Planning commission tackles Williston gridlock
Feb. 23, 2012
By Luke Baynes
The ability of the town to assess transportation impact fees in lieu of a portion of construction costs for several potentially significant development projects was at the crux of Tuesday’s Williston Planning Commission meeting.
Among the projects discussed was a series of grid streets on the west side of Vermont 2A in the Taft Corners Zoning District that would have the desired effect of alleviating traffic congestion in the most gridlocked area of Williston.
The series of proposed grid streets — known in local zoning parlance as the “six-party agreement,” because of the number of interested parties involved — would potentially mitigate the option many locals exercise when exiting the Hannaford supermarket on Marshall Avenue by bypassing the rapidly changing traffic signal at the intersection of Vermont 2A and Marshall Avenue/Maple Tree Place and taking the circuitous route on Harvest Lane to Williston Road and points beyond.
The grid street vision had its genesis in a project spearheaded by J.L. Davis Realty for the development of the “Lot 30” property adjacent to the Ponderosa Steakhouse on Vermont 2A. Among the tenants lined up by J.L. Davis for the non-finalized mixed-use complex are Verizon Wireless and Panera Bread.
Also involved in the grid street discussions is CVS/Pharmacy, headquartered in Woonsocket, R.I., which has entered into a purchase and sale agreement with local business owner Arlo Cota to buy the property on Vermont 2A that has been occupied by Cota’s Imported Car Center Auto Sport for the past 35 years.
The conceptualized street plan would extend the eastern entrance of Hannaford — which currently dead-ends just behind the store — to Wright Avenue. Bishop Avenue would be eliminated and would be replaced with a road more equidistant from Marshall and Wright avenues that would contain traffic-friendly curb cuts.
Longer-term, Trader Lane — currently forming a short connection from the Hannaford parking lot to Marshall Avenue — would be extended north and intersect Williston Road east of the Texas Roadhouse restaurant.
“We’re going to get a dedicated public street,” said Williston Director of Planning and Zoning Ken Belliveau of the Lot 30 proposal, “and here’s the linchpin: we understand the value of that street as being more than just to the benefit of the developer. The developer needs the street because they need to get access.
“However, there’s a benefit that the town gets as well,” Belliveau continued. “It’s going to improve the flow of traffic in the area, and that’s the rationale of why they would get a credit against the impact fees.”
When asked by Planning Commission member Kevin Batson about whether it would be wiser to delay the decision on transportation impact fee eligible projects until the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission has had a chance to present its anticipated regional traffic study, Belliveau responded: “My viewpoint on the grid streets is that the grid streets have been on the town’s radar screen for years. Now’s the time to move forward as best we can, and I think it would be in our interest to do so.”
Also included among the considerations by the Planning Commission for inclusion in the proposed amendments to the town’s improvement projects eligible for transportation impact fee funding are a connector road forming a link between Talcott Road and the Zephyr Road extension to be built as part of the planned Finney Crossing project, and a proposed intersection improvement where James Brown Drive meets Vermont 2A.
The Commission unanimously voted to bring the transportation impact fee eligible projects to a public hearing, which is tentatively scheduled for March 20.