Following is a "Letter to Editor" by Tyler Hassan of Chester
(My Views about specific issues and Letters to Editor are welcome if they are clearly written topic fact oriented and do not smear the character of others. Any that are received that do not follow that rule are simply not published. We cannot attest to all of the facts presented as they are from the perspective of the writer. Thank you.
Regarding The Baroda Cluster Project
The Planning Board meeting on March 1 st saw quite the turnout. We have Tim Diltz, a passionate advocate of open space, to thank for that: just two days prior, Mr. Diltz sent a flyer urging residents to attend the meeting and to voice their concerns about the Baroda Cluster, which would do yet more damage to Chester’s rural and suburban character.
Some background. The Baroda Cluster, to be constructed on a scenic hillside on Black Meadow Road, is a proposed 30-house development. At odds with zoning regulations for single family homes, which stipulate 3 to 5 acres per lot, the houses in the Cluster would sit on at most just 1.5 acres, many on ¾ of an acre. This was first brought before the Planning Board in 2014 and then again in 2018, at which time residents were unambiguous in imploring the board to reject this
proposal. (I thank Mr. Diltz both for this history and for bravely speaking up during the meeting).
Five years later, the proposal once again came before the board. The question posed by Mr. Diltz and others—chastised though they were by Chairman Don Serrota (but what else can be done when public comment is forbidden?)—was, simply, why continue to waste the town’s time and money on a proposal we clearly do not want? In fact, the Chairman himself made this argument
when he posed to the developer that he would have to redo a variety of tests and permits. But then, as was put back to the board: why are we discussing this at all, if all this was already known?
I and others were not convinced by what seemed to us a dog-and-pony show by the developer and his representative, who presented while knowing his information was outdated. Perhaps they thought no one on the Planning Board would care to point that out. After all, this is a board that has for years approved developments without public input, despite the obvious pushback from the town and despite the board’s nominal commitment to preserving Chester’s way of life. Far too often, the board’s true commitment is to the developers. However they handle it behind-the-scenes, we will maintain our skepticism. The developer is now on notice that they have to start the project approval process all over again. In the meantime, we have a chance to fight this development
As one resident discovered in the minutes from that first meeting in 2018, there were concerns that the land is home to bog turtles, an endangered species protected by environmental regulations. Curiously, these concerns were raised by a representative of Baroda, who was told he “was not supposed to disclose that to the public” (the relevant exchanges are on pages 11, 12,
and 13 of the minutes). If the Board was aware of this, then they knew the development cannot proceed—and having the representative return to them was an even greater waste of our time and money.
Our priority now is to spread awareness across Chester. I live in Ashford Estates and so I am not ‘directly’ impacted. But I know it is only a matter of time before this side of town, indeed all of Chester, will confront the same choice: to grow while preserving Chester’s character, or to grow for the sake of growth, character be damned.
Tyler Hassan Chester