May 21, 2018

Thinking outside the (big) box

Planning Commission mulls Target proposal

Jan. 19, 2012

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff


Williston Director of Planning and Zoning Ken Belliveau (far left) reviews a town map with (left to right) Senior Planner Matt Boulanger and Planning Commission members Michael Alvanos, Meghan Cope and Shannon Hiltner. Target Corporation’s interest in building a store in Williston was the primary focus of Tuesday’s meeting. (Observer photo by Luke Baynes)

After hearing a general overview on Jan. 3 from Target Corporation officials about the Minneapolis-based retailer’s interest in building a store in Williston, the Planning Commission got down to specifics Tuesday.

Specifically, discussion focused on the town’s plan process and what substantial benefit Target could bring to the town besides another venue to buy discount merchandise.

“If it were to go to vote today, based on what I heard and what they presented, they’re not giving me enough to sway me to go outside of our current Town Plan,” said Planning Commission member Shannon Hiltner, “and (the Target proposal) is very much outside the current Town Plan, as I read it.”

The proposed site for the Target store — the former driving range property at 6180 Williston Road (U.S. 2) — is in an area designated by the Town Plan as mixed-use residential. Chapter 9 of the town’s Unified Development Bylaw states that a specific plan can be adopted to deviate from the permitted uses of a zoning district if it is determined that “a substantial benefit to the town could result.”

“The key here is what are the substantial benefits, and how can (Target) go above and beyond,” said Commission member Meghan Cope.

Although Target Senior Development Manager Katie Rivard noted at the Jan. 3 meeting that Target would bring 150-200 jobs to the area, retailers are not considered a “basic industry” under the terms of the town’s bylaw, meaning that job creation isn’t considered a substantial public benefit.

While Target Regional Real Estate Manager Tom Carrico indicated on Jan. 3 that affordable housing was one of the public benefit criteria his company would be open to providing, he didn’t specify how many units of affordable housing would be built.

“(Affordable housing) would be something I would look at pretty heavily,” said Commission member Michael Alvanos. “One of our big things in the Town Plan … is how do we start getting these affordable housing units (in Williston)? That’s what I was hoping that Target was going to bring to the table.”

Williston Senior Planner Matt Boulanger stressed the substantial benefit component of the specific plan process, reminding the Commission that public benefit would be the first consideration if Target decided to submit an application to the town.

“The first vote of the Planning Commission is a vote as to whether to proceed with an application because you think that there might be potential for substantial public benefit,” Boulanger said. “Then you enter into reviewing, and then much, much further down the line of that process actually voting on moving something to the Selectboard.”

Chairman Jake Mathon suggested that the Commission take a wait-and-see attitude and reassess the situation if and when Target submits a formal application to the town.

“I’m not for or against Target,” Mathon said. “We have to see more details.”

Alvanos, an architect by trade, said the preliminary design options presented by Target at the Jan. 3 meeting were very basic and didn’t reflect the unique character of the town.

“I thought the three designs were indistinguishable,” Alvanos said. “I need to see a sensitivity to the area in architectural design and how it plays into the greater role of the (town). …They need to come with something outside the box.”

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