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Award Bestowed to Lebanon Town Planner for Ag Preservation

By Town of Lebanon (4/30/2011)

  JULY 29, 2011 --

Lebanon Town Planner Philip Chester has been awarded the 2011 Ooutstanding Small Town and Rural Planner by the American Planning Association (APA) Small Town & Rural Planning Division for his contributions to preserving agriculture in Lebanon.

Lebanon (pop. 7,400) is located 30 miles east of Hartford and contains the largest amount of farmland in Connecticut. Since Chester’s arrival as Town Planner in 2006 the Town of Lebanon has assisted in preserving over 1,000 acres of farmland, helping to secure almost $5 million dollars in state and federal grants. In addition, Lebanon has implemented cluster zoning regulations which require the preservation of large blocks of land; agricultural buffers for new subdivisions; annual funding for farmland preservation; a right-to-farm ordinance; community-supported agriculture grants; studies and education on agriculture; and a thriving farmers market.

"I am grateful to receive this award on behalf of agricultural preservation and the Town of Lebanon. Too often municipal leaders focus on developing land versus preserving agriculture. Both have their pluses, but only agriculture provides sustainable value in terms of the environment, municipal finance, aesthetics, and food security, which can be appreciated by everyone,” said Mr. Chester.

Lebanon First Selectman Joyce Okonuk states that Chester has focused on integrating agricultural preservation and agricultural business into the municipal planning process. "Phil has been instrumental in helping Lebanon define its vision and goals, and has identified and implemented strategies by which they can be realized,” said Okonuk. "Through Phil’s initiatives and public outreach efforts, he has gained the trust of the farming community.”

Her views are shared by Wayne Budney, New London County Farm Bureau President and owner of Four Winds Farm in Lebanon, who notes that "Lebanon has a rich agricultural heritage and Phil has been a champion, helping people recognize the importance of keeping agriculture in Lebanon’s future. Lebanon would not be where it is today without his dedicated efforts.”

Robin Chesmer, owner of Graywall Farms and the Farmers Cow headquartered in Lebanon states "Phil Chester has placed Lebanon as a respected leader and role model in Connecticut for its accomplishments in promoting agriculture, farmland preservation and zoning regulations. As a dairy farmer committed to farmland preservation I am totally impressed with the accomplishments that Phil has made in the agricultural community to foster interest and commitment to protection our agricultural fields.”

Connecticut’s Commissioner of Agriculture Steven Revicsky who formally supported Phil’s nomination noted that "Mr. Chester has consistently proven to be an exceptional communicator and facilitator. From an agricultural perspective, I refer to him as a model in the municipal planning and development field, and often encourage other municipalities to follow his lead”.

Commissioner Revicsky added that within the State Department of Agriculture, Mr. Chester is highly regarded and recognized for his municipal activism toward farmland preservation, agricultural planning and promotion. "We greatly appreciate his innovation and insightful contributions.”

Lebanon Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Jim Jahoda, owner of Sugar Maple Farm, adds, "One of Phil’s best qualities is working with people. He is fair and willing to listen to all opinions. I can’t think of anyone better deserving for this award.”

According to the American Planning Association, the Outstanding Small Town and Rural Planner award is given annually to "an individual in public service, academia or the private sector that has made an outstanding contribution to planning in their community” 

Mr. Chester is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and holds professional degrees in planning and architecture. He is a native of Bloomfield and currently resides in West Hartford with his wife Emily and daughter Zoe.

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