By Luke Baynes
A skeleton crew that barely met the quorum requirement of the Williston Development Review Board approved a request by the NETS Institute for Church Planting to add two stories of office and conference space over an existing garage.
NETS, a controlled corporation of Christ Memorial Church, is located at 999 Essex Road (Vermont 2A) in the Residential Zoning District.
Office spaces are normally not allowed in the RZD. But as Williston Senior Planner Matt Boulanger explained to the DRB at its Tuesday meeting, state law dictates that church-controlled entities enjoy a partial exemption from town zoning regulations.
“This is a zoning district where there are no commercial uses typically allowed,” Boulanger said. “One of the exemptions to that comes to us from state law, and it’s for things like churches. So under state law, you cannot limit where a church can go in your town through zoning. However, churches do need to adhere to all of the other customary, normal requirements of the zoning bylaw.”
Among the conditions of approval suggested by Boulanger in his staff notes were to dissolve a property line that currently separates the church from the garage and to slightly reconfigure the driveway.
The public hearing on the NETS proposal lasted a mere 13 minutes.
Boulanger told the Observer on Wednesday that the DRB’s deliberative executive session was also brief.
“The project was approved with no changes to staff’s proposed conditions,” Boulanger said.