Planning Board Looks More Favorably on College Subdivision

CHESTER – At their Aug. 7 meeting, planning board members did not raise significant objection to Chester College of New England’s plans to subdivide a 1.1 acre piece off its property to allow the sale of the bulk of its land.

Representation from the college has been working with the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) over several meetings to gain approval for the subdivision of that small lot. While some ZBA members had been reluctant to approve the lot because of the numerous variances it would require, after a brief conceptual discussion on the same issue, members of the planning board showed no real concern over those plans.

The 1.1 acre piece in question is the site where the Lane and Powers buildings stand and would require four variances to fit town codes, including permission 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.

Representation from NAI Norwood Group, which is marketing the property, has explained that a buyer for most of the 70 acres is not interested in the piece with the Lane and Powers buildings and as such, it hinders the sale and repurpose of the property.

The argument that engineer Jason Hill from TF Moran Inc. made at the Aug. 7 meeting is that the variances requested are ultimately only changes to paper plans. Nothing on site changes, said Hill, and this fits in nicely with townspeople’s stated desire that the aesthetics of the center of their town remain the same.
TF Moran has been working with the college to repurpose the property.

While some planning board members noted concern over the future impact of the small lot, should its use change, Hill argued that should the use change, the owner of the property would still have to go through the planning board and gain approval for that change, giving the town a reasonable amount of protection.
The college’s property is located in the General Residential and Agricultural District, limiting land use.

Special approval from the town would have to be granted for most commercial uses. Aside from special exceptions, the district allows single and two-family dwellings, cluster development, home occupation/home business, churches, educational institutions, kindergarten and childcare centers and general farming and forestry activities The consensus of the board was that they did not have an issue with the lot lines presented by Hill, but no formal approval was given.

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