October 31, 2014

Delay in rezoning case concerns neighbors

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Developer says he will propose alternative

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Residents opposed to a proposal to rezone land near their homes for commercial use expressed surprise and concern about the Williston Planning Commission’s decision to delay a vote so it could hear further testimony.

Commission members on Oct. 17 tabled the matter until their next meeting. Bill Dunn, the developer who sought the rezoning, asked for the delay so Qimonda, the high-tech company that wants to move to the site, can address the commission.

The company’s research and development facility is currently located in Hillside East, the business park Dunn owns adjacent to the land he wants to rezone. But Qimonda has run out of space at the current facility and wants to relocate to a new 50,000 square-foot building on the land to be rezoned.

The commission had appeared ready to reject the rezoning at last week’s meeting. Consulting with the town’s planning staff, the commission had produced a written decision denying the request. But by a narrow 3-2 margin, they voted to table the matter until hearing from Qimonda.

“All of a sudden here we go again,” said Larry Reed, who lives on Vermont 2A adjacent to the land to be rezoned. “I’ve got to question what’s going on. I’m suspicious.”

“That surprised me,” said Williston resident David Martin about the delay. Martin also lives next to the 55 acres of land Dunn sought to change from rural-agricultural zoning to a designation that would allow the Qimonda facility.

Martin felt the delay could make it easier for the town to defend a no vote on the rezoning. “I’m sure the town is just protecting its own butt,” he said.

Martin LeWinter, another nearby resident and president of the Oak Hill Estates Association, said some of his neighbors “are confused about why the commission would continue this if they’ve made up their minds.” But LeWinter said he is OK with the commission hearing more comments.

“Personally, I don’t have a problem with them listening to the company,” he said. “I’d be very surprised if anything new comes out of it.”

Dunn said Tuesday afternoon that he in fact does have something new to say. Having concluded that the commission will not approve a rezoning, he now intends to ask for a boundary line adjustment.

His new proposal involves adjusting boundaries so that a fraction of the land he wants to build on is considered part of Hillside East.

The change would avoid the need to rezone the parcel by placing five to 10 acres in the same commercial zoning district as Hillside East, Dunn said. Both residents and town planning staff worry that rezoning could have far-reaching affects and lead to spreading commercial development south of Interstate 89.

“It’s a creative way to accommodate Qimonda and not impact the neighbors,” Dunn said.

Reed said the boundary line adjustment might be more acceptable than the rezoning. It all depends on the details, he said, such as exactly where the new building is located and placement of the access road. Dunn’s original idea was to access the new Qimonda facility via a road along Reed’s property line.

The Planning Commission is scheduled to again consider the rezoning case at its meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 7. The meeting begins at 7:15 p.m.

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