Construction begins at village subdivision (7/9/09)

July 9, 2009
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Construction crews began work late last month on the long-awaited Slate Barn Estates in Williston Village. The seven-acre subdivision, which has a long and storied history with the town, is under the supervision of a new developer.

In June, developer Tom Hergenrother Jr. of Colchester-based Hergenrother Custom Development LLC bought the land from John and Heather Remy. Hergenrother soon applied for a permit from the Planning Department to build an access road to the development. Work is currently under way on the road.

Williston’s Senior Planner Matt Boulanger said Hergenrother has also received one permit to build a home and two more home permits are in the works.

When completed, Slate Barn Estates will have eight homes, according to plans. The subdivision is located in the heart of the village, directly across from the Williston Police Station on U.S. 2.

Hergenrother’s brother, Adam Hergenrother, said two homes have already sold. He said the homes will follow a “Vermont vernacular style” and be built with only high-end products. They will also meet the standards of the Historic Village. Each three- to four-bedroom home will have a two-car garage and basement and be built up to 3,100 square feet in size. Adam Hergenrother, a realtor with Hergenrother Team, said the homes will sell for somewhere between $440,000 to $500,000.

Planning Director Ken Belliveau said the fact that two homes have already sold should be good news for realtors and housing developers in the Champlain Valley.

“It tells you something that people are willing to spend some money right now,” Belliveau said.

Adam Hergenrother said the economy in Vermont isn’t as bad as other parts of the country. He said many families are tired of renting and have found good deals on properties, thus turning around the housing market.

Slate Barn Estates also holds a lot of appeal, Adam Hergenrother added. It’s located close to Williston Central School and the recreation fields at the Williston Community Park.

“Those are big plusses for everybody,” Adam Hergenrother said, adding that both homes sold to families with two or more children.

The Remys purchased the Slate Barn property in 1992 and began formulating plans on how to develop it soon after. It wasn’t until 2006 that the Development Review Board approved the project.

When the Remys went to retrieve building permits, they ran into difficulty. Former Zoning Administrator D.K. Johnston told the Remys that the homes exceeded limits on square footage originally agreed upon with the Development Review Board. Johnston counted the garages in his calculations, with the Development Review Board later supporting the decision.

The Remys appealed to the Environmental Court, which sided with the owners in stating the town was misleading the Remys in square footage procedures.

Last year, Belliveau again looked at the project and determined the garages should not be included in the square footage, thus clearing the way for development.

In May, the Selectboard decided against purchasing the Slate Barn property after Hergenrother made an offer to the Remys for more than $500,000. In a stipulation on the property when the Remys originally purchased it, the town could match any offer from a developer to buy the land.

Adam Hergenrother said his brother plans to have all homes built within the next two years. It’s his brother’s first large project as an independent developer. The brothers’ father, Tom Hergenrother, is a longtime builder in the Champlain Valley and built homes in the Coyote Run and Martel Hill subdivisions.