July 20, 2018

Bank proposal moves Finney forward

Observer courtesy drawing
A drawing of the proposed Union Bank building at the corner of Williston and Zephyr roads in Finney Crossing.

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

The commercial element of Finney Crossing, a residential/commercial neighborhood under construction along Williston Road, is coming into focus with two applications before town planners and a third expected this spring.

In late February, the Williston Development Review Board gave preliminary approval to a two-story branch of Union Bank. It is the second commercial proposal for the neighborhood. The first, a three-story hotel, received approval in November with final plans still to come.

Scott Rieley, one of Finney Crossing’s developers and the chairman of the Development Review Board, has recused himself from hearings on the neighborhood citing his financial stake in their outcome. Displaced to the audience during the Feb. 27 hearing on Union Bank, Rieley rose to offer further insight into the commercial elements of the neighborhood, especially along the stretch of Williston Road across from Maple Tree Place.

“We hope it’s going to look like what a downtown used to look like, where each building has a different look, color and feel, as opposed to the same thing, like across the street at Maple Tree Place. That is our goal at Finney Crossing,” he said.

“The challenge is trying to piece this jigsaw puzzle together, and it is hard.”

The 4,800-square-foot Union Bank building is proposed for the corner of Williston and Zephyr roads. Rieley said developers are in talks with another commercial tenant looking to build on the rest of the vacant land across from Maple Tree Place.

“We are talking to someone right now,” he told board members. “We are hoping we will have something in front of you in the next couple months.”

The bank building is designed with brick and stone accents. Its main entrance will face Zephyr Road with a parking lot between the road and the building; the side of the building will face Williston Road.

The board will require an extension of the recreation path along Williston Road to Holland Drive as well as installation of secure bike parking and shower facilities for the bank’s roughly 25 employees.

Union Bank President and CEO David Silverman said the branch will incorporate a mortgage lending operation currently located in leased space in South Burlington. The building has room for the bank to grow or lease out office space it doesn’t initially occupy.

“We are hopeful we will be successful and expand into it, but we are entrepreneurs, and if we have an opportunity to lease some space, we’ll do that,” Silverman said.

The building is designed with a drive-through, but use of drive-through banking has declined steeply as online banking has gained traction, Silverman said. Union Bank has 17 branches throughout Vermont and New Hampshire.

“While it is necessary and it is a convenience people like, in all of our facilities we rarely have stacking beyond two cars,” he said. “Twenty years ago we had stacking beyond 20 cars. It has changed that much.”

Board member John Hemmelgarn said the board would prefer the building be sited along the street instead of set back by a parking lot, but the presence of overhead power lines prevent construction along the street.

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