October 20, 2014

Roundabout opponents meet (4/30/09)

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April 30, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Citizens concerned with a proposed roundabout in Williston Village turned out in force Tuesday night to air concerns and propose questions they want answered.

Approximately 100 people talked and listened during a neighborhood meeting in the basement of the Williston Federated Church. The church is built at the northeast corner of the four-way intersection of U.S. 2, North Williston Road and Oak Hill Road where the roundabout would be built.

With the meeting moderated by Ken Stone and Keith Gaylord, the group devised a list of topics and questions that needed further discussion. Items on the list included concerns over historic aesthetics, cost of the project and safety issues. Impact on neighboring properties, such as the church and the Korner Kwik Stop, was also discussed.

Stone said the purpose of the meeting was to gather information and hear all sides of the issue.

“We’re not here to take a specific decision,” Stone said.

While a few people spoke in support, there was an overwhelmingly negative response to the roundabout.

“I’m concerned as to whether this even belongs in Williston,” said resident Bill White. “I think this would destroy the whole ambiance of Williston.”

Another issue raised questions about what would happen with a roundabout if the Circumferential Highway is ever built.

“If you did (build the roundabout) and put the Circ Highway in one, two years from now, it makes this thing obsolete,” resident Bob Marcotte said.

Other residents appeared concerned the roundabout would be built no matter what citizens said in opposition.

A meeting with the Selectboard and project engineers is scheduled for 7 p.m. on May 11 at Williston Central School, where Stone hoped the topics discussed this week would be given more discussion and answers.

 

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Champlain Oil looks to move operations to Williston (4/30/09)

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April 30, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Champlain Oil Company Inc. is looking to move its main operations to Williston with a new office center and fueling facility for its fleet. Speaking to the Development Review Board Tuesday night, representatives from the company expressed hope that Williston could be an integral part of Champlain Oil’s future.

Paul Wamsganz, a planning and development official for Champlain Oil, said the company has outgrown its South Burlington location. Currently, Champlain Oil’s headquarters are on Dorset Street near the University Mall in South Burlington.

“We need an onsite facility that is coherent,” Wamsganz said. “Currently, we don’t have that. We’re excited about coming to Williston.”

The proposed commercial complex for Champlain Oil would be located off Marshall Avenue near the entrance of Shunpike Road. According to plans, the site would feature a two-story office building, storage and maintenance buildings, a truck wash and a fleet fueling facility.

Champlain Oil currently has a smaller fueling facility available for its trucks and other commercial trucking companies on Avenue C off Industrial Avenue.

The fueling facilities allow Champlain Oil trucks to fill their own gas tanks at wholesale costs. The company also allows other commercial operators to use the station for wholesale fuel, Wamsganz said.

Champlain Oil, which has been in business for more than 50 years, serves homes and businesses throughout Vermont and in parts of New Hampshire and New York.

In a meeting that stretched past midnight into the early hours of Wednesday morning, the Development Review Board “put off” any decisions on Champlain Oil’s pre-application permit until a future meeting, said Board Chairman Kevin McDermott.

Board members said at the meeting they wanted to see different layout plans, based on the proximity of fueling tanks and pumps to wetlands and an unnamed tributary of the Muddy Brook. According to plans, the fueling facility would be located 80 feet from the brook.

The proposed plans alarmed the town’s Conservation Commission, said Senior Planner Matt Boulanger. The commission recommended “flip-flopping” the site by building the office complex closer to the brook and putting the fueling facility farther away from the sensitive areas, he said.

Engineer Scott Homsted, with Krebs & Lansing Consulting Engineers, said the fuel tanks will be buried to state and federal regulations and not affect wetlands or the brook. Fuel spillage would be contained on site, he added.

“I don’t think distance matters as much as treatment,” Homsted said.

Homsted also said flipping the site plan would divert trucks to an entrance shared with a neighboring office complex. The current design makes it easier for trucks to enter and exit the facility.

McDermott said he didn’t see a “big deal” in possibly changing the site. He suggested moving the location of the tanks, as well as the pumps, but not changing the complete layout with offices and storage.

“I don’t think we’re looking at a wholesale flipping of your site,” McDermott said.

Board member Richard Asch asked company representatives if there might be a different way to lay out the facility.

“We want you to have the efficient design, but if there is a different way, we’d like to see it,” Asch said.

Champlain Oil officials said they were open to possible changes in the site design and said they would deliver any new plans to the Planning Department staff.

 

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Planners make same wetlands recommendation (4/30/09)

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April 30, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

After spending three meetings investigating new information, the Planning Commission voted last week to send the Unified Development Bylaws back to the Selectboard. The bylaws are intact with the original recommendation regarding wetlands and steep slopes development plans.

Planning Commission Chairman David Yandell said the group members looked at wetlands data as if they were starting over in the process, though they still felt their original recommendation had merit. He said new data provided by the town’s planning office reaffirmed their decision.

“If (the Selectboard) sees the data that we’ll be presenting to them, it’s likely they’ll see it in a different light,” Yandell said.

The Planning Commission had originally sent its bylaws recommendations to the Selectboard in February, but the Selectboard returned the bylaws to the Planning Commission in March with a request to revise the wetlands section.

In the new bylaws, wetlands and steep slopes are not included in calculations for the number of units permitted on a piece of property, while certain zoning districts would see an increase in allowable housing density. The idea is to further protect wetlands and waterways within the town.

Opponents to the bylaw changes have said further protections for wetlands that already have buffers are unnecessary. One concern is that the wetlands protections could hinder affordable housing in Williston. Yandell disagrees, stating that the new bylaws increase density throughout much of the town, especially in the designated growth center near Taft Corners.

Planning Director Ken Belliveau said the commission asked the town’s planning staff to map out wetlands in Williston and determine which parcels would be affected by wetlands and steep slopes.

“The commission wanted to depict, visually, what the extent of wetlands are and where they’re located,” he said.

Approximately 2 percent of all land in Williston would be affected in the bylaw changes, Belliveau said.

“It’s a tiny, tiny amount of town that could be affected by this,” Yandell said.

One project that was almost affected by the bylaw changes is a proposed subdivision off North Williston Road. Co-applicants Jeff Atwood and Dana Hood have said the changes would drastically limit the amount of affordable housing that could be built on their property. Both lobbied the Selectboard not to adopt the changes last month.

The Atwood-Hood project won growth center allocation in March and therefore won’t be affected by any bylaw changes in the near future (see story on page 4).

Belliveau said Williston received additional time Monday from the Vermont Downtown Board to complete its bylaws. The board had said the town would have to complete the document by this month, but allowed for another two months of work. The board asked the town to adopt new bylaws as a condition for a growth center designation.

The Selectboard is expected to hear from the Planning Commission about the bylaws at its next meeting on Monday, May. 4.

 

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Senate mulls water treatment legislation (4/30/09)

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Bill could put moratorium on chloramine use

April 30, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Legislation imposing a moratorium on a method used locally to treat public water was effectively gutted by a House committee. But supporters still hope the state Senate will restore the bill’s original language.

Sponsored by Rep. Jim McCullough, D-Williston, H.80 originally imposed a two-year moratorium on the use of chloramine in public water systems. The House Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources Committee he serves on, however, stripped the provision before approving the bill and sending it to the Senate.

McCullough said the bill as revised fails to fulfill its purpose: Providing a timeout for the many residents served by the Champlain Water District who claim chloramine has caused health problems while giving regulators more time to study its use.

“It was the whole idea of the legislation,” McCullough said.

He called what remains of the bill “fairly innocuous” and said it would accomplish little that isn’t already being done.

Language added in place of the moratorium summarizes health complaints since Champlain Water District began using chloramine three years ago and notes doctors lack sufficient information to diagnose reported health problems. It instructs the Agency of Natural Resources and the Vermont Health Department to review the issue and consult with water users.

The Champlain Water District, which supplies water to 68,000 people in Williston and other Chittenden County towns, started using chloramine as a secondary disinfectant in April 2006. Soon afterwards, some users began reporting health problems, including asthma-type symptoms, stomach cramps and skin rashes.

An organization named People Concerned About Chloramine was formed. Ellen Powell, the group’s organizer, said she is among the dozens of people afflicted, suffering from eye irritation.

“I don’t want to vilify the Champlain Water District,” she said. “They were trying to do the right thing. It just didn’t work out.”

Estimates of how many people have suffered from water-related health problems vary.

Powell said counting all members of households reporting problems, more than 300 people are potential victims. The water district said it has received 108 calls, some simply inquiries and others health complaints. The revised legislation says more than 80 people have reported symptoms.

The Champlain Water District asserts it made the water supply safer by using chloramine in addition to the standard dose of chlorine.

Chlorine’s disinfectant properties weaken as water flows further away from the treatment plant. Chlorine also reacts with organic matter to produce byproducts that are suspected of causing cancer and reproductive problems.

Chloramine is formed by mixing ammonia with a chlorine compound. It eliminates chlorine’s harmful byproducts, according to the district, which notes chloramine has been used to treat water in other parts of the country for about 90 years.

Any moratorium on its use “would definitely make the water less safe,” said Jim Fay, CWD’s general manager.

He also noted that the Environmental Protection Agency recommends chloramine as the best available secondary treatment method and said its use brings the district into compliance with stricter treatment rules that the EPA will impose in coming years.

Powell said there are no definitive studies proving chloramine is safe.

“We don’t want to be guinea pigs, we don’t want to be the lab rats,” she said.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee has been considering the bill over the past month. Sen. Ginny Lyons of Williston, a member of the committee, said there has been talk about restoring the moratorium.

But she has concerns about the cost of reverting to the former treatment method and the lack of solid data on the health effects of chloramine.

Lyons said she was undecided on how she will vote. On one hand, she sympathizes with those suffering from health problems. But she also worries about imposing a rule that would negate local voters’ approval of a $622,000 bond used to upgrade the water treatment system.

“I really haven’t made up my mind,” she said. “I’d like to do something short of imposing a moratorium to help people out.”

There’s also the issue of whether legislation would apply to water systems throughout Vermont. The Champlain Water District is the only supplier in Vermont that currently treats water with chloramine, although it is widely used in the United States and other countries.

Sen. Kevin Mullen, R-Rutland, is also a member of the committee considering the bill. He said if the three committee members from Chittenden County want the moratorium he’d support it — as long as it applies only to the Champlain Water District.

The committee was scheduled to debate and possibly vote on the bill this Wednesday. Results from the session were not available by press time.

McCullough acknowledged that it is difficult to prove chloramine is causing the reported health problems. He said the best evidence the problems are real is that when people stop using the water to drink, cook and bathe, their symptoms go away.

“Maybe it’s not scientific,” he said. “But Vermonters have the common sense to know that when you stop banging your head against the wall it stops hurting.”

 

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Boy Scout finally earns Eagle award the hard way (4/30/09)

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Permit delay forces second service project

April 30, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Becoming an Eagle Scout is a test of perseverance involving years of working through the ranks and meeting countless requirements. No one knows better how much persistence is needed than Williston teenager Jeffrey Dumas.

 


    File photo
Boy Scout Jeffrey Dumas stands on the shore of Lake Iroquois, where he had planned to earn his Eagle Scout award by building a public dock. When a permit battle over the dock dragged on for months, Dumas had to complete a different project to earn the award. He still plans to finish the dock.

He planned to install a public dock on Lake Iroquois for his community service project, the central requirement for achieving Scouting’s highest rank. Starting about three years ago, Dumas doggedly raised funds, researched materials and worked with state officials on permitting.

But opposition emerged from neighbors, stalling the project and resulting in a legal battle that dragged on for more than a year. Two months ago, a court finally ruled the dock could be built. The decision came too late for Dumas, who turned 18 earlier this month, the cutoff age for completing Eagle requirements.

Yet Dumas will receive the Eagle Scout rank anyway after working on a second community service project. What’s more, he still plans to help ensure the dock is installed this summer.

“I’m hoping to hop right on it once we get everything worked out and hopefully get it done before the fall when I go off to college,” he said. “I’ve seen how much the town would like this dock in there. I’d feel kind of bad if I backed out now and it fell apart.”

Dumas’s do-good project was intended to help provide easier lake access for the general public, especially families with children and people with physical limitations who may struggle to clamber over the side of boats launched from the existing ramp.

But some nearby property owners objected to the plan. They worried the dock would boost boat traffic on the sometimes crowded lake, increasing the chances of a collision or the spread of invasive aquatic life.

Opponents voiced their concerns during a January 2008 public hearing on the matter. But there were supporters, too, some of whom complained that foes were people lucky enough to own waterfront property and that others had an equal right to easy lake access.

The state Agency of Natural Resources later issued a permit for a dock up to 50 feet long near the fishing access area. The Lake Iroquois Association, a coalition of property owners and others interested in preserving the lake’s health, appealed.

The appeal was quietly settled in February. The agreement signed by Environmental Court Judge Meredith Wright halves the allowable dock length to 24 feet and calls for signs listing restrictions. Motorboats will be urged to use only the north side of the dock. Dogs, picnicking and loitering will not be allowed.

The Lake Iroquois Association’s most recent newsletter noted the settlement will help mitigate concerns about the dock “while avoiding a costly (and perhaps less attractive) solution” than might have resulted from an extended court battle.

“I guess the way to look at it is that it’s something we can all live with,” said Roger Crouse, the association’s president.

But while the permit was under appeal, time was running out for Dumas. With his 18th birthday looming, he shifted to another community service project.

Dumas located each veteran in Williston’s cemeteries and mapped the graves. He also installed a cemetery bench.

The work met the community service requirement, and a Boy Scout review board decided earlier this month that Dumas was eligible to become an Eagle Scout. His award ceremony is fittingly scheduled for Memorial Day.

It’s unclear exactly when work on the dock will begin or be completed, said Mike Wichrowski of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. Details still have to be worked out on the installation and additional funding that may be required beyond the $2,000 Dumas previously raised for the project.

But Wichrowski said he hopes the dock can be installed by July 4. He said improvements to the boat ramp are also scheduled to be completed before summer’s end.

Dumas said he plans to attend either Clarkson University or Rochester Institute of Technology in the fall. He will major in civil engineering.

He said he feels no resentment toward opponents, figuring they are entitled to their views and hoping they will accept the dock.

Dumas chalks the experience up as a lesson that will serve him well when he’s an engineer working on a controversial project.

“I’ve seen what it takes to complete a project and push through the hard times,” he said. “It’s been good even though it’s been hard. It’s taught me what the working world is going to be like.”

 

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Williston mourns loss of teacher 4/23/09

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    Observer photo by Stephen Mease
Al Myers speaks at a retirement party last fall for fellow Williston Central School teacher Gary Howard. Myers passed away Saturday after falling from a ladder while working on the set for an upcoming school play. The Observer will have complete coverage of Myers' untimely death in Thursday's paper. Publisher Marianne Apfelbaum remembers the dynamic teacher in the Observer blog.

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Unbeaten CVU tennis teams return to action Monday (4/23/09)

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April 23, 2009

With victories in their first two team matches, the Champlain Valley Union High tennis teams square off Monday against the winless (going into this week) Bellows Free Academy combines. The boys play at the home court of Davis Park in Shelburne at 3:30 p.m., while the girls travel to the one time Railroad City.

Prior to vacation week, the CVU teams downed their Burlington High counterparts last Thursday by 6-1 scores. The girls won at Davis Park while the boys packed up a road triumph.

For the girls, Cassie Smith, Kylie deGroot, Anna Clare Smith, Abby Stoner and Kristen Donaldson all won individual matches to go 2-0 for the season. The duo of Catherine Akin-Megan Henson won one of the two doubles matches.

Boys individual winners and season records were David Hildebrand (2-0), Mark Vecchio (2-0), Tabor deGroot (2-0) and Will Hall (1-1). The doubles teams of Jameson Voll-Will Hurd (2-0) and Lucas Anger-Liam Kelley also prevailed.

— Mal Boright, Observer correspondent

 

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CVU softball team nipped in final frame (4/23/09)

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April 23, 2009

Coach Corrina Hussey and her Champlain Valley Union High softball team may have the Spaulding High of Barre team right where they want it Saturday morning: On the home field in Hinesburg.

The 0-2 Redhawks bowed to the Crimson Tide 10-9 Tuesday in Barre on a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the seventh and final inning.

Emily Himburg gave some sock to the Redhawks’ lineup, cranking out a double while going three-for-three and driving in a pair of runs. Chrissi Whitaker unloaded a three-run triple for CVU.

— Mal Boright, Observer correspondent

 

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Redhawk baseball squad searching for offense (4/23/09)

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April 23, 2009

The Champlain Valley Union High baseball team, 0-2 in the wake of Tuesday’s 11-1 defeat at the hands and bats of Spaulding High in Barre, hopes to get some boom back into the bats Saturday when the Crimson Tide rolls into Hinesburg for the second of the home-and-home series. Game time is 11 a.m.

The Redhawks kept it close Tuesday until Spaulding struck for seven runs in the bottom of the fifth to break open a 4-1 contest.

CVU managed just four hits off Tide starter Isaac Ramson, who worked six frames.

Alec Zullo singled home the Redhawks’ lone run, while Andrew Nick whacked the Hawks’ lone extra base blast, a double.

Coach Tim Albertson’s team will complete a two-game home stand Tuesday afternoon when Mount Mansfield Union comes calling.

— Mal Boright, Observer correspondent

 

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