came and went smoothly. There has been some trouble finding anyone who will appraise options for a solar field; apparently, large solar companies are unwilling to take the Town of Chester on, because the project is too “small,” said Town Manager Julie Hance.

Jim Baker, who is heading up the Police Department Assessment, plans to develop focus groups within the next week in an effort to gather data. Participants in the groups would answer questions such as, “How do you view the police department?” to begin to gauge what changes, if any, need to be made.

Finally, the selectboard approved a grant application to establish a pH balancing system for the town that would reduce the amount of water used by businesses in Chester. The town would lose the revenue from supplying the water, but, says Hance, save money overall in water treatment costs. The primary beneficiary of this update would be Drew’s Organics, however the 30,000 gallons of water freed up by the pH system would also allow the town to cater to more companies. The system will cost $700,000, $400,000 of which will be covered by Drew’s, the other $300,00 covered by the Town Water and Sewer reserves.

The board spoke briefly about the Whiting Library before they adjourned. Earlier this month, the director of the library, Deirdre Doran, tendered her letter of resignation following a series of discussions that resulted in the canceling of a library program, Drag Queen Story Hour. Several trustees on the library’s board have also stepped down following the controversy. At their meeting, the Chester Selectboard took no questions in regards to the library, merely sharing that Doran will be leaving at the end of June. “When I look at the situation,” said Board Chair Arne Jonynas, “I can’t help but think it could have been handled differently.” The library will be on the agenda for the selectboard’s next meeting, and Jonynas asked that people attend, “To help the library.”

The next Chester Selectboard meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 15, at 6:30 p.m. at the Chester Town Hall.

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