August 28, 2014

Wetland impacts force changes to Essex Alliance Church project

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By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

Shifting wetlands have necessitated changes to a planned church property off Vermont 2A.

Essex Alliance Church, a proposed 80,000-square-foot complex which will have access driveways on Beaudry Lane and Vermont 2A, was previously approved by the Williston Development Review Board in September 2011—with the condition that a new wetlands delineation study be conducted.

The previous wetlands map of the property showed the presence of class III wetlands, which are developable at the discretion of the DRB.

However, a new wetlands study commissioned by Essex Alliance Church has revealed the presence of class II wetlands, which are regulated by state law and are generally undevelopable, with the possible exception of roads, trails and utility lines.

At Tuesday’s DRB meeting, the church proposed changes to its parking lot, which will have the effect of reducing the size of a planned soccer field.

“What we had to do is we lose the full-size soccer field and the passive recreation area around where the two class III wetlands were, and we now have a more narrow green band and a much smaller soccer field,” said church representative Jeff Kolok. “So we’re kind of bummed about that.”

The revised plans have a portion of an access driveway passing through class II wetlands, meaning that the church will need to obtain a conditional use determination from the state, although the DRB has the authority to supersede state approval and impose its own conditions.

Williston Director of Planning and Zoning Ken Belliveau told the Observer on Wednesday that the DRB agreed in deliberative session to approve the site plan revisions for the project, with the condition that Essex Alliance Church obtain a conditional use determination from the state.

DUNN JUMPS THE GUN

In other business, the DRB modified a notice of zoning violation issued to Bill Dunn for clearing trees on his Hurricane Lane property without a permit.

Dunn apologized to the board on Tuesday for putting “the cart in front of the horse,” but said the clearing of the land was for a planned solar farm which will utilize net metering and will be subject to approval by the Vermont Public Service Board.

“I think it’s a great project,” Dunn said. “The town itself is doing a solar project, so we’re going down the same road.”

Dunn said he is in the process of completing a Public Service Board application for the solar project and plans to file it in November.

Belliveau informed the Observer on Wednesday that the DRB ruled that Dunn will be required to seed the cleared area by the end of the week and will need to file the solar farm application with the Public Service Board by May 2013, or else revegetate the area.

A previous plan to build an office complex on Dunn’s Hurricane Lane property fell through when computer chip company Qimonda AG filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

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