Chester Planning Commission mulls townwide survey

CHESTER, Vt. – The Chester Planning Commission met Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. Commissioners Naomi Johnson, Barre Pinske, and Tim Roper were present. Zoning Administrator Michael Normyle also attended. No members of the public were present.

The major topic of the evening was brainstorming approaches to a proposed opinion survey soliciting public input to help shape the revised town plan. Chair Naomi Johnson mentioned two models she had found from Glover and Royalton and noted that Springfield’s town plan has recently been adopted following hearings and can be read on the Springfield website.

Johnson then led a review of a 2008 survey conducted in Chester. She noted that the survey needs reorganization but includes key topics that should be addressed such as housing, land use, agricultural resources, tourism, and economic development. Normyle later explained that new topics mandated by the state must be included this year, such as flood resiliency plans, renewable energy and river corridor protection. These elements are important for the town to receive “substantial deference” from the Public Service Board under the state-mandated energy plan, he said.

Several ideas were floated for outreach to the townspeople for their comments. Focus groups could be formed from various constituencies including organizations, churches, nonprofits, the business community, the historical society, the school board, and department heads. Johnson offered to send invitational letters to these constituencies.

There was discussion on how to reach out to the low- and moderate-income population, and also townspeople who might be reluctant to speak up. Pinske suggested various proactive approaches, including establishing an email account to receive public comment, and press releases.

Johnson said she will work on developing the survey. Tim Roper agreed to help draft the press release. Both drafts will be presented at the next meeting.

The next Planning Commission meeting is set for after Labor Day on Thursday, Sept. 7.

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