August 29, 2014

Huge project win final approval

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Finney Crossing will contain 356 units

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

The largest and perhaps most closely scrutinized subdivision ever proposed in Williston received final town approval Tuesday.

The Development Review Board voted 5-1 in favor of Finney Crossing, a 356-unit subdivision that will also include commercial space. Board member Kelly Barland cast the lone dissenting vote.

The project will be located on a 107-acre former horse farm just northeast of Taft Corners. With a combination of apartments, townhouses, condominiums, single-family homes and commercial and office buildings, it will be the only subdivision of its kind in the area, said developer Bob Snyder.

The project will be built in several phases over a decade. The town will allow about 70 units to be constructed during the next two years.

Tuesday’s approval marked the end of a six-year review process. Snyder said he first approached the town in 2001 with the concept.

Williston planning staff worked with developers for about two years, shaping the project before the formal review began.

The goal was to create urban density, essentially completing what planners hope will become downtown Williston in an area already dominated by commercial development.

“I think it’s very rare for a neighborhood of this size to create this kind of density at an infill site, yet have 45 percent of the space set aside for permanent open space,” Snyder said after the meeting.

Finney Crossing will contain about twice as many housing units as the next largest subdivision in Williston, Brennan Woods, which was also built by Snyder’s company.

The project’s configuration is more typical of an urban area than a suburb like Williston.

For example, the townhouses will be grouped in buildings containing seven or 10 units. The apartments, which will be sold rather than rented, will be located in 40-unit, three-story buildings.

The project is heavily skewed toward multi-unit housing. When completed, Finney Crossing will contain 92 condominiums, 114 townhouses, 120 apartments and 30 single-family homes.

Only the single-family homes will contain more than two bedrooms. At an earlier meeting, Snyder said the development would attract few families with children. He estimated that Finney Crossing would add only 67 children over the 10-year build-out period.

The commercial portion of the project remains less well-defined. The board’s approval permits about 20 acres of retail and office development.

Jeff Davis, whose company will develop the commercial part of Finney Crossing, said after the meeting that it could include two- or three-story buildings, with retailers on the ground floor and office space on upper floors.

The total amount of retail and office space could approach 400,000 square feet. Davis said he has yet to sign any tenants.

Finney Crossing had attracted considerable opposition from nearby residents. Many worried about the impact on traffic. Others were concerned it would overburden municipal services.

But few were present Tuesday to hear about Finney Crossing. The meeting was dominated by a hearing on a huge new facility for Essex Alliance Church.

About 50 people attended a hearing on that project. Virtually all of them streamed out of the room when the Finney Crossing hearing began.

The only opposition came from board member Kelly Barland, who after voting to reject the project said he worried that the town was missing the big picture by not considering the larger implications of recent development.

“I feel that both Finney Crossing and the Essex Alliance Church are good projects,” Barlard said after the meeting. “But I don’t feel confident that traffic has been addressed at a macro level.”

Finney Crossing still must receive a permit under Vermont’s Act 250 land-use law. But Snyder said he was optimistic the project would receive speedy state approval. He said an Act 250 permit application will be filed this week.

The board’s approval of the project covers the first phase of residential development. The developers must return to the board for approval of future residential phases and commercial development.

Snyder said he hoped to break ground on the project in the fall. He plans to begin building homes about a year from now.

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