Construction of government building may begin in July

April 24, 2008

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

A new federal government building has been proposed in Taft Corners. An application has been submitted to the Williston Planning Office for the construction of a 27,000 square-foot office building on three tax parcels between Harvest Lane and Williston Road. The building will be occupied by the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services Department, or USCIS, which many still call INS, or the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services.

The reference is confusing, because INS was dissolved in March 2003 and largely absorbed by the Department of Homeland Security as USCIS. The USCIS handles visa and naturalization petitions, as well as numerous immigration responsibilities.

Town Planner Lee Nellis said the town has been aware of the construction plans for some time, but the formal applications to the Planning Office and Williston Historical and Architectural Advisory Committee have recently started to arrive.

Williston already houses a Department of Homeland Security office, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, also created in 2003.

The new building would be built for and leased to the USCIS, Taft Corners Associates senior member Gary Lavigne said at the April 14 Williston Historic and Architectural Advisory Committee meeting. Lavigne represented Taft Corners Associates and Williston developer J.L. Davis Realty at the meeting, telling the committee the building would be built with brick in keeping with the design of nearby structures.

According to the preliminary plans for the new structure, local builders D.E.W. Construction would handle the building of the project. The Colchester architectural firm Wiemann Lamphere has designed the plans.

Plans for landscaping, outdoor lighting and runoff and erosion at the construction site are still in the works.

Lavigne told the committee the facility would be built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certifications, in accordance with federal government regulations.

A major feature of the new building would be a glass etching of the Statue of Liberty above the front entrance. Lavigne told the committee this is a design requirement for all new INS buildings.

Nellis said there needs to be a closer look at the proposed etching, as well as at a sign on the building.

"(The sign) appears that it fits into the maximum size permitted, but we have not determined that yet," Nellis said.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices are located at 188 Harvest Lane, directly across   from the proposed building. Lavigne said those offices will not move into the new building.

"It's a field office," Lavigne told the Observer. "All we know is there will be very few walk-ins for the public."

Nellis said the developer wants to get started on the project as early as the beginning of July.

"Barring any unforeseen events, we'll probably be giving approval at the end of May or early June," Nellis said.