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Turkey Farm Debate Inches Toward Conclusion

Pharmacy, affordable housing, Trader Joe's all in the mix for the Larison's Corner property in Chester.

The long-running debate about the fate of Larison's Turkey Farm pushed forward ever so slightly Tuesday night following the Chester mayor and council meeting.

Frank and David Banisch were on hand to discuss the property as well as the results Banisch Associates received from the public.

"At the end of the day, it boils down to a relatively simple series of distinctions, and while it may not be the clearest of choice, the governing body has to make some choices about what direction we want to pursue at this point," Frank Banisch said.

"The themes that resonate throughout all the comments that we've received revolved around the unique character the borough has seen through the lens of this site. There is an element of country character. There is an iconic character about the property that seems to embody a series of impressions people have about the borough."

Banisch said that what the borough should be looking for is multi-tasking. Residents want the site to be able to produce agriculture, be commercial, attract visitors and deliver rateables. And that means not just a store that out-of-towners will come to and then soon leave.

"You want to get people out of their cars, you want it to be pedestrian-oriented, you want it to be a place you want to hang out in and not like a parking lot," Banisch said. "So whether the destination turns out to be a leisure orientation augmented by these things like a restaurant or lodging, or whether it wants to be more of the specialty retail, like upscale stores, that is another alternative. That's a destination that's much more local retail service oriented. Trader Joe's will attract people from however far it takes to get to the next Trader Joe's."

The council and Banisch Associates decided to hold another meeting on Tuesday, March 5 at 7 p.m. to repeat the information for residents who were unable to attend Tuesday's meeting.

The current owner of the turkey farm, Harold Wachtel, was also at the meeting with engineer William Hamilton to discuss an idea he had for the property. Wachtel suggested putting a one or two-acre bank at the corner of Main Street and Route 206, a two-acre pharmacy right above that, a nine-acre organic farm/open space adjacent to those two buildings, a 10-acre bed and breakfast above the pharmacy and open space, and a four-acre marketplace in the corner.

Banisch said he was pleased with Wachtel's demeanor and his plan.

"The fact that you didn't tear down buildings yet, the fact that you are trying to work along with us, to me that's a spirit of cooperation that I wish I could find more often," Banisch said. "I'm very encouraged, thank you for bringing this to our attention."

Mayor Bob Davis liked much of what he saw, but said there needed to be room for affordable housing.

"We need affordable housing on this site," Mayor Robert Davis said. "Whatever the number is, we know we're going to have a future affordable housing need and that future is today. I think that retaining the building on the corner, the open space, the trees is important. I like the site plan you have in front of you, I'm missing affordable housing. If you give me the affordable housing, I think I'd be OK with the pharmacy. That's kind of my trade off."

Council member Gary Marshuetz agreed with the mayor.

"I concur with Bob, there's a lot of things I like about this plan. Same components missing for me that I brought up earlier is affordable housing. I'm pleased to see there's a lot of open space," Marshuetz said. "The pharmacy is a little bit of a concern for me. For the pharmacy to work it would have to be a non-typical design. There's a lot here that I do like."

New council member Elizabeth Gugliemini said she liked the idea of an organic farm and a bed and breakfast.

"Certainly I like the bed and breakfast," Gugliemini said. "My concern would be do we have enough capacities and does that soil and land allow us to build a 30-room bed and breakfast."

Banisch said after the presentation that he doesn't think it will "take more than another 60 days for us to go from where we are now to knowing what we're going to recommend."

delwood dame February 24, 2013 at 02:47 PM
NO Pharmacy No Bank No HOtel. . Please maintain character of corner.
TDans February 25, 2013 at 11:42 PM
I went online tonight for the sole prupose of looking up Larison's Turkey Farm. To say that I am completely disappointed about what I've read is an understatement. My family, as well as others, always enjoyed visiting Larison's. We would make a point of meeting there whenever we were all in the state at the same time. Sometimes, some of us would even fly in to enjoy our get togethers, which always included the restaurant. It was cozy and different than anywhere else whe could have gone. Since I moved out of state I didn't realize they closed but, nonetheless, completely disappointed that they will not be reopening. Our tradition of visiting Larison's, although no longer as often as before (I think it's been 3 or 4 years), will be sadly missed.
Ruth February 27, 2013 at 01:10 AM
Once again...the "newbies" of Chester have to have their "designer" food store. First off...how many of those commenting on the Larison's sight actually live in the BOROUGH? May I remind you that Larison's is in the borough not the township. And while the DOT and state had to waste money to redo the ugly stone entrance to Main Street because it originally said "Chester Borough" and the township got insulted, the bottom line is, the residents of the borough are the ones who are greatly effected by the development of this sight. First mistake the council made years ago was not including Larison's in the historic district. If it had been we would not need to have this discussion. Affordable housing? What happened to the fact that the Senior Housing behind the Williamson's Building was suppose to cover that? Who ever made the suggestion that Trader Joe's should be placed in the Streets of Chester had a great idea. It would increase the foot traffic to the other stores in the complex. Slight problem, Shop Rite owns the property and with the contract to either lease it or when the sold it, there was a stipulation that a food store could not be placed there.
Ruth February 27, 2013 at 01:11 AM
To Continue with my above comment... In case you haven't noticed, Main Street is literally folding up the tents. What happened to the quaint antique shops and true craft stores? They have been replaced by stores carrying giftware made mostly in China? The annual Craft Fair? How many of the participants are still truly crafters? Someplace along the way Chester has lost it's way, lost it's identity. We no longer care about what made Chester a true community. There was a time we only had to dial the last four numbers of our phone numbers, a time we knew each other and cared about our time. And yes we have to move along with the times but if our community leaders no longer care about the identity and history of Chester how can we expect anyone else to, especially those who want to turn us into a giant strip mall, or Trader Joes?
ChesterMO March 08, 2013 at 04:48 PM
Chester & Flanders are two completely different towns. The spot where A&P used to be is in Mount Olive (Flanders) and a Weis is going there. Originally was planned to be a Stop & Shop, but they are going under like A&P is. I grew up in Chester & now live in Mount Olive. I think the area needs a TJ's, Wegmans, or Whole Foods. Those stores work with local farmers, putting their produce & products on the shelves. It would bring more business to the area. If you're concerned about traffic then put in another light. When they re-did the light on 206/main street, they should have added a left turn lane/arrow for making a left onto 206 coming from Long Valley. It's still a dangerous intersection. It's heartbreaking that most of the antique shops are up for rent/sell downtown. Building owners are increasing rent & there's no foot traffic on the streets. I love that Chester is a "quaint" town, but something big needs to be brought in or it's only going to go downhill. Please no more banks or pharmacies. There's just no need for it, it's not going to bring in "new" customers. Affordable housing? What does that do for downtown? The people who require affordable housing can't afford anything in the shops.

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