September 1, 2015

Developer doggedly pursues rule changes (10/29/09)

Jeff Atwood attends dozens of meetings

Oct. 29, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Developer Jeff Atwood shed his coat, placed papers in front of him and then made an eight-minute speech at last week’s Selectboard meeting that was equal parts plea for cooperation and policy critique.

“I’m hoping we can come to some compromise and resolution but I don’t see it happening so far,” said Atwood, who recently appealed in court restrictions that he says make it impossible to build his eight-unit subdivision on North Williston Road.

The town plan calls for construction of modestly priced homes like those offered by his project, he added, but that can’t happen without the board easing the burden of Williston’s growth control rules.

Atwood has become a familiar sight at Town Hall. He has appeared at or had his project discussed during 35 meetings of various boards over the past two years, minutes posted on the town’s Web site show.

He has more recently focused on the Selectboard, attending a half-dozen meetings in 2009.

Earlier this year, he argued against provisions in the unified development bylaw that he said would prevent construction of his project. After the bylaw passed, Atwood continued to press his case, sharpening criticism of the land-use rules and implying that town staff and board members have a hidden agenda.

“Unfortunately, your staff has got their hands in the sandbox,” he said at the Oct. 19 Selectboard meeting.

“Are you making an accusation against our staff?” asked Selectboard Chairman Terry Macaig. Atwood said he wasn’t.

But in an interview, Atwood said his comment referred to a conflict of interest complaint he filed against Development Review Board member Richard Asch and former Town Planner Lee Nellis.

A committee of the Board of Civil Authority investigated the complaint but found no violation of Williston’s conflict of interest ordinance, said Town Clerk Deb Beckett.

The town’s conflict of interest ordinance forbids the release of information regarding a complaint if no wrongdoing is found, so Beckett said she could not provide details.

Macaig said he was irritated by Atwood’s vague allegation and surprised that he attended the meeting after taking the town to court.

“He has a lawsuit pending, so I sort of wondered why he was there,” Macaig said. “He certainly has the right to come to the board meetings, but I don’t think we are in the position to do anything until there is a settlement or the lawsuit is heard.”

“I’m annoyed too,” Atwood said. But he said he still has “faith and confidence” that the town will reconsider restrictions on his project.

Town Manager Rick McGuire said Atwood has repeatedly made “veiled references” to wrongdoing that are impossible to rebut.

“It’s unfortunate for me as a member of the staff who treasures our good reputation,” McGuire said.

Under Vermont’s public meeting law, the board is required to set aside time for public comment, so Atwood has the legal right to speak at each meeting. But Macaig said he could impose time limits in the future.

Atwood filed a permit application for the controversial subdivision off North Williston Road about three years ago. The project attracted opposition from residents on nearby Lefebvre Lane, who argued among other things that the planned multi-unit buildings were out of character with the existing neighborhood.

The Development Review Board granted a permit for the project in April. But phasing rules and sewer allocation limits will force Atwood to wait until 2011 to construct homes, which must then be built over a four-year period.

Those restrictions make the subdivision financially unfeasible, Atwood said. It will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to install roads and other infrastructure, and he said he can’t afford to spend that much while waiting years to sell homes.

Atwood, along with co-applicants Dana and Brenda Hood, have appealed the project’s conditions of approval in Vermont Environmental Court.

The appeal challenges the phasing requirement, alleging affordable housing cannot be built “without undue financial sacrifice.” It also seeks to overturn a condition requiring Atwood to relocate driveways to avoid wetland buffers.

Atwood said he will continue to speak out at Selectboard meetings.

“I’ve got to keep pressing, I’ve got to keep fighting for it,” he told the board.



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Energy awareness comes to Williston (10/29/09)

Oct. 29, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

With each pedal of the mountain bike, two different compact fluorescent light bulbs brightly lit up the Town Hall’s upstairs conference room. Shreyas Malhotra, 7, slowly pedaled the stationary bike, hooked up to different light bulb sets.

“Keep pedaling,” said Seth Wolcott of the Vermont Energy Education Program. “Not easy to light those bulbs, is it?”

Pedaling the bike, Malhotra demonstrated how much energy it takes to light incandescent bulbs versus the more energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. The experiment was part of Saturday’s Williston Energy Fair, hosted by Williston Green Initiatives.

On a mostly rainy day, about 60 to 70 people filtered in and out of Town Hall, learning ways to lead a more energy efficient lifestyle. Representatives from the Chittenden Solid Waste District, Building Energy and Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network were on hand to answer questions and provide sustainability tips.

For Malhotra’s father, Vishal, the energy fair was a chance to show his family — Shreyas, 9-year-old Shorya and wife Shakun — how energy conservation can help save the planet.

“I’m teaching them how to save and conserve energy,” Vishal Malhotra said. “I’ve taken them to energy fairs in Boston, but I wanted to show them how their own town is making a difference.”

The Williston Green Initiatives group formed in April 2008 as a subgroup of WING, a community visioning event. Since then, the group has helped administer energy audits within Williston and hosted sustainable living classes and film viewings.

Along with Saturday’s demonstrations and discussions, residents could take a tour with Williston Planner Jessica Andreoletti of Town Hall’s recent energy-saving changes. Button Up Vermont, a nonprofit conservation organization, held a seminar on how to make homes more energy efficient. Approximately 20 residents took the hour-long class.

The energy fair’s success pleased many in the Williston Green Initiatives group.

“We’ve had such a great turnout today and that’s such a thrill to us,” group member Mariana Lamaison Sears said.

“It means that the Green Initiatives group has made a name for itself in town,” Andreoletti added.

The Williston Energy Fair was held in conjunction with the International Day of Climate Action, organized by Vermont-author Bill McKibben’s organization. The group’s goal is to reduce to the world’s carbon output to 350 parts per million, the amount of carbon dioxide that scientists say is a safe level for the earth’s atmosphere. Across Vermont, and the world, different festivals and fairs celebrated the global effort.

For Debra Sachs, executive director of the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network, the Williston Energy Fair was just as integral to the International Day of Climate Action as the larger events across the planet. Changes start locally first, she said.

“This is sustainability at it’s best,” Sachs said. “Sustainability’s best practice is dialogue.”

The Williston Energy Fair’s goal was to be a “zero-waste event.” Recycling and compost bins were set up.

Recycling and composting is a key component to saving energy, said CSWD’s Nancy Plunkett. She spent much of Saturday’s fair highlighting what people can recycle and compost — many people were unaware of all the possibilities. As Plunkett highlighted in a display, recycling one soda can saves as much energy as it takes to power a standard television for three hours.

“We do need to get back to our ecological principles,” Sachs said.

Vishal Malhotra believes the best way to return to those principles is to educate youngsters with practical ideas. As his sons took turns trying the bike demonstration, Malhotra dispensed some sage advice.

“It all starts with making a habit of turning off the lights when you leave the room,” he said.

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Time ticking for purchase of antique clock

    Courtesy photo
In an undated photograph from the late 1800s, Williston farmer and tinkerer Russell D. Munson poses next to the grandfather clock he built during the Civil War. The clock still exists today, and Munson’s great-grandson hopes the Williston Historical Society will purchase the timepiece so it can stay in town. See story below.

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Redhawks eye top playoff seeding in girls soccer (10/22/09)

Oct. 22, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

Going into the final week of the regular season, the Champlain Valley Union High girls soccer team faced a dangerous but doable road to an undefeated season and a top seed in the Division 1 playoffs.

At press deadline on Wednesday, the 9-0-3 Redhawks were home to 3-6-2 Essex High, a team they played to a scoreless tie in Essex at the beginning of the month.

Coming up at 4 p.m. on Friday is the regular season finale at Burlington High. The defending champs are 4-2-6 and played to a 1-1 draw with the Hawks in Hinesburg on Oct. 7.

In this late season run to the finish line, CVU has become a target for the teams behind it in the chase for pairings positioning.

South Burlington, which fell 4-0 to the Redhawks earlier in the season, gave a mighty effort last Thursday on its turf and took the favored Red and White into overtime. The Redhawks’ hustling Amanda Kinneston ended the tense fray with a goal 7:34 into the extra session for a 1-0 triumph.

It was Kinneston’s second tally of the season and what beauty it was. The junior attacker had moved in toward the Rebel goal from the left side, got momentarily tied up by a defender and then, with teammate Sara Lewis’ help, got loose, took two steps and booted a hard shot into the left side of the net.

Kinneston had been denied or just missed on three previous good opportunities, but the game winner made up for that.

Lewis had also been a serious threat to South Burlington on many occasions, advancing the ball deep into Rebel territory with abandon. She had two great chances late in the game, just missing the goal on the first and then being stopped by Rebel net minder Amy Simendinger with one second to go in regulation.

The Redhawks spent much of the afternoon in front of Simendinger, who had 12 stops. CVU goalie Emily Sackett had just one save.

South Burlington’s best chance at a score came late in the first half, when Sackett fired out of the net to stop a South Burlington charge, but missed the ball, which momentarily sat some five feet from the open cage. Alert defender Lindsay Hawley cleared it out of the danger zone before South Burlington could get a foot on it.

Hawley, Haleigh Smith, Lindsay Kingston and Kendall Berry helped keep the Rebels out of CVU territory the rest of the afternoon.


[Read more…]

Redhawks use solid work rate to defeat MMU (10/22/09)

Boys soccer team closing in on top playoff seed

Oct. 22, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

With the Division 1 primo playoff seed in their sights, coach T.J. Mead and his 12-1 Champlain Valley Union High boys soccer team close out the regular season on Saturday with a bus ride to Newport and an 11 a.m. meeting with 4-8-1 North Country Union High.

The Redhawks looked like a top seed on Tuesday with a sharp, 3-0 home victory over 5-6-1 Mount Mansfield Union and its acrobatic net minder, Conor Leland.

Leland turned aside 11 CVU shots, including a penalty kick in an athletic exhibition in the Cougars’ cage.

CVU prevailed, in the words of Mead, because of a “solid work rate, moving the ball around and getting the 50-50 balls, especially in the second half.”

The Redhawks held a substantial advantage in territorial play and goalie John Milbank had four stops in chalking up CVU’s eighth shutout of the campaign.

Senior co-captain Chris Beaton, a solid defender, notched the victors’ initial goal with 10 minutes gone in the first half, knocking the ball past Leland from out of a crowd in front of the net. It was Beaton’s first score of the year.

With 9:23 left in the half, Mark Clayton took a set-up from Chris Sulva, got a one-on-one situation with Leland and unleashed a 20-foot slam for a 2-0 lead and his 16th tally.

Zach Blanchard notched CVU’s second half goal with 11:04 remaining, a point-blank shot after a pass from Nick Hart. It was Blanchard’s fourth goal.

One of Leland’s primary victims was midfielder Kyle Logan, whom the MMU goalie robbed on a couple of occasions. Logan just missed hitting corners on two other shots.

Dylan Crowe, Henry Sengle and Clayton also had strong efforts turned aside.

In the meantime, Ryan Boland, Elias Wiszereck and Beaton and others played solid deep defense to keep the Cougars from mounting sustained attacks.

“We are on the upswing,” Mead said.


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Playoff bid on platter for CVU football team (10/22/09)

Oct. 22, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

A trip to Bristol on Saturday for a 1 p.m. meeting with 0-7 Mount Abraham Union High is up next for the Champlain Valley Union High football team, which needs wins in its next two games to clinch a Division 2 playoff berth.


    Courtesy photo by Terri Zittritsch
Champlain Valley Union High football players Cameron Fitzgerald (56),Matt Long (7) and Crawford Morris (36) close in on North Country Union High quarterback Emile Hartman. The Redhawks improved their record to 6-1 with the 21-14 victory on Friday.

On the following Saturday, the 6-1 Redhawks will close out the regular season by hosting Fair Haven Union High.

Division 3 Mount Abraham fell last week to Oxbow High, 57-0. While the struggling Eagles may be without a victory, memories remain from last fall, when they swooped into Hinesburg and left with an 8-0 triumph in their claws.

CVU head coach Jim Provost pointed out this week that while his Redhawks have command of their playoff destiny, they need a pair of victories to assure a slot in the four-team playoffs.

Currently second in the divisional point standings, CVU trails only undefeated Colchester High. If the Redhawks win out, they will be in good shape. But as Provost pointed out, a loss could mean trouble.

“There are six teams in the running for four spots,” he said. “It is possible that two teams with two losses each may not make it.”

He called Friday might’s 21-14 triumph at North Country Union “a big, big win for our program.”

The Redhawks, offensively troubled in their previous two games, put together a crunching ground attack led by Derek Goodwin. The running back hotfooted through and around the Falcons for 119 yards in 13 carries, mostly in the first half. Goodwin also scored a touchdown early in the first quarter by picking up a North Country fumble and parking himself in the end zone.

A 6-yard scoring pass from quarterback Konnor Fleming to fullback Eric Palmer gave CVU a 14-6 lead at intermission.

Goodwin sat out most of the second half with a leg injury, so Palmer and halfback J.P. Benoit picked up any slack. Benoit plunged over from 3 yards out for the Hawks’ final score.

The margin might have been great except for an uncharacteristic five fumbles by CVU.

Provost praised his offensive line and also the defensive game play by coordinator Kevin McCarthy.

“North Country is very skilled at deception,” Provost said. “We had to play disciplined, assignment defense and Kevin had our guys doing just that.”

[Read more…]

District meet Saturday for CVU harriers (10/22/09)

Oct. 22, 2009

The odyssey of the Champlain Valley Union High cross country teams will take the runners from the hills of Jericho Center last week to the flatter lands of Swanton this weekend.

On Saturday, they will run in the Northern Vermont Athletic Council district meet at Missisquoi Valley Union High, starting at 1 p.m.

The Redhawks had a nice warm-up last Friday at Mount Mansfield Union High, where the girls scored a victory and the boys took second place.

Adrienne Devita’s first place finish in 19 minutes, 38 seconds and Summer Spillane’s third in 20:13 paced the Redhawks’ team victory by 12 points (30-42) over second place Essex High. Seven teams competed in the event.

Also in the top 10 for CVU were Aleksey Jordick in fifth and Julienne Devita in 10th.

Zak Pete scored his second win of the season in the boys competition and led his team to second place, 12 points (26-38) behind winner Mount Mansfield Union.

Pete posted a time of 16:40. Teammates Justin McKenzie took fourth and Dan Hebert finished 10th.


— Mal Boright, Observer correspondent


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Field hockey squad undefeated in regular season (10/22/09)

Redhawks land top playoff seed

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

For the defending Division 1 champion Champlain Valley Union High field hockey team, the curtain has come down on one season and the second campaign is about to begin.


    Observer photo by Stephen Mease
Champlain Valley Union High field hockey captain KK Logan (19) follows teammate Louise Gibbs (21) down the field against Mount Abraham Union on Friday. CVU won 1-0 to close out an undefeated regular season.

But what a season number one was.

Friday’s 1-0 home victory over Mount Abraham Union High put CVU’s final mark at 14-0 to earn top seed in the upcoming playdowns. Hartford High, last year’s title game opponent, was seeded second with a 12-1-1 record.

In putting away all comers, the Redhawks outscored their foes 43-4. They gave up nary a goal in seven home games, chalking up a 23-0 advantage.

By gaining the mighty one seed, the Red and White will have home games for the quarter and semifinals, with the initial second season outing Friday afternoon at 3:30. The Redhawks will face the winner of Wednesday’s opening round game at Middlebury between Brattleboro High (6-7-1) and host Middlebury Union (5-6-3).

The Redhawks nipped Middlebury twice by 2-0 and 2-1 scores. They did not play Brattleboro.

If CVU gets past the quarterfinal round, it will then be home Tuesday to either 12-4 Rutland High or 10-3-1 Mount Anthony Union at 3:30 p.m. These two meet Saturday in Rutland.

The regular season finale against winless Mount Abraham was unexpectedly close given that the Redhawks had trounced the Eagles 4-0 earlier in the season in Bristol.

Mireille Kelley scored the lone tally, a little more than three minutes into the second half. It was her third goal in the last four games. Emmaleigh (The Helper) Loyer drew an assist, her team-leading 13th of the season.

CVU net minder Elizabeth Gaudette had two saves, both in the first half.

Defenders Aubrey Deavitt, Lauren King and Kelsey Jensen helped keep the Eagles bottled up in their own zone for most of the second half.

A postgame ceremony honored graduating seniors and parents. It was the final regular season home game for Kelcey Lamphere, Maggie Ryan, Kelley, Kathryn Powell, Loyer, KK Logan, Jensen and Goddette.


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UPDATED: Schools prepare to vaccinate students for H1N1 (10/22/09)


 OCT. 23, 2009 – Williston Central School Nurse Sue Leister sent an e-mail to parents on Friday saying the vaccination clinic for the H1N1 virus, scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 27 at Allen Brook School, has been postponed. No new date has been scheduled. According to the e-mail, there are "insufficient quantities of the vaccine."

The Williston Central School vaccination clinic is still scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 3, though Leister said in her e-mail that clinic might be rescheduled as well. She said updates on new vaccination clinic dates will be made available as soon as school nurses become aware.

Leister said updates would be posted on the school's Web site, 


Oct. 22, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The Williston School District, along with every school district in the state, will host free H1N1 virus vaccination clinics for students beginning next week. Administered by the Vermont Department of Health, this will be the first statewide inoculation effort in more than 15 years.

The H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, began spreading across the world in the spring. The World Health Organization has already declared swine flu a global pandemic, and the virus could be increasingly deadly in developing countries. In the United States, federal health officials fear swine flu, coupled with the seasonal flu, will make for a dangerous flu season in this country.

Williston schools had a swine flu outbreak in June. Due to the high number of afflicted students and teachers, school officials decided to end the school year two days earlier than scheduled.

Currently, Williston schools are seeing a “higher than usual” number of students out sick, said Sue Leister, a nurse at Williston Central School. On Monday, for instance, Leister said 70 students stayed home from Williston Central School and 43 stayed home from Allen Brook School. She wasn’t sure how many of those students stayed home due to flu-like symptoms.

“The (Center for Disease Control) information we’ve received would indicate that the flu students are experiencing is H1N1,” Leister said.

At Champlain Valley Union High School, students have not been absent in high numbers, according to nurse Carolyn Slater. But the high school is ready for possible outbreaks.

“We’re as ready as we’ll ever be,” Slater said.

The first vaccination clinic will take place at Allen Brook School on Tuesday, Oct. 27. Williston Central School students will get their first vaccinations on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Since children 9 and under must get two vaccination shots against swine flu, a second vaccination clinic will take place at Allen Brook on Dec. 1 and at Williston Central on Dec. 7.

Students at CVU will also get a chance to receive the H1N1 flu shots. The vaccination clinic there is scheduled for Dec. 17.

At all public schools in Vermont, nurses with the Department of Health will be giving the shots. According to Robert Stirewalt, public information officer for the health department, the last time a statewide vaccination program occurred was in 1993 for measles.

“This is certainly a unique event,” Stirewalt said.

Parents must give permission for their children to receive the vaccinations at the schools. Leister said most parents in the district are allowing their children to have the vaccinations, while a few are opting to bring their child to a family doctor.

Permission slips at CVU will likely be sent out sometime next week, Slater said. Information will be sent home in e-mails and letters and posted on the school’s Web site,, she added.

As ongoing precautions against the swine flu, both schools will continue to educate students on hand washing techniques and respiratory etiquette.

“We put a huge effort into education at the beginning of the year,” Leister said.

[Read more…]

Fire Log (10/22/09)

Oct. 22, 2009


Car accidents

· On Oct. 8, fire crews responded to a one-car accident on Interstate 89. A 2001 Dodge Dakota was driving when the vehicle’s entire front left wheel came off, according to the fire log. This caused the Dodge to lose control and come to rest on the side of the median. The right front tire was also blown out. The driver was wearing a seatbelt and had no reported injuries, according to the log. Engine 3 and Hazmat 1 responded with a total of six firefighters.

· Fire crews responded to a one-car rollover on Porterwood Drive on the early morning hours of Oct. 9. A vehicle had been pulling into driveways and then peeling out with the headlights turned off, according to the fire log. When police arrived, the vehicle allegedly attempted to leave the scene, with its lights still off. The driver was unable to navigate a turn and hit a culvert, which caused the vehicle to roll, according to the log.

Upon arrival, firefighters found two individuals out of the vehicle and one person still in the vehicle. Fire personnel removed the patient from the vehicle and all three individuals were transported to Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington.

All occupants were wearing seatbelts and suffered moderate injuries, according to the fire log.

Car 2, Engine 2, Engine 3 and Hazmat 1 responded with a total of nine firefighters. Ambulances responded from St. Michael’s College Rescue Service, University of Vermont Rescue and Essex Rescue.

· Fire crews responded to a one-car rollover on Butternut Road on Oct. 9. Upon arrival, firefighters found the vehicle on its roof. The driver had swerved to avoid a chipmunk and over corrected twice, resulting in the vehicle rollover, according to the log. The driver was wearing a seatbelt and had no complaints of injuries. Vehicle damage, however, was extensive.

Car 2, Engine 2, Engine 3, with a total of six firefighters responded to the scene, along with UVM Rescue.

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