December 19, 2014

Maple Tree Place green plans revised

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Next up: town and state reviews

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Plans for the park-like green at Williston’s largest shopping center have evolved to include more open space for playing and picnicking.

Maple Tree Place’s corporate owner announced last week altered plans for the green, a central feature of the retail and office center. The latest revision is still subject to changes by the company as well as state and local approval.

The plans keeps the major features of the design submitted by Mary Jo Childs of Williston and Judy Goodyear of South Burlington, winners of the “Make a Green Come True” contest. The contest invited residents to share their ideas about how the grassy and largely featureless one-acre square could be improved.

The original plans showed a central plaza surrounded by sugar maples. Walking paths ran from the center of the green outward from the green’s edge. A band shell and a terraced seating area provided space for concerts and other events in one corner of the green.

The band shell and the paths are included in the revision, but the terraced seating is eliminated. Landscaping has also been scaled back.

The changes will allow current uses of the green – people having a picnic and children playing, for example – to continue, said Rick Golder, property manager for The Inland Group of Companies, the Illinois-based firm that owns Maple Tree Place.

“It was a busier design,” he said of the original plans. “We didn’t want it to become so busy that it did not lend itself to being open for the existing uses.”

For example, omitting the terraced green frees up space and ensures that events will be accessible for people with disabilities, Golder said. Spectators will simply sit on the grass.

The original plans called for extensive plantings. Golder said the revised design reduces the planted area and makes the green more open.

“We’ve eliminating everything in the middle for the most part,” he said.

A post-and-chain barrier between the green and the streets that surround it was called for in the original plan. The revised plans replace that with a natural barrier formed by daylilies.

The idea is to keep children playing on the green from running out into the street, Golder said.

The new design includes one arbor instead of the two in the original plans. The clock tower suggested by Childs and Goodyear is replaced by flags surrounding a yet-to-be-determined memorial.

Childs declined to comment on the changes until she had a chance to look at the new plans. Contest rules stated that the winning entry would be subject to change without notice, and Childs said she has had no input into the project since submitting her design.

She previously said that her design would likely cost considerably more than the $75,000 Inland budgeted for the work.

No one element in the original design was deemed too expensive, Golder said. He acknowledged, however, that the use of less elaborate landscaping will save money. The project’s actual cost will not be known until bids are received.

Golder said the new design will be considered by officials at Inland’s corporate offices in Illinois and could be changed before it is submitted for town and state approval.

In Williston, the plans will be reviewed by the Design Advisory Committee, said Town Planner Lee Nellis. It will take approximately a month for the town to conduct the review. The town must issue a zoning permit before work can begin.

The state will also have a say through the Act 250 land-use process, said Stephanie Monaghan, co-coordinator of the District 4 Environmental Commission. The review will involve amending Maple Tree Place’s existing Act 250 permit.

Monaghan said she was unsure how long the review would take, but noted that statutory requirements mean that the process takes at least a month. The commission is entering its busiest time of year, she said, and any new project must get in line behind previous submissions.

Architect Stephen Yaw and Hamlin Consulting Engineering of Essex Junction have been hired by Inland to produce drawings for the green. Golder expected to receive a draft plan this week.

Subject to town and state approval, Inland hopes to build the band shell this summer. The remainder of the project are expected to be finished in 2007.

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