September 20, 2019

Growing pains?

Allocation process spurs debate between developers and neighbors

By Adam White
Observer correspondent

The Williston Development Review Board approved 18 allocation units for fiscal year 2016 at its annual growth management meeting Tuesday, setting the stage for six projects to proceed to the next step of the development process.

Some of those units were shuffled between years and projects, as the board sought to establish a fair and realistic growth rate in the first year of a new allocation system that will stretch over the next decade.

“The whole goal of growth management is to regulate the pace of development,” Town Planner Ken Belliveau said during the meeting. “It’s not perfect; there’s some lumpiness to it.”

“Clear as mud,” was how acting DRB chairman John Bendzunas jokingly described the process later in the meeting.

The largest project under consideration, a 35-unit development proposed for a vacant field across from the Williston Golf Club on North Williston Road, received its full request of allocation on a staggered schedule, with seven units green-lighted for FY16 and the rest spread out over the next seven years.

Developer Chris Snyder said the initial five years’ worth of allocations—a total of 24 units—would likely be banked until a start date some time in 2020, so as to increase the feasibility of the project from a financing standpoint. Allocation units expire if permits for the project are not pulled within a five-year period.

Several neighboring property owners were present at the meeting, and expressed concerns about facets of the project.

Shannon Hiltner of 548 North Williston Road said that while other nearby developments such as Chatham Woods were designed with considerable setbacks from the busy thoroughfare, the proposed configuration of buildings in the Snyder/Bryan project would be “very dense” and “close to the road.”

“We do not feel this fits the context of the area,” Hiltner said.

Hiltner, who is a member of the town’s Planning Commission, also said the water table in that area is “extremely high.”

“Every time it rains, it floods,” Hiltner said. “The water has to go somewhere.”

Pat Troxell of 253 North Williston Road said she worries about the traffic impact of adding 35 more dwelling units to such a well-traveled road.

“North Williston is already a mess at certain times of the day,” Troxell told the board. “What is your part in considering traffic?”

Belliveau replied that a traffic study would be required as part of the project’s discretionary permit process, as determined previously by the board.

Additional points raised about the project included potential debris in the nearby woods and disruption of existing silt fences in the area. Bendzunas said Belliveau typically brings such complaints directly to the board if and when they arise, and has the authority to issue zoning violations if appropriate.

Another project provoking debate at the meeting was a duplex proposed by Alex Pintair for a subdivided lot at 7997 Williston Road, in the village.

Kevin Brochu of 76 Slate Barn Drive said the project was “significantly different” from what was proposed in the pre-application process, resulting in issues that he felt had not been properly addressed.

“It is now two homes instead of one, the property lines are completely different, and the footprint … as originally shown is now not even existent,” Brochu said.

Pintair’s response was that the proposed building’s overall footprint would be relatively small, on what he called “a massive space” by village standards.

“It has always been a single building; the only thing that has changed is space (inside),” Pintair said. “Where the internal walls are is what has changed.”

Brochu said he and his wife, Zuzana, have sought legal counsel on the matter.

“We are prepared to file an appeal, should growth management allocation be granted,” Brochu said. The project ultimately received its two requested units.

The growth management process involves scoring of projects on various criteria by the town’s planning department, and the DRB can alter the resulting scores before deciding on allocations. Five of the staff-recommended scores for the six projects on this year’s agenda were approved as calculated, while the board added five points to Snyder’s project to account for connectivity to existing paths and trails in the area.

Other projects that received allocations at the meeting were Finney Crossing (seven units), a single-unit project at 665 South Brownell Road, and three units each at 186 Spruce Lane and on the east side of South Brownell Road near the Williston/St. George town line.

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