December 20, 2014

Warehouse plan replaces soccer proposal

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By Greg Elias
Observer staff

After failing to score with a soccer facility, a local developer now wants to construct an industrial building at the same site.

Al Senecal has filed plans with the town for a 28,800-square-foot structure on Commerce Street and a 5,000-square foot addition to an existing building used by his business, Omega Electric Construction.

The project’s application indicates the new building could accommodate both warehousing and light industrial uses.

Senecal said he may lease the new building. If not, he might use it for Omega Electric, which has a shop where equipment and tools are stored at the Commerce Street site as well as administrative offices on Omega Drive, a side street off South Brownell Road.

“We could get the business back under one roof,” he said.

(Disclosure: The Williston Observer leases office space from Senecal in Taft Farms Village Center.)

The project represents a second attempt to develop the site by Senecal. He won town approval in November 2005 for an indoor soccer facility, but never built it after failing to find a long-term tenant that would have made the million-dollar building financially viable.

He wanted to build a 33,600-square-foot structure that would have housed multiple indoor soccer fields. The facility could have provided additional playing space for the thousands of children and adults who participate in Chittenden County soccer programs.

Senecal talked with Far Post Soccer Club, whose lease at Williston Sports & Fitness Edge was set to expire. But Senecal and the club could not reach an agreement, and Far Post eventually moved to the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction.

The arrangement announced last May called for Far Post and Nordic Spirit, the area’s two largest soccer clubs, to share a building and merge their indoor leagues while keeping other parts of the organizations separate.

Senecal said he felt he was in the running to sign a lease with Far Post but he simply couldn’t match the price offered by the Champlain Valley Exposition. “I just think the deal with the other facility was too good to be true,” he said.

John Adams, Williston’s development review planner, said he was still reviewing the application but did not foresee any major problem with Senecal’s new proposal.

One potential area of debate is traffic. The town had required Senecal to add a turn lane on Commerce Street where it meets busy U.S. 2 as a condition of approval for the soccer facility. The application for the new project asserts that it will generate less than half as many peak-hour trips, so widening the road is no longer necessary.

The Development Review Board is scheduled to consider Senecal’s site plan application at its March 13 session. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m.

Senecal acknowledged that drawing up plans and gaining town approval for the scrapped soccer facility cost him “a bit of money.” But now he’s ready to move on to another idea.

“That’s money over the dam,” he said.

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