June 22, 2018

Tenants to fill vacant box stores

Old Navy, A.C. Moore choose Williston locations

Nov. 18, 2010

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Two large and noticeably vacant retail spaces in Taft Corners will soon house well-known national chain stores. Old Navy, a popular clothing store, will transfer into part of the space once occupied by Linens ‘n Things in Maple Tree Place. Crafting supply store A.C. Moore will move into the former Circuit City site. Both are tentatively scheduled to open during winter 2011.

Old Navy relocating from Burlington

Old Navy, which currently has a location on the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, announced its decision to move to a smaller site in the Champlain Valley this past August. Since then, rumors abounded that the retailer would choose Williston as its next home. Those rumors were confirmed on Nov. 4, when Old Navy submitted paperwork to the town’s Planning Department.

Ron Redmond, executive director for Church Street Marketplace, said he expects the retail giant will have its last day in Burlington on Feb. 28, 2011. He said two occupants will split the roughly 25,000 square foot space, one of which will be Panera Bread.

The café has also expressed interest in opening in a proposed Williston development.

Old Navy is a subsidiary of Gap Inc., which runs several different brands under its name, including Gap and Banana Republic. Old Navy currently has more than 1,000 stores across North America.

Part of the reason the retailer decided to leave Burlington was a desire for a smaller location, said Yves Bradley, vice president of commercial brokerage for Pomerleau Real Estate. The Williston location will have approximately 17,000 square feet, with 13,500 square feet of retail floor space.

Dick’s Sporting Goods is currently expanding its neighboring store into a portion of the former Linens ‘n Things space.

Bradley wasn’t sure of the exact date of Old Navy’s Williston opening, but said, “Ideally, they’d want to be open March 1.” He was still waiting to hear if the store signed a lease with Maple Tree Place, which he expected would happen shortly. Representatives with Maple Tree Place and Gap Inc. did not return calls to the Observer by press deadline.

A.C. Moore to open first Vermont store

The arts and crafts business A.C. Moore is looking to occupy the former Circuit City store in Taft Corners sometime in February, according to a company spokesperson. It will be the company’s first store in Vermont and, at 27,500 square feet, also one of its largest sites, said A.C. Moore’s Marketing Manager Jacquie Panto.

The craft retailer, based in New Jersey, has 135 stores located mostly along the eastern seaboard. Panto said the business will employ up to 40 full- and part-time employees.

Jeff Nick, co-owner and president of J.L. Davis Realty, said he’s excited by the prospect of A.C. Moore’s arrival. J.L. Davis owns the former Circuit City store.

“It’s nice to fill a vacancy with a great tenant,” Nick said.

Along with arts and crafts supplies, A.C. Moore will feature a large floral department, bridal and other specialty party supplies and a custom framing center.

“We attract the do-it-yourself kind of person,” Panto said of A.C. Moore’s customer base.

The company also raises money for nonprofit research centers and other groups, and Panto said the Williston store will be involved in those programs.

Retail and office development proposed

Project planned for Taft Corners

Nov. 18, 2010

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

For the past few years, a small sign in an empty field near Ponderosa Steakhouse advertised retail buildings “Now Leasing Prime Retail & Office Space,” even though those buildings do not exist. Now, however, it looks like the project might really happen.

Taft Corners Associates hopes to construct two multi-use commercial and office buildings along Vermont 2A next to Ponderosa. According to Jeff Nick, co-owner and president of J.L. Davis Realty, several national tenants have already expressed interest in the space. J.L. Davis Realty owns Taft Corners Associates, which oversees the shopping centers and much of the land west of Vermont 2A and south of U.S. 2.

On Nov. 9, Williston’s Development Review Board approved a pre-application permit for the development. Nick appeared before the board to outline preliminary plans and receive opinions from board members.

“We’ll get your feedback tonight and come back with a much more detailed plan later,” Nick told the board. “There are still a lot of moving parts to this.”

Early designs call for two buildings separated by a courtyard with outdoor seating for a café. The structures total 32,650 square feet, with 136 parking spots available. Nick also said plans are in place to complete a street from Marshall Avenue to Wright Avenue. Currently, this access road stops just beyond Hannaford supermarket’s parking lot.

This grid street has already been outlined within the Town Plan and would provide alternate access for shoppers through the stoplight at Wright Avenue. A proposed CVS/pharmacy — a separate project that is currently in limbo — would be located at the corner of Wright Avenue and Vermont 2A.

Even though the project is in its infant stages, Nick said Verizon plans to have a store occupy one of the first floor spaces, as does Panera Bread, a bakery and café with more than 1,300 locations across the country. Nick said Williston’s Panera will be one of three moving into the Champlain Valley next year.

Development Review Board members and town staff seemed generally supportive of the project. Planning and Zoning Director Ken Belliveau praised the mix of office and commercial spaces, and the fact it meets approval requirements outlined in the town’s bylaws.

“To me, this is the kind of scale we want to see in this part of town,” Belliveau said.

But board member Brian Jennings hopes the Taft Corners project might go a step further and offer residential housing along with offices and retail stores. As part of Taft Corners Associates’ pre-application, the board asked that it “strongly consider” apartments.

Nick said that while he sees the need for affordable housing in Taft Corners, he believes it’s unsuitable for the proposed development. Limited parking and the project’s location along busy Vermont 2A are two reasons. Another is that office and retail occupants might be reluctant to lease space if there are apartments in the same building.

“It might keep us from landing a couple tenants,” Nick said.

He said that a housing project might be in the future for Taft Corners Associates on neighboring properties.

At the end of the presentation, board members expressed interest in seeing more detailed plans at a future meeting.

“At this point, I don’t really see any show-stoppers here,” board member Cathy O’Brien said.

Allen Pools and Spas named ‘Retailer of the Year’

Nov. 18, 2010

By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff

Ed Allen (from left), Tom McCormack, Seth Clifford and Tom Colman of Allen Pools and Spas accept the Vermont Retailers Association Retailer of the Year award. (Courtesy photo)

As Allen Pools and Spas’ Williston location celebrates its 10th year, the company has been racking up accolades.

Last week, Allen Pools and Spas, which has locations in Rutland, Williston and White River Junction, was named Retailer of the Year by the Vermont Retailers Association.

“It’s unbelievable,” Sales Manager Tom Colman said. “We’ve worked very, very hard and we’re very, very proud of the honor …. We’re definitely going to live up to it.”

Earlier this year, Allen Pools and Spas was chosen by Hot Springs Spas — the brand of hot tubs it sells — as the Dealer of the Year from among more than 850 dealers around the globe.

Colman called it “the biggest award in the whole world of hot tubs.”

The company, which Dan Allen started in Rutland in 1957, has grown steadily through the decades. Now run by Allen’s son, Ed, it posted 20 percent growth in 2009 and is up 25 percent this year, Colman said.

“Allen Pools and Spas is absolutely a phenomenal company,” said Tasha Wallis, executive director of the Vermont Retailers Association. “Talking to the different employees, they’re all so up and so motivated and they all have wonderful things to say about Ed Allen.”

Colman said the company is all about customer satisfaction.

“Our business philosophy is literally taking one customer at a time and taking care of that customer from A to Z,” he said.

Allen Pools and Spas was one of three companies to be recognized by the association. The Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington was named the Greentailer of the Year and Charlotte’s Old Brick Store received the Community Gem award.

“We had an outstanding group of nominees this year, and the winners are just terrific,” Wallis said.

Williston illustrator paints for children

Nov. 18, 2010

By Greg Duggan
Observer staff

Amy Huntington

Amy Huntington said she once convinced the workers in Williston’s Public Works Department to put a snowplow on a municipal truck in the middle of the summer. An illustrator of children’s books, Huntington wanted to take photos for her artwork in “Grandma Drove the Snowplow,” a book released in September. When the public works employees learned she needed photos of plows, they dragged one out and put it on the truck.

“I put a thank you for them in the book,” Huntington said.

It wasn’t the first time that Huntington, a Williston resident, has used scenes from the town in her books. The book is author Katie Clark’s sequel to “Grandma Drove the Garbage Truck,” which has illustrations inspired by Williston buildings and events. In “Grandma Drove the Garbage Truck,” Huntington included scenes from Williston’s Fourth of July celebrations.

The image above, by Huntington, appears in ‘Moose Power! Muskeg Saves the Day.’

“Grandma Drove the Snowplow” tells the tale of Grandma clearing the streets when a blizzard hits town on the day of the Carol Sing.

Huntington said she often works from photographs when making her illustrations.

“If I don’t do that, I have houses that look the same, people that look the same,” she said.

“They’re joyful illustrations, and it’s fun to see that ‘Grandma Drove the Garbage Truck’ has illustrations of some of the buildings in Williston,” said Natacha Liuzzi, owner of Brown Dog Books & Gifts in Hinesburg.

On Saturday, Huntington will sign books at Brown Dog Books from 11 a.m. to noon. She’ll be joined by another Vermont illustrator, Liza Woodruff.

“She’s very friendly with the kids,” Liuzzi said of Huntington.

She noted that Brown Dog Books prominently displays Huntington’s works in the store’s Vermont Section, and said they’re popular with customers.

In addition to “Grandma Drove the Snowplow,” Huntington recently illustrated “Moose Power! Muskeg Saves the Day.” Both works were published by Down East Books. Written by Susan Williams Beckhorn, “Moose Power!” tells the story of an orphaned moose calf named Muskeg who lives on the farm of a retired lumberjack.

To illustrate the story, which takes place in the 1800s, Huntington said she researched old logging and farming equipment and learned where to put a harness on a horse.

“The moose is hard to render,” Huntington said. “In a way it’s really fun to paint …. You can give them pretty incredible expressions because their nose and mouth is so different.”

Huntington said it typically takes four or five months to illustrate a book. She starts by making thumbnail sketches, eventually working her way up to full-size sketches. Once she runs those past her publisher, she creates the final images using watercolors.

She’ll also show drafts of the books to children.

“I read that to kids, see what works and what doesn’t, based on the reactions I get from them,” Huntington said.

Huntington said she studied art in college, and used to show her watercolor paintings in galleries. Though she still does her own work not associated with children’s books, she no longer displays her art in galleries.

“It’s too much work to keep up with that and illustrations,” she said.

Huntington has also started working with oil paints.

As for the appeal of children’s books, Huntington said she likes “the challenges of finding ideas that kids are going to relate to.”

Williston illustrator Amy Huntington will sign books at Brown Dog Books in 11 a.m. on Nov. 20. Brown Dog Books & Gifts is located at 22 Commerce St. #3 in Hinesburg. For more information, call 482-5189.

Project would preserve agricultural land

Selectboard to decide on funding next month

Nov. 18, 2010

By Greg Duggan
Observer staff

The Williston Conservation Commission and Vermont Land Trust hope to preserve 48 acres of agricultural land, pictured above, on North Williston Road. (Observer photo by Greg Duggan)

A joint project between the Conservation Commission and the Vermont Land Trust aims to conserve 48 acres in Williston, provided the Selectboard approves the use of $180,750 from the town’s Environmental Reserve Fund.

Property owners Dave and Deb Conant appeared before the Selectboard on Monday night with Town Planner Jessica Andreoletti and Bob Heiser, Champlain Valley Project Manager for the Vermont Land Trust, to request funding for the preservation project. The Conants want to establish a conservation easement on their land, the so-called “Miles Farm” located north of Mountain View Road and west of North Williston Road. The easement would preserve the property as agricultural land and allow for a primitive trail to run through the property.

In addition to the agricultural and recreational benefits, Andreoletti and Heiser noted that the property has been identified as having scenic value for the town. Andreoletti told the Observer the Town Plan encourages the protection of certain views in Williston when considering development, and the Conant farm contains fields characteristic of rural Vermont.

“With all those values, we think this is a great project,” Heiser told the Selectboard.

Williston’s Environmental Reserve Fund currently has nearly $585,500 available for preservation projects, according to a memo from the Conservation Commission. Money from the fund would cover Williston’s half of the Conant Farm preservation, with $2,000 paying for an appraisal, $167,500 covering the development rights and $11,250 paying for the acquisition cost and stewardship endowment.

The Vermont Land Trust has applied for a grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board to pay for the remainder of the project.

The appraisal was conducted in September, and identified the conservation value of the farm at $335,000, according to the Conservation Commission memo.

The Land Trust expects to appear before the Housing and Conservation Board on Dec. 14 for the project. The Selectboard refrained from ruling on the funding request Monday night — board member Jeff Fehrs said he wanted more time to consider the project and make sure no other questions arose — but promised to issue a decision at its next meeting on Dec. 6.

Moving toward conservation

The Conants first began investigating the possibility of preserving their land in 2009. Dave and Deb Conant owned the farm with Dave’s brother Kim and his wife Jo-Ann. When Kim and Jo-Ann Conant moved out of state, they sold their portion of the farm to Dave and Deb Conant, according to information from the Conservation Commission.

The Conants could not be reached for comment prior to press deadline.

Originally, the Conants hoped to conserve 89 acres. Yet the state approached the family about purchasing land east of North Williston Road to be used as wetlands mitigation for the Circumferential Highway. The Conants sold 41 acres to the Vermont Agency of Transportation over the summer, Andreoletti said.

As part of the conservation project between Williston and the Vermont Land Trust, six acres of the farm would contain development rights for a farmstead complex. The land does not currently house any buildings. If a farmhouse is built, it would need to be no more than 2,500 square feet and subject to the town’s development review processes.

The easement for a primitive trail runs along the VELCO right-of-way for power lines, a location intended to minimize the impact of the trail on the agricultural purpose of the land.

Fehrs wanted to know if the Conservation Commission had any other projects on the horizon for which it expected to need funding. Andreoletti and Michael Harris of the Conservation Commission, who also attended the meeting, said the commission keeps an eye on certain parcels, but has no immediate plans to pursue any conservation projects.

PHOTOS: Vermont Meat & Seafood Market

Nov. 10, 2010

Observer photos by Greg Duggan

Co-owners Eric LaVigne and Dana Pontbriand opened Vermont Meat & Seafood Market on Nov. 6. The market is located at 104 Cornerstone Drive in Williston. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call 878-2020 or visit www.vtmeatandseafood.com.

PHOTOS: CVU football vs. Rice Memorial

Nov. 10, 2010

Observer photos by Joe Kropf

The Champlain Valley Union High football team’s season came to an end Nov. 6 with a 29-8 loss to Rice Memorial High in the Division 2 playoffs.

PHOTOS: CVU field hockey vs. South Burlington

Nov. 10, 2010

Observer photos by Stephanie Choate

The Champlain Valley Union High field hockey team was knocked from the playoffs on Nov. 3 with a 5-0 loss at South Burlington. The Rebels went on to capture the Division 1 championship.


Nov. 10, 2010

Observer photos by Tim Simard

The annual Scholastic Book Fair put on by Families As Partners is taking place this week in Williston Central School. The public is welcome at the book fair, which is open Wednesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Friday from 8 a.m. to noon.

New England title shot for CVU girls runners

Nov. 10, 2010

Two weeks after locking up their seventh Vermont Division 1 crown in eight years, the Champlain Valley Union High girls cross country team will be stepping out for the New England title on Saturday. The meet occurs at the same Thetford Academy course on which CVU reigned Oct. 30.

And the Redhawks have a decent opportunity at the regional honor, which they have won in the past.

Coach Scott Bliss’ runners are undefeated in team competition this season, with victories in highly regarded regional (Manchester, N.H., Thetford) and state (Essex, Burlington) invitationals, along with the state honors.

Key to the CVU hopes is the closely running group of cousins Summer and Taylor Spillane, sisters Adrienne and Julienne Devita and Aleksey Jordick. The harriers usually finish in a five-pack, one or two runners off the top runners in meets.

“Thetford is an interesting course,” Bliss said last week. “It starts with long downhill stretch followed by an uphill segment.”

He added that runners not familiar with the course can get fooled by the downhill start and run into later difficulty.

The Redhawks had been scheduled to participate in an invitational at Swanton this past weekend but opted out of the flat course test in favor of some team training.

— Mal Boright, Observer correspondent