December 16, 2018

TV station eyes move to Marshall Avenue

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

Burlington’s NBC affiliate, WPTZ, plans to move its broadcasting headquarters to Williston if the Development Review Board approves subdivision and construction plans for five undeveloped acres on Marshall Avenue.

Landowner Doug Nedde of Nedde Real Estate said plans for the 23,000-square-foot broadcasting studio and associated offices are in line with 26 other facilities that WPTZ’s parent company, Hearst Television, operates nationwide.

WPTZ’s current Vermont headquarters is in Colchester. It also has a facility in Plattsburgh, N.Y.

“I think this is an exciting project for the Town of Williston,” Nedde told board members during the project’s preliminary review in January. “They want to be in Williston and we are trying to make it work.

“We’ve got a bit of a timeline, so we’re going to try to present something that works for the town because we don’t have the ability to come back too many times before we miss this opportunity,” he added.

The board unanimously endorsed preliminary plans and encouraged Nedde to refine and resubmit them for a more detailed permit review. The building would be located next to Burlington Emergency and Veterinary Specialist (BEVS), a 17,000-square-foot animal hospital the board approved in October on Nedde’s adjacent parcel.

The television station would come with an approximately 90-foot tower, ensuring a direct sightline to the top of Mt. Mansfield to broadcast its signal throughout northern Vermont. A series of 14 satellite dishes, each up to 17 feet high, will populate the side of the building.

Planning and Zoning Director Ken Belliveau was underwhelmed by the aesthetics of the building representation submitted in January and urged a more visually appealing structure.

“It’s about as plain Jane as you can get,” he said.

Board chairman Scott Rieley said the building would be “overshadowed by BEVS,” which Nedde described as architecturally on par with “a lodge at Stowe Mountain Resort.”

“I think the board is going to push to upgrade your design,” Rieley said.

The building is envisioned with 100 parking spaces, with a majority of the spaces for employees behind a locked fence, and about 40 spaces in front for visitors. Nedde said the station would be in use “24-7” with up to 80 employees coming and going.

Belliveau encouraged all the parking to be designed at the side and back of the building and siting the structure closer to Marshall Avenue.

“I know that’s the town’s position,” Nedde said, “but if you go up and down Marshall Avenue, every building has parking in front of it. That’s what works for the building and that’s what we’re proposing.”

The board will require a 10-foot-wide recreation path to parallel Marshall Avenue along the parcel, a piece of a connection that will one-day lead to South Burlington, Belliveau said.

WPTZ General Manager Justin Antoniotti could not be reached for comment.

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