December 19, 2014

Largest-ever subdivision receives approval

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Finney Crossing faces one more round of review

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

The gigantic Finney Crossing project won preliminary approval Tuesday with conditions aimed at minimizing its impact on the environment and nearby home owners.

The Development Review Board voted 5-1 to OK the residential and commercial subdivision, allowing it to move on to final review. Board member Cathy O’Brien cast the lone no vote.

“They did not satisfy me that there would not be adverse impacts in several areas,” O’Brien said after the meeting, ticking off concerns such as traffic, wetlands and aesthetics that she felt were not adequately addressed. Though she said the project “still has a lot of merit” she felt the pieces of the complex development don’t fit well together.

Finney Crossing would contain 356 housing units as well as retail and office space. The project would be located on 107 acres of land on the northeast side of Taft Corners.

The developers are Snyder Companies, which will build the homes, and J.L. Davis Inc., which will develop the commercial portion of the project.

If approved, Finney Crossing would be built in phases over the next decade.

Previous public hearings on the project drew dozens of residents who posed questions and expressed concerns about what would be the largest subdivision ever built in Williston. Just a few residents attended Tuesday’s meeting. Housing prices and building heights were among their concerns.

The board attached 20 conditions to its approval. Many of them were standard conditions imposed on all projects. But a handful of the conditions specifically addressed concerns over Finney Crossing’s impact on the environment and nearby homeowners.

Included in the conditions was an unusual requirement that makes town approval contingent on Finney Crossing receiving approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The requirement apparently stemmed from concerns about the project’s affect on wetlands.

O’Brien had at a previous meeting complained that wetland areas at the project’s site had been plowed under without receiving a permit. She asked for detailed plans for dealing with wetlands. When no information was forthcoming at last night’s meeting, she was clearly irked.

“Now you’ve made it simple,” she said. “I asked for more information and I got none.”

Bob Snyder, president of Snyder Companies, said previous work in the wetlands was actually an archeological project by college students. He said the work was in fact previously approved.

Another condition required some taller buildings to be reoriented so they don’t loom over houses at The Hamlet, a subdivision near Vermont 2A that has received town approval but has yet to be built.

Finney Crossing will be unique to Williston, not only because of its sheer size – it contains more than twice as many units as the next largest subdivision in Williston – but because of the project’s unusual configuration.

All but 30 of the units will be multi-family homes. The housing will include condominiums, townhouses and apartments. The project will also include 20 acres of commercial development arranged in two-story buildings, with stores on the ground floor and offices above.

Except for the single-family homes, all the housing will be two-bedroom units. Snyder has said most families are not interested in buying such housing, meaning the project will generate relatively few school-age children for Williston’s crowded schools.

Following the hearing, board members held a closed-door session to discuss Finney Crossing and another project on Tuesday’s agenda. After about 45 minutes, the board emerged and voted on the project.

It is unclear when Finney Crossing will be considered for final approval. D.K. Johnston, the town’s zoning administrator, declined to give a time frame for future reviews.

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