CHESTER – The Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) approved several variance requests from Chester College of New England for its property in the center of town. Over several meetings the board has been working with representation from the former college to come to an agreement to subdivide a small piece of the larger property. That piece, which contains the Lane and Powers Buildings, is comprised of one acre, but according to college officials was hindering the sale of the remaining 70 acres.
The college hopes to subdivide the 1.1 acre parcel from a larger acreage sale that is nearly finalized with resident Peter Smith. He is looking to use a portion of the remaining 69 acres of the property for elderly housing. That 1.1 acre piece required variances to have a lot under two acres and with less than 290 feet of frontage, a higher percentage (54 percent) of impervious surface than is allowed (15 percent), and the need to have a 200-foot-diameter circle within the parcel.
ZBA membership, notably Cass Buckley, had some concern that the variances sought were only necessary to help the college sell the property, not something the ZBA should get involved in.
Representation from the college’s engineering firm, TF Moran, argued that the only thing the variances would change were lines on paper. The goal of the variances, said Jason Hill of TF Moran, is to change as little as possible on the physical property to keep the downtown aesthetic status quo, as sought by residents. The variances allow for that, he said.
The plan for the property keeps a single shared driveway and keeps intact the large green that fronts on Chester Street. ZBA member Kevin Scott said that while he was initially hesitant to grant the variances, following a site walk he saw the wisdom of them. He added throughout the discussion that it would be a boon to the town to see the property in use again.
The ZBA conditioned the variances that should the use of the 1.1 acre parcel change, the owner would come again before the board. In other business at the ZBA’s Tuesday, Aug. 20 meeting:
• Membership again continued hearings for a special exception and three variances on a small, triangle-shaped property at the intersection of Birch and Candia roads. Owner Roger C. Garrett has hired legal counsel and engineer Eric Mitchell to push the property through, despite concerns about the appropriateness of buildout by the ZBA. The ZBA had previously denied the special exception but granted a rehearing. The original hearing and rehearing have been continued numerous times.
A former state Department of Environmental Services (DES) employee was brought in by Garrett’s counsel to argue that building on the wet lot was possible.
The ZBA will send a redesigned septic plan it received that night to its wetlands scientist for review. As previously reported by the Tri-Town Times, the redesign was required at the previous meeting due to incorrect wetlands delineations presented by Mitchell at an earlier meeting.