News

60 homes approved for golf course redevelopment

Two Mountain View Road subdivisions receive housing allocations

 BY JASON STARR

Observer staff

The Williston Development Review Board approved about 80 new homes in two separate Mountain View Road subdivisions that are less than a mile apart last Tuesday, during the board’s annual growth management meeting. 

The board uses the annual meeting to give development proposals that have already received preliminary approval the right to build a limited number of houses. The process is designed to moderate the pace of residential growth so it doesn’t overwhelm town services. When an applicant receives housing allowances at the meeting, it can then proceed to a final development review hearing.

About 60 of the homes approved last Tuesday are sited on what is currently the Catamount Country Club golf course. Land developer Chris Senesac of Ethan Allen Holdings is proposing a 148-home subdivision on the majority of the course. Three of the golf holes will remain, along with a new playground, rec paths and open space on the 30-acre parcel, according to plans submitted to the board. If the proposal is to reach its full 148-home vision, it will require allocations at future growth management meetings.

The subdivision’s roads would create a new north-south connection between Williston Village and Mountain View Road via the neighborhoods of Raven Circle and Southridge Road.

Less than a mile to the west, across from Trinity Baptist Church, 19 homes were allocated on 10 acres owned by Scott Michaud. That development would create a new intersection with Meadowrun Road. The Meadowrun and Forrest Run homeowners associations have filed written objections to the proposal on several grounds, including pedestrian safety and increased traffic.

“There is no through traffic today,” the homeowners associations wrote in a letter to the board, noting that their residents are primarily senior citizens. “Motorists using the new connection … will create new dangers to (our) residents.”

The 19-home allocation was approved unanimously by the board.

Allocations are based on how well a development proposal scores on a list of criteria that includes energy conservation, the number of affordable housing units, housing variety, neighborhood design, and rec paths and trails. The golf course redevelopment received the 

highest score of any residentially zoned proposal in the history of the town’s growth management system, according to Planning Director Matt Boulanger. 

Former Williston Planning Director Ken Belliveau prepared and presented the proposal on behalf of Senesac. Belliveau said the proposal should have scored higher, even though its score led to it being given the maximum housing units available to it under annual growth management rules. 

“We’d like to score as high as we can,” Belliveau said. “Even if it doesn’t affect the allocation, it does have meaning for the project and for the applicant.”

Among the 60 homes allocated, 13 are proposed to be perpetually price restricted to what is affordable at 120 percent of the area median income, at most.

Dave Westman, a resident of the nearby Brennan Woods neighborhood, objected to the proposal’s high score, particularly in the neighborhood design and paths and trails criteria. He said the density of the neighborhood would be out of place in the residential zone and more akin to what is found inside the state-designated growth center at Taft Corners.

“This is a very large parcel with a very dense application,” Westman said. “Fundamentally, it seems out of place in the context of the surrounding area.”

He noted that the proposed rec paths through the neighborhood don’t connect with any paths outside the neighborhood.

“This project has exceptionally long paths that don’t go anywhere, so they wouldn’t be used by anyone,” he said. 

One of the rec paths would connect to Raven Circle. Cyclists and pedestrians could use that road for a brief stretch to connect to a path on Coyote Lane, which currently dead-ends. Another of the paths leads to the former circumferential highway corridor — owned by the State of Vermont — which has been discussed as a future recreation corridor. A third path would connect to Mountain View Road, where a future bike lane is planned, according to Boulanger.

It is the town’s policy to secure rec paths in new subdivisions in the hopes of future connections, board member Scott Rieley said.

“We are putting together a big jigsaw puzzle,” he said. 

Belliveau noted that the paths, even if they don’t initially make connections to other paths, would be used by the residents of the new neighborhood. 

The board unanimously approved the 60-unit allocation.