September 24, 2018

Town pursues riverfront land donation

Observer illustration The 29-acre Jacob parcel is located along the Winooski River opposite GlobalFoundries.

Observer illustration
The 29-acre Jacob parcel is located along the Winooski River opposite GlobalFoundries.

Retired developer offers 29 acres along the Winooski

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

A former Chittenden County real estate developer and water service pioneer who is now retired to Florida plans to grant a 29- acre Winooski Riverbank parcel to the Town of Williston.

The Williston Selectboard endorsed the acquisition at a meeting last month, following a positive recommendation from the Williston Conservation Commission.

Peter Jacob, for whom the Champlain Water District’s drinking water treatment facility in South Burlington is named, said he has no plans for the parcel after building a condominium neighborhood on adjacent land.

The wooded parcel overlooks the river, perched on a plateau opposite the GlobalFoundries campus on the Essex side, but it lacks road access. “It’s pretty hard to get to, but it’s a beautiful site,” Jacob said in a phone interview Tuesday from Florida. “I’m sure (the town) will find a way to access it.”

Jacob had a 37-year career as a developer in Chittenden County and was on the board of directors of the Champlain Water District since its inception in 1973. Champlain Water District General Manager Jim Fay called him “one of the founders of the idea of a regional water supply for Chittenden County.

” The Williston Conservation Commission recommends the town perform an environmental assessment on the parcel before acquisition to account for any contaminants that may be present due to its proximity to GlobalFoundries — formerly IBM. “…

The acquisition of this parcel provides protection for significant wildlife habitat and could also provide an opportunity to expand the town’s network of primitive trails in an area of town that currently lacks publicly accessible trails,” Williston Conservation Planner Melinda Scott wrote in a memo to the selectboard.

The parcel could also be used as a public access to the Winooski River, of which there is only one other in town, at nearby Overlook Park off Route 2A. Scott noted, however, that Green Mountain Power owns a narrow buffer that separates much of the parcel from the river shoreline. The conservation commission recommends the town ask the power company about acquiring that strip of shoreline.

“Although recreational access would be desirable, I think it is worth protecting that land because it is right along the river,” Scott said. “I think eventually the town will be able to work (access) out.”

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