Jan. 14, 2010
By Tim Simard
How should Williston look in the future? Does there need to be more or less development? Stricter zoning laws? More energy conservation?
Williston planners and Planning Commission members are seeking answers to these questions and more in the coming year as they prepare to rewrite the Williston Town Plan.
Also known as the Comprehensive Plan of Development, the Town Plan serves as a document to guide economic and residential growth in Williston. The plan is supposed to be updated every five years.
Next week, the public will have its chance to weigh in on a new Town Plan at two forums. In the coming months, there will be more chances for residents, builders and engineers to have their say.
The forums are scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 20 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 23 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Both forums will be in the Williston Central School cafeteria.
Planning Commission Chairman David Yandell said the town has met many of the goals outlined in the original Town Plan, implemented in 2006. Now is the time to see what still needs to be accomplished.
“We really want to know what the big picture issues are,” Yandell said. “We want to know what people want to see in the future of Williston.”
Planning and Zoning Director Ken Belliveau said he looks forward to hearing what ideas come out of next week’s forums.
“We’re not necessarily trying to steer this conversation in any particular direction,” Belliveau said. “This is a chance for us to listen and gather input.”
An updated Town Plan must be approved by the Selectboard by early 2011. Getting a one-year head start should allow plenty of time to update the Town Plan for board approval, Yandell said.
In regards to the current document, Yandell said he likes the Town Plan and believes modifications, rather than a full rewrite, are likely.
“It’s a very comprehensive, very thoughtful, and I think, very good document,” he said of the current plan.
Yandell said the Planning Commission isn’t sure what issues residents and others will want updated, but he believes the town’s development growth and affordable housing will be “hot button” topics. The town’s complicated growth management system, where developers compete for limited housing allocations every year, might also be up for discussion, he said.
“I’m sure we’ll have some builders at these meetings,” Yandell said. “Certainly, we’ll hear about unrestricted growth management.”
Belliveau said residents might want to comment on transportation and traffic. Williston does not have a park-and-ride facility, even though the current Town Plan calls for one. Belliveau said there should also be an update on the changes in Circumferential Highway design and the Selectboard’s support of those changes.
Yandell said the town has not made as much progress on energy conservation as some residents would like, and he wants to see an improved section on economic development.
“Maybe we need to be working harder to attract more jobs and businesses,” Yandell said.
After next week’s forums, the Planning Commission will decide what issues need further focus and will form small committees to study the topics in depth. Residents will be able to volunteer for these committees, Yandell said.
Sometime this summer, the commission will take the committees’ work and begin the Town Plan rewrite. In late fall, there will be further public comment periods on a Town Plan draft before it goes before the Selectboard in January 2011.
For more information on the Town Plan forums, contact the Planning Department at 878-6704. The current Town Plan can be viewed online at http://bit.ly/WilliTownPlan06.