By Cynthia Prairie
The Chester Development Review Board has approved the proposal for a 9,100-square-foot Dollar General store on a 1.4-acre empty parcel southeast of Main Street Pizza, former home to Zachary’s Pizza House. The decision was 3 to 2, and voted on Monday night, April 16.
The DRB did place 35 conditions upon the Zaremba Group, the developer for the Dollar General building. Among the conditions that Zaremba had said it would agree to during the hearing process are: horizontal natural wood clapboard siding as opposed to vinyl; new sidewalks and curbs along Main Street; and a fire suppression sprinkler system.
DRB chairman Peter Hudkins said the developers “did offer clapboard but they wanted to stick with vinyl siding.”
The natural brick knee wall will remain, as will the faux windows, both on the main entry side of the building. The DRB also is requiring that Dollar General turn its outside lights and signs on no more than 30 minutes before opening and turn them off no later than 30 minutes after closing. Zaremba had suggested one hour on either end.
Other conditions include: a prohibition on outdoor displays of products and merchandise; indoor storage of all shopping carts at all times; perpetual care of landscaping; reimbursement to the town for the expense of traffic management should problems arise; restrictions on the time and manner of delivery trucks unloading and conditions covering the maintenance of the building in the event of its closure. Take The Telegraph Poll here.
In addition, the DRB ordered that the silver maple in front of the proposed store must be trimmed and maintained rather than cut down as Zaremba had proposed. If the tree dies, the applicant must replace it with a “6 inch caliper minimum of an appropriate variety.”
Despite the approval, the process has a long way to go. Opponents have vowed to appeal and, since the site already falls under the jurisdiction of Act 250, the project still must go through that process. According to the state website, Act 250 is a “public, quasi-judicial process for reviewing and managing the environmental, social and fiscal consequences of major subdivisions and developments in Vermont.” It takes into account 10 criteria that govern air and water pollution, wetlands, streams, shorelines and floodways as well as erosion, water supply, aesthetics, whether the development will be a burden on the community and if the development conforms with local and regional plans.
Shawn Cunningham*, of Smart Growth Chester, a group that has been fighting the proposal since last summer, said, “Of course, I’m disappointed, but not surprised. … I think the Development Review Board took its time and was diligent, but in the end didn’t believe that the current (Chester) zoning regulations gave them the tools to protect the community from a retailer that will do irreparable damage to the town’s economy and image.”
To help in its initial phase of opposition before the DRB, that organization had raised $11,000 through grants and donations to hire a legal adviser and landscape architect who specializes in assessing the visual impact of development on communities. Cunningham said that Smart Growth has nearly enough funds to mount an Act 250 challenge.
“This is far from over,” Cunningham said, “… we will file an appeal with Vermont’s Environmental Court and strenuously contest this application in the Act 250 process.”
Opponents have 30 days from April 17 to file an appeal with the Vermont Superior Court Environmental Division.
When reached Wednesday, the Zaremba Group’s Matt Casey, who has represented the Dollar General Corp. at the DRB hearings, directed all questions to Dollar General corporate headquarters, as did Christopher Ponessi of Speath Engineering, the project’s engineers.
Tawn Earnest, a spokeswoman for Dollar General, said, “We’re pleased with that development and look forward to being a part of the community.”
“We’re pleased with that development and look forward to being a part of the community.”
Dollar General spokeswoman
Claudio Veliz, an architect who is also a member of Smart Growth Chester, said, “I’m delighted that there were two instead of just one vote against (the Dollar General store.) … It certainly sends out the signal that Dollar General will not have an easy time of it and that goes for any other corporate entity that tries to bully its way into a community such as ours.”
Scott Wunderle, who has served on the board since its creation, said a split in the vote such as this is rare. Besides Wunderle, Bruce McEnaney also voted against the Dollar General; voting in favor were Hudkins, Dan Ferguson and Harry Goodell.
Cunningham urged Chester residents “to help ensure that this won’t happen again by coming out and commenting on the newly revised zoning regs at the Planning Commission’s public hearing.” That hearing is currently scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday June 4th at Town Hall, 556 Elm St.
*Shawn Cunningham is married to the reporter of this article.
About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.