Church buys land in Williston12/4/08

Dec. 4, 2008

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Essex Alliance Church recently took a major step toward becoming the largest church in Vermont. On Oct. 29, the church purchased 44 acres off Route 2A in what Rev. Scott Slocum said was a “monumental” moment.

“We announced (the sale) that Sunday to our parishioners and it was met by an enthusiastic applause by all,” Slocum said.

The property was purchased for $3.3 million from Allen Brook Investments. Slocum said the church had been under contract to buy the site for some time, but was able to finally make the purchase after a long process of raising donations. When built, the church is planned to be 141,500 square feet. There will be an auditorium that can seat 1,800 and parking spaces for 600 vehicles.

Now that the sale has gone through, Slocum said the permitting and approval process would continue with the town and state. The church, which outgrew its capacity in Essex Junction in 2005, last received a pre-application permit from Williston’s Development Review Board in April 2007 for a site with five buildings. Since then, communication has been quiet between the town and church.

Planning Director Ken Belliveau said he hasn’t heard from any church representatives since starting work in late July. He did say the next step for the church would be to go before the Development Review Board for a discretionary permit.

Slocum said the church is currently working with the state to finalize its environmental Act 250 permit. He said the process has been “long and tedious,” but they are making progress. The sale is proof of that, he said.

And while it’s been slow going, Slocum said he’s still looking forward to seeing the final vision come through.

“People have needs and if you meet those needs, they come,” Slocum said. “We’re anxious to reach out and meet more people.”