October 31, 2014

Town obtains funding for new trail

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Hill Trail will link to existing network

By Greg Duggan
Observer staff

Courtesy image The map above shows the proposed path of the Hill Trail. The town recently received nearly $20,000 from the state for the construction of the trail.

Nearly $20,000 from the state will help Williston extend a hiking trail system from Vermont 2A to Mud Pond Country Park off South Road.

Last week, the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation announced that Williston would receive $19,725 for the construction of the Hill Trail. Town Planner Jessica Andreoletti said the money will help fund a trailhead and parking area on Vermont 2A, slightly north of Butternut Road, as well as the construction of the actual trail.

An engineering study will determine a design for a bridge to cross Sucker Brook, Andreoletti explained. Then the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps will build the trail next year, and the town will apply for another grant for the actual construction of the bridge. Andreoletti hopes the bridge and trailhead will be complete by the fall of 2011, though she said sometime in 2012 is more likely.

Once finished, the Hill Trail will connect to a trail on the Boomhower property, which links to Five Tree Hill Country Park and eventually to Mud Pond Conservation Area. The entire network makes up a primitive trail system that Andreoletti said the town laid out about five years ago.

Williston is one of 19 recipients to receive grant money through Vermont’s Recreation Trails Program. More than $531,000 was awarded through the grant program this year.

Sherrie Winnie, Recreation Trails Program administrator, did not return phone calls prior to press deadline. A press release from Winnie announcing the grants said, “Vermont’s (Recreation Trails Program) is a matching grant program of the Federal Highway Administration for the acquisition, development, rehabilitation and maintenance of trails, trailhead facilities, trailside amenities, and trail-related educational projects for non-motorized, motorized, and multiple compatible recreational use.”

Andreoletti and Dan Boomhower, who owns the land adjacent to the Hill property, said the Hill Trail will pass through geologically and historically interesting terrain. The nearly 20 acres of rocky, hilly land contain big ledges and Sucker Brook.

“It’s very complicated terrain,” Andreoletti said.

Boomhower said the Hill property had been in his family since 1911, yet he said the modern history of the property extends back to the late 1700s, when the Downer family purchased the land from Ira Allen. Stone walls from the 1790s, which Boomhower said are 4 feet tall, remain on the land. The land previously held several buildings, including a home and a sawmill that benefitted from a waterfall on Sucker Brook.

After purchasing the land from his uncle, Robert Hill, Boomhower sold a portion to the town of Williston in 2004; the Vermont Land Trust obtained development rights over the parcel.

“It was a great deal, and the town was incredibly helpful,” Boomhower said.

Now, with the grant from the state, Williston is one step closer to completing its vision for the property.

Maple Tree Place installing mock signs next week

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By Tim Simard
Observer correspondent

Motorists on U.S. 2 and Vermont 2A may notice something different next week around Maple Tree Place. The shopping center plans to install two mock signs at its entrances on both roads. It’s all part of an effort by Maple Tree Place to increase signage and visibility for visitors unfamiliar with the mall.

The mock signs are for the benefit of the Development Review Board. The board wants to see what the signs will look like before approving a master sign plan, which would establish regulations for all signage within Maple Tree Place.

Representatives of Inland U.S. Management, the company that owns Maple Tree Place, went before the board Tuesday night hoping for a master sign plan approval. The board tabled the issue until a June 22 meeting so members could view the temporary signs. The signs will be installed early next week, said David Raphael, architect with the Middlebury-based design firm LandWorks.

During the meeting, Inland spokespersons outlined plans to increase signage on the property. Raphael said the signs are an important step in improving the shopping center.

“The primary reason for the increase in (sign) size is visibility and legibility,” Raphael said.

Inland is looking to build two large, freestanding signs at the mall’s entrances. The largest sign, located on U.S. 2 near the Shaw’s Supermarket parking lot, will be 10 feet high by 13 feet wide. The other, along Vermont 2A, will be 11 feet high by 3.5 feet wide. Raphael said each letter, which will spell out “Maple Tree Place,” would be approximately 12 inches high. A drawing or etching of a maple tree set against an off-white background will be featured on both signs.

While the signs’ heights would stay within what is allowed in Williston’s bylaws, the overall size made some board members a little uneasy. Hence the board asked for mock-ups before approving any sign plans.

“They would be the biggest signs in town, by far,” board chairman Kevin McDermott said.

Added board member Brian Jennings, “I just don’t want this to be a situation where someone is driving down the road saying, ‘What was the town thinking when they approved this?’”

In keeping with the design of Maple Tree Place, the entrance signs will be made up of brick and cement, Raphael said. The mockups will be constructed of plywood and other temporary materials, he added. His company would print out the lettering and picture designs in a banner format to make the mock-ups as real as possible.

Planning Director Ken Belliveau said after the meeting that he was curious to see how residents respond to the temporary signs. He added the town’s planning department supports the idea of entrance signs for Maple Tree Place, although the overall size is a concern.

“It’ll be kind of interesting to see what kind of attention it gets, what kind of calls we’ll get,” Belliveau said.

As part of Maple Tree Place’s master sign plan, the shopping center also hopes to add directional signs within the complex, alerting shoppers to parking areas and store locations. Raphael said the improved signs will help clear up any confusion patrons may have when visiting the mall. He said there definitely needs to be signs indicating where the smaller businesses are located around the shopping center’s promenade, near the Majestic 10 Cinemas.

“It’s not always easy for folks to know there is a whole set of shops 100 yards away (from Best Buy and the Christmas Tree Shops),” Raphael said.

The signs, which would be located along the streets and above sidewalks, would stand 7 feet above the ground. The board also asked Inland to install one temporary directional sign by next week.

The Development Review Board will revisit Maple Tree Place’s proposed master sign plan at 7:30 p.m. on June 22 at Town Hall.

New bus service begins next week

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By Greg Duggan
Observer staff

Observer photo by Stephanie Choate Two new bus stops for the CCTA’s Route 1V between Williston Village and downtown Burlington now exist outside Williston Federated Church. The new service is set to begin Monday. Image courtesy of Chittenden County Transportation Authority The map above shows the updated CCTA bus routes, including a direct route between Burlington and Williston Village.

Come Monday, bus riders going between Williston and Burlington will no longer need to transfer at South Burlington’s University Mall. Instead, a new service will run along U.S. 2 between Williston Village and Cherry Street in downtown Burlington.

“This is a long-awaited moment for Williston,” said Jim McCullough, one of Williston’s two Chittenden County Transportation Authority commissioners. “And for Williston and Burlington area employers. It’s easy to be a good employee if it’s easy to get to work, and cost effective.”

One-way fares cost $1.25, though CCTA planning manager Meredith Birkett said 10-ride passes are available for $10, and a monthly pass goes for $42.

The existing CCTA bus service requires riders to transfer at the University Mall when traveling between Williston and Burlington.

Birkett said the new route, which extends into Williston Village, has 17 stops along U.S. 2 east of Industrial Avenue. New bus stops along CCTA Route 1V include spots at Talcott Road, at Tower Lane and Old Stage Road, in front of the police station and across from Town Hall.

For Route 1V, two morning buses will leave Williston Village — at the stop across from Town Hall — at 7:05 and 8:05 on weekdays, arriving at Cherry Street at 7:35 and 8:35. The afternoon buses will leave Cherry Street at 4:40 and 5:20, arriving in Williston Village at 5:10 and 5:50.

“For myself, an employee at (the University of Vermont), I will be taking this bus service two or three days a week minimum,” said Al Turgeon, Williston’s other CCTA commissioner.

Other changes to service include weekday buses between Taft Corners in Williston and Cherry Street leaving every 15 minutes between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. and between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. That schedule applies to CCTA’s Route 1. During the rest of the day the buses depart every half hour. Buses will also run later in the evening, with the last bus for Burlington leaving Taft Corners at 11:30 p.m. The evening buses run less frequently.

“I think this will be an attractive option for commuters, especially with the 15-minute service,” Birkett said.

CCTA will also begin offering a Sunday bus service between Williston and Burlington, an option that does not currently exist.

The CCTA used a survey and public forums to gain input from riders for the new schedules and routes.

“I believe the CCTA management did an absolutely phenomenal job listening to what residents wanted,” Turgeon said.

Turgeon and Birkett said the routes could see further modifications based on additional suggestions. Turgeon said he would welcome feedback; he can be reached at 578-3931 or [email protected] Turgeon has already pushed for a stop at the corner of North Williston and Mountain View roads, and Birkett said CCTA planned to look at potential stops in the area on Thursday.

“We definitely try to work with people and put stops in where they’re safe and convenient,” she said.

A schedule of the new bus route is available online at www.cctaride.org. Anyone with questions can call 864-CCTA.

Owner of Williston business receives volunteer recognition

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By Greg Duggan
Observer staff

Photo courtesy of the SBA - Bob Berman was named Financial Services Champion for Vermont by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Bob Berman makes his living as president of Williston-based Instrumart, selling industrial automation, control and measuring equipment. But Berman also spends a good amount of his free time as vice chairman of Champlain Valley SCORE, which offers free business advice to startup and existing companies. And for that, Berman will receive an award as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2010 Financial Services Champion in Vermont.

“I was elated of course,” Berman, a South Burlington resident, said of the recognition.

Berman will collect his award on June 17, at the 2010 Vermont Small Business Person of the Year Awards Celebration at Shelburne Farms. Three other Vermont business owners will also be recognized at the event, hosted by Vermont Business Magazine.

U.S. Small Business Administration doles out awards nationally. The Financial Services Champion award, according to SBA guidelines, goes to “an individual who assists small businesses through advocacy efforts to increase the usefulness and availability of accounting or financial services for small businesses.”

Berman has run Instrumart since founding the company 22 years ago.

“Pretty much the skills that you need to run this business are transferable between a lot of different businesses,” Berman said.

As a volunteer with the local chapter of SCORE, Berman said he counsels people with business advice based on their particular situations. Assistance can range from helping an aspiring entrepreneur fill out a template for a business plan to making sure businesses have enough capital to get started. Work can take place through email, over the phone or face to face. Some people Berman has worked with have gone on to run successful businesses; in other instances, Berman said, he’s talked people out of starting a business.

“The counseling is free. It goes on as long as the applicant wants it,” Berman said.

Berman was nominated for Financial Services Champion of the Year by Jerry Johnson, chairman of Champlain Valley SCORE.

Johnson said Berman fit the criteria for the award, and he made the nomination following a discussion with the SBA.

“(Berman) is unique in that he’s … a very … successful business leader today,” Johnson said. “Some (SCORE) volunteers have had those positions in past, but Bob is currently the president of his company. It takes a lot of time and energy and drive to achieve that in a company.”

In an article about Berman for Vermont Business Magazine, Kate Herrington of the SBA wrote, “Berman was chosen for the award based on his volunteer services to provide comprehensive business planning assistance, including financial guidance, to small business entrepreneurs.”

Though Berman may still offer advice to people in Williston, Instrumart’s time in the town is limited. Berman said the company recently purchased a new building in South Burlington, and will move there around Labor Day.

CVU boys lacrosse vs. Spaulding High

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Observer photos by Greg Duggan

The Champlain Valley Union High boys lacrosse team rolled to a 14-4 win over Spaulding High of Barre in a playoff game on Friday. CVU went on to defeat Rutland High 13-1 on Tuesday, earning a trip to the Division 1 championship game.

CVU Boys Lacrosse

Guest column

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Learning from the oil spill
By Stewart Cohen

It is hard to not react to the current catastrophe in the Gulf with a desire to reject all future offshore oil drilling. However, I believe that we have learned two critical things from this event that will enable us to proceed more capably in the future.

The first is that there is plenty of oil if we look for it. The second is that the real cost of an accident like this is almost incomprehensible and therefore one must never happen again. It is not enough to point out how little these accidents have happened; there have been others and we simply cannot allow more. Just as the Exxon-Valdez grounding forced the move to double hulled tankers (and we still haven’t finished cleaning up that mess), it would seem that this fiasco points to several options that can ensure our safety.

I like the fact that the Mineral Management Service is now being broken up to separate regulation and inspection from contracts and leases. It is a good first step. However, we also need to implement and enforce very strict standards for the production, operation, retirement, replacement or recertification of all critical operating parts involved in the drilling and extraction process. It is already clear that shortcuts were taken by BP in operations that contributed to the sequence of events in this disaster. Given that the ultimate solution for the leak is completing a relief well (which will take a total of three months to finish), I would propose the following idea: All offshore drilling from now on will include the simultaneous construction of primary and secondary wells into each oil source. Current offshore wells should be supplemented with secondary relief sites to offer the immediate potential to “relieve” any accident.

These kinds of fail-safes may actually offer up more security than statistics do and will indeed cost boatloads of money. The oil profits are there to support this, but let’s face it — this will raise the price of oil extraction and gas at the pump. The benefits of this will be true security about the safety of oil extraction as well as stepping up the drive to increase fuel efficiency and the availability of non-combustive energy sources, which will ultimately improve our energy independence and environment.

This is not a political or partisan issue; these are things we as Americans need to urge our government to do for us to keep us safe here at home.

Stewart Cohen lives in Williston.