April 25, 2014

Spring cleaning: Efficiency Vermont shares tips for finding hidden energy wasters


Spring is right around the corner. Soon, folks all over Vermont will set aside a day for an old-fashioned spring cleaning. According to Efficiency Vermont, your spring cleaning efforts could earn you some money – and not just the coins found under the couch cushions.
“I’m talking about finding the hidden places where you’re wasting your energy dollars,” says Bridget Ashe, Customer Support Manager at Efficiency Vermont. “They’re easy to find while you’re scouring your home for cob webs and dust bunnies. Many fixes are simple and the savings really add up. You just have to know where to look.”

To cut your energy costs by getting better performance from your appliances, exhaust fans, and lights, Efficiency Vermont suggests looking in the following pleaces.

• Fridge: Clean dust from under your refrigerator, the front vent at the base and any exposed coils at the back.
• Clothes Dryer: Clear lint from the exhaust hose.
• Kitchen & Bath Fans: Dust bathroom ceiling fan covers and fan blades. Clean dust and grease from the kitchen stove hood and exhaust fan.
• Electronics: While you’re dusting your TV, computer, gaming equipment and other home electronics, take a look at how they’re plugged in. You can stop overpaying to power these big energy users (many draw electricity even when off) by plugging them into an advanced power strip, which automatically cuts electricity to any idle equipment you choose. Ask for one at your hardware store.
• Bathroom Ceiling: Have mildew? That’s a sign of insufficient ventilation. If you have a bath fan, use it. If you need a fan, look for an ENERGY STAR® qualified model. These fans are quiet and use little electricity. Be sure to vent bath fans to the outdoors, or you’ll risk creating a mold problem elsewhere in the house or attic.
• Lights: While you’re cleaning dust from your lamps and recessed lights, see what kind of bulbs you have. Replace incandescent light bulbs with CFLs or ENERGY STAR labeled LEDs and use about 75 percent less energy for lighting.
• Outside: Take a look at any accessible exterior vents, such as for the clothes dryer, heating system, water heater, kitchen fan exhaust or bath fan exhaust. Clear them of any dust, webs, leaves and lint.
• Look at the big picture for greatest savings: Planning energy saving improvements? Before the busy construction season starts, now is a great time to talk to a contractor trained to help you find and fix causes of high energy bills, drafts, ice dams and more. A Home Performance with ENERGY STAR contractor can do a whole-house assessment and make recommendations about money saving improvements within your budget. Rebates are available.

To learn more and to find a contractor near you, visit www.efficiencyvermont.com/homeperformance.


LIVING GREEN: Groups urge local residents to ‘look up, look out’ for emerald ash borer

Local, state and national officials hope to get local residents involved in searching for signs of the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive pest that is devastating ash tress. Ash is one of the most common types of tree, with an estimated 160 million in Vermont.

Local, state and national officials hope to get local residents involved in searching for signs of the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive pest that is devastating ash tress. Ash is one of the most common types of tree, with an estimated 160 million in Vermont.

April 24th, 2014

By Stephanie Choate
Observer Staff

Williston Ash Walk Sunday, tagging Monday

A group of town, state and national organizations is hoping to mobilize locals to be on the looking for an invasive pest that could signal the deaths of thousands of Williston trees.
April 27 – May 3 marks Vermont’s Ash Tree Awareness Week, organized by a joint effort between University of Vermont Extension, the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and local communities.
The group is hosted ash walks and tagging events across the state, including two events in Williston.
“The purpose is really to draw attention to how many ash trees there are and how important ash trees are to our communities,” said Caitlin Cusack, UVM Extension urban and community forestry outreach specialist.
Cusack said Vermont has an estimated 160 million ash trees, including white, green and black ash.
Emerald ash borers were first discovered in Michigan in 2002, and have spread rapidly, killing millions of ash trees. The invasive beetles are expected to reach Vermont.
Forestry professionals say most residents in infested states don’t act until they start seeing dead trees. The awareness week is intended to increase the number of people who notice ash trees and look for Emerald ash borers, spurring communities to start planning for the devastating effects on ash trees and individuals to volunteer in forest management and care.
Environmental Planner Jessica Demar said approximately 42 percent of Williston’s street trees are ash, so the town will be “greatly affected” by the ash borer. Williston has already mapped its ash trees…..
Ash’s quick growth and salt tolerance has made them a popular pick for municipal planting, Cusack said. But towns could lose great swaths of trees with the arrival of the Emerald ash borer—changing aesthetics and losing shade and natural control of erosion and stormwater.
Chittenden County Forester Keith Thompson will lead an ash awareness walk around Lake Iroquois on April 27. The walk is set for 10 a.m. to noon, meeting at the Lake Iroquois boat launch on Beebe Lane.
Thompson will lead the walk on the Lake Iroquois Recreational District land along Beebe Lane and on forest trails near Lake Iroquois. Walkers will learn to identify ash up close and from a distance, as well as some other tree species. Attendees will learn and discuss the value of ash at this site for wildlife, water quality, aesthetics, forest health and possible problems if ash trees are killed by Emerald ash borers.
On April 28 at 10 a.m., representatives from the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation will tag approximately 40 trees along Marshall Avenue and Maple Tree Place. Each tag includes the monetary benefits of that tree and how people can get involved. According to vtinvasives.com, a 12-foot ash tree provides an estimated $131 in benefits annually, including filtering air pollutants, mitigating stormwater runoff, increasing property values and more. Ash wood is also used to make tools and baseball bats and as firewood. The trees also improve water quality, benefit wildlife and provide shade.
Cusack said they hope to get communities involved in searching for the Emerald ash borer. Early detection can help slow the spread of the pest and buy more time for research, she said.
“With many of these pests, it’s been alert citizens, not scientists that have found them,” Cusack said. “We need people to look up, look out for the ash borer.”

Resilient ash trees, like the one above in Rutland, are a popular pick for municipal and park plantings. Forty-two percent of trees planted along Williston's streets are ash.

Resilient ash trees, like the one above in Rutland, are a popular pick for municipal and park plantings. Forty-two percent of trees planted along Williston’s streets are ash.

Board settles Atwood-Hood appeal


April 24th, 2014

By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff
A long-planned and often contentious development project may be moving forward again after the Selectboard decided this week to settle with the developers instead of going to environmental court in July.
The project, a joint effort between Dana and Brenda Hood and Jeff Atwood which dates back to 2008, received final site plan approval last April to build eight units on North Williston Road, seven of which would be perpetually affordable. But Hood told the Observer last summer that multiple factors combined to make seven affordable units financially unfeasible.
Last June, the Williston Development Review Board denied a request to reduce the project’s affordable housing units from seven to three.
Hood and Atwood appealed the decision to Environmental Court last August, and the case was scheduled for trial in July.
According to a statement by the Selectboard, read at the April 21 meeting and provided to the Observer by Town Manager Rick McGuire, the board cited legal costs of going to trial—which, McGuire said would likely run into the thousands of dollars—and its desire to work toward the goal of “increasing both the diversity and affordability of housing” among its reasons for the settlement.
The settlement allows the change from seven to three units of affordable housing—two units affordable at 100 percent or less of the median area income, and one affordable at 80 percent or less. Other conditions of approval imposed by the DRB would remain in place.
The statement pointed out that the developers would have earned the same number of points in the growth management process if they had proposed three affordable units as they received with seven. Developers compete for building allocation through a point system known as growth management, and earn points for things like affordable housing.
“Reducing the number of affordable units does not impact the footprint, project, the appearance, density, setbacks or any other conditions of approval imposed by the DRB beyond the initial value of four of the homes to be built,” the statement reads.
Most neighbors, though, have opposed the project. Several neighbors urged the board against a settlement at its April 7 meeting and in letters submitted to the board.
“If the DRB made a decision and you folks could potentially just throw that in the garbage and start again, I don’t think it’s very fair,” resident Briant Hamrell said.
Thirty-two neighbors signed a document submitted to the board, outlining their reasons for urging against a settlement. They cited bylaw, which states, “all representations made by the applicant on the growth management questionnaire are binding.”
The document also warned against setting a precedent that could allow other projects to renege on affordability promises made during the earlier phases of projects.
“The issue we are dealing with today is so legally clear that we do not understand why the Selectboard is considering ignoring their DRB, ignoring the law, ignoring their own letter to the DRB, and capitulating to litigious applicants,” the document states.
In a separate letter, resident Mary Jo Childs wrote, “I believe that, aside from the fact that the Selectboard would be overriding the intent of the town plan by caving in to the pressure of this developer, that in so doing, the long-term goal of creating more affordable housing in Williston would be severely compromised.”
Much of the neighbor’s opposition to the project is based on the density of the proposed units, which would not have been allowed under the town’s current bylaws.
“The concerns raised by adjoining property owners regarding the density this project brings to the area and setbacks are important concerns but are unrelated to the issue of how many units are affordable versus market rate,” the Selectboard’s statement reads.

Around Town


April 24th, 2014

Coaches vs. Cancer game May 1
The Champlain Valley Union High baseball team will head to the diamond next week to raise money for a Williston community member fighting cancer.
On Thursday, May 1 at 4:30 p.m., the CVU varsity baseball team will be taking on the South Burlington Rebels in this year’s Strike Out Cancer game.
The game is being played to raise funds for June Poodiak and her family’s fight against cancer. Her son, Dan, is a member of the Redhawks baseball team. The event, which will be held at CVU, will have raffle tickets, bright pink and black t-shirts for sale and a food truck.

Drug take back day Saturday
Residents looking to safely dispose of unwanted prescription drugs can bring them to several nearby locations on Saturday.
The Williston Police Department and Chittenden County Sherriff’s Office are participating in the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, organized annually by the DEA and U.S. Department of Justice to provide a safe, convenient and responsible way to dispose of prescription drugs. All drugs are taken, no questions asked.
Williston Police will collect prescription drugs April 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Shaw’s Supermarket in Williston. Drugs will also be taken at the Vermont State Police barracks on U.S. Route 2A.
The Richmond Police Department will take drugs at the police station on Bridge Street, and the Hinesburg Police Department at Kinney Drugs Pharmacy parking lot on Vermont Route 116.

Fresh Air Fund looking for host families
The Fresh Air Fund is looking for families to share their homes with city children ages 6 to 12. Transportation to and from towns is provided by the organization. It also covers liability insurance and any medical expenses for uninsured children.
For more information, visit www.freshair.org or contact Mary Sherman at 782-5426.

I-89 getting a facelift


April 24th, 2014

Observer staff report
Vermont Agency of Transportation crews began nighttime resurfacing work on the northbound lane of Interstate 89 on Monday.
Crews are set to repave the highway beginning just north of exit 11 in Richmond, through Williston, South Burlington and Exit 16 in Colchester, nearly 13 miles in all.
Work will be done between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. to avoid holding up traffic when more people are on the road.
Erik Filkorn of VTrans said crews expect to finish the northbound lanes and begin on the southbound section by May. Work will continue through the summer.
Travel will be reduced to one lane in various areas during the project and the speed limit will be reduced throughout the construction zone. Drivers may experience some delays, and should plan accordingly.
For updates on the project and other construction work, visit 511vt.com

Sustainable Williston growing ‘birth tree’ project


April 24th, 2014

By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff
A new town project aims to celebrate the birth of each new Williston resident with the gift of a tree, so families can compare the spreading leafy limbs with the unfurling of their child’s life.
“Sustainable Williston is working on a pilot project with the goal of celebrating the arrival of a child in the community by giving a tree to the parents to plant on their property,” said Marie-Claude Beaudette of Sustainable Williston.
Beaudette said she was inspired by her own experience in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, a town in Quebec with a birth tree program dating back 20 years.
“My family received a tree to welcome my son to the community,” she said. “What a symbolic gift to give to a new family in town.”
Beaudette said her family frequently visits her son’s tree, now mature, when they are in the area.
Families with new children would register for the program, and the planting would take place in the fall. Sustainable Williston hopes to host a celebration day, where the trees are handed out. Families with new children would meet each other, celebrate their babies and learn how to plant and maintain their tree.
“Sustainable Williston believes that inviting parents to plant native trees on their property will instill a sense of community pride, have positive impact on wildlife and contribute to a cleaner and better environment for all residents,” according to project information. “Taking the responsibility to help the tree grow and provide tender loving care is an example of good stewardship that supports sustainability in the community. It offers today’s children as well as future generations a place to live and grow in harmony with nature.”
Williston’s annual birth rate in the past six years has been between 52 and 66 children, according to Beaudette.
Gardener’s Supply in Williston has already agreed to provide the trees for 2014, and Sustainable Williston is working to apply for a grant from Vermont Urban Forestry. Families could choose between four trees and two shrubs—Red Osier dogwood, silky dogwood, elderberry, red maple, service berry, Northern white cedar or balsam fir. The trees and shrubs would each be 4 to 5 feet tall.
“Part of our mission is to encourage people to garden and giving back to our community,” said Meredith White, retail marketing supervisor at Gardener’s Supply Company. “This project is very local to us. It will help the people of Williston and also help beautify the town. It fits with our mission and it’s also a nice project.”
Beaudette said Green Mountain Compost has also agreed to donate compost to help support the project.
Beaudette presented the plan to the Selectboard earlier this month, hoping to gain town support.
“I love the concept and I can see how it would be really meaningful to watch the tree grow as the child grows,” said board member Debbie Ingram, though she asked how families who don’t own homes and yards in which to plant the trees could be accommodated.
Beaudette said Sustainable Williston would like to be able to provide trees for renters, but it’s a maintenance issue—as a small organization, they don’t have the manpower to water and care for the young trees.
Ingram suggested trying to find a landscaping company that would donate its services, caring for the trees. Any interested companies can contact Beaudette at [email protected]
The Selectboard voted to allocate up to $1,000 from the board’s discretionary fund to promote the program through fiscal year 2015.
Interested parents with new family members can learn more and register for the program at www.sustainablewilliston.org.

Stormwater ordinance, fee approved


April 24th, 2014

By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff
Just a week after rain and spring thawing flooded the banks of streams and rivers, residents poured into the Town Hall to talk about stormwater.
The Williston Selectboard approved an ordinance for establishing a town stormwater user fee after holding a well-attended public hearing Monday night. Williston is among 13 Vermont municipalities required to improve stormwater management under the federal Clean Water Act. The funds raised from the fee would be used for those stormwater management efforts.
Unless an appeal is filed, the ordinance would become official in June. The fee would then go into effect in January 2015.
The fee would be based on Equivalent Residential Units, or ERUs, which is the median area of impervious surface of single-family residences in town. Most properties with single-family homes would equate to one ERU. Single-family homeowners whose property has an impervious surface area in the top 10th percentile of all Williston properties will be billed for two ERUs.
Fees for non-single family residences, such as businesses, would be calculated using a tier system based on the amount of impervious surface on the property.
Impervious surfaces include roofs, paved or gravel driveways, patios, decks and parking lots—anything rain would run off of, as defined by the state. Runoff from these impervious surfaces can wash sediment and pollutants into waterways.
Though the exact fee amounts have not yet been calculated, McGuire said the town estimates that most homeowners would pay approximately $50 annually.
Some may pay less, such as condominium owners whose fee would be based on the amount of land owned by the association. Some may pay more, such as property owners with large amounts of impervious surfaces.
The fees will be used to fund the required upgrades to Williston’s stormwater system, bringing it into compliance with state and federal regulations.
The next steps for the town are to develop a user fee credit manual, hire a stormwater coordinator, work out the billing system and continue working with neighborhoods and other holders of expired stormwater discharge permits.
Williston has 31 holders of expired stormwater discharge permits—26 of which are housing or commercial developments, two are schools, two are VTrans properties and one is the town. The town is working on ways to help those permit-holders come into compliance with regulations.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and January,” McGuire said.
All the neighborhoods with expired permits have signed a memorandum of understanding that they intend to work with the town, rather than leaving the permits up to the state to enforce. McGuire said town staff expects to see results of the permit holders’ engineering feasibility studies by October, which will give them an idea of how much work is required to upgrade the systems.
“We’ll have a lot of information coming in,” McGuire said. “We’ll sort through it and figure out approaches for helping the neighborhoods bring these things up to standard.”
If neighborhoods go through the process of getting their systems evaluated, upgrading the systems to meet the standards and providing the town with proper easements, the town will take over the responsibility of maintaining that system, McGuire said.

During its Monday night meeting, the Selectboard also opted to allocate $218,320 from the Environmental Reserve Fund to help purchase the development rights on the 146-acre Bruce Farm off Oak Hill Road, just south of Butternut Road. The fund is used for the conservation and protection of land in Williston.
The town’s Conservation Commission and the Vermont Land Trust have been working together on the project. The Vermont Land Trust has applied for a grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board for the remainder of the funds needed to purchase the development rights, $197,500.
If the deal goes through, no development could take place on the property. Landowner Michael Bruce would retain the farm and continue farming, but should he decide to sell it, it would still be conserved. He also agreed to donate a trail easement that would help connect trails on the Isham Family Farm and Five Tree Hill.
The board also voted to approve updates to Williston’s Unified Development Bylaws, adding a chapter that established standards to protect and preserve significant natural, scenic and fragile areas.

Local runner crosses Boston finish line

Observer courtesy photo Ryan Polly, seen here just before the start of the race, returned to run in this year’s Boston Marathon.

Observer courtesy photo
Ryan Polly, seen here just before the start of the race, returned to run in this year’s Boston Marathon.

April 24th, 2014

By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff
A year after his first Boston Marathon experience ended abruptly in chaos, Williston resident Ryan Polly crossed the finish line undaunted on Monday.
“For me, it was about being able to finish what I started,” he said. “I wanted to inspire people to never give up and keep going and prove that hatred isn’t going to stop us from doing what we love to do.”
Despite what Polly described as brutal running conditions, with highs of 72 degrees, he said being able to cross the finish line was a “wonderful” experience.
“From the getting into Boston on Saturday to finishing on Monday was just surreal and emotional in a good way,” Polly said. “The city of Boston was definitely out even more so than last year, supporting the runners. It was just an amazing experience…. It was overwhelming and, of course, there was a sense of accomplishment as well.”
Polly was less than a mile from completing the Boston Marathon last year when bombs exploded near the finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 250. Polly was among the 5,700 runners unable to finish.
Instead of the celebration day he had planned the weekend after last year’s marathon, he organized a fundraising race in Burlington, raising more than $17,000 for the victims and their families. More than 700 people from all over the world took park in the event, called “Get Moving for Boston.”
Determined to finish his marathon, he helped organize and spearhead a petition to allow the 5,700 runners who didn’t finish in 2013 to run in the 2014 marathon.
“There’s been nothing but determination to finish this race,” Polly said. An injury sustained after a pothole tripped him up only paused his training.
“I was not going to quit,” he said.
With the Boston Marathon now under his belt, Polly is signed up for the Chicago Marathon in October. From there, he has his eye on triathlons, with the ultimate goal of competing in the Ironman triathlon in 2017.