DRB tables decision on Snyder’s phase 1

Drawings of some of the apartments, above, planned for the Annex at the former Essex Alliance Church property off Route 2A. Courtesy of Williston Planning and Zoning

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

The Snyder Homes proposal to develop the first phase of what it is calling the Annex neighborhood on the former Essex Alliance Church property off Route 2A is not ready for an endorsement from Williston’s town planners. 

“Several major items need to be addressed before staff recommends approval,” a July 26 report from the Planning and Zoning Department states.

On the department’s advice, the Development Review Board has put off a decision on whether to approve the application, which, in two phases, calls for 341 homes — a mix of apartments, single- and multi-family homes and senior housing — on 52 currently vacant acres just north of Finney Crossing. Board members digested more than 20 planning documents, neighbor criticisms, architectural renderings and planning staff analysis at a hearing Tuesday, then tabled the discussion to their Sept. 13 meeting. 

In the interim, they have asked Snyder Homes to provide more details on plans for the neighborhood’s parks and paths and the alignment of some of the buildings and their parking spaces. They also recommend Snyder ask the selectboard for an exemption to the street width standard for the northern entrance to the parcel (Beaudry Lane). Meanwhile, the town is lobbying the Vermont Agency of Transportation to install turning lanes on Route 2A at Beaudry Lane and the other primary entrance to the proposed development so that north-south traffic can continue to flow even as people turn into the neighborhood. 

Managing the increased traffic sure to accompany the hundreds of new homes is the main point of concern from neighbors. A group of 45 Finney Crossing residents signed onto a letter asking the Development Review Board to force an alteration to the project that would divert traffic to Route 2A instead of coming through their neighborhood. 

The project proposes 341 homes built in two phases, depicted above.  Courtesy of Williston Planning and Zoning

As envisioned, a majority of residents of the Annex will use Finney Crossing to get to and from their homes instead of Route 2A, said Dunmore Lane resident Carroll Lawes. 

“I would sure hate to see this wonderful street turned into a very busy urban street with dozens, if not hundreds, of ‘through traffic’ drivers trying to make their way as quickly as possible to the box stores, restaurants or interstate,” he wrote in a letter to the board. He and his neighbors recommend that the southern entrance to the Annex at Dunmore Lane be limited to emergency vehicles and school buses. 

Planning Director Matt Boulanger said the Development Review Board does not have the authority to restrict access at Dunmore Lane and can only request that the Vermont Agency of Transportation consider improvements to Route 2A that would improve traffic flow at the Annex’s two primary entrances. 

“The DRB does not have authority over state highway intersections,” the planning department’s July 26 report says. 

Snyder Homes President Chris Snyder said he plans to seek a selectboard exemption to the width requirement for Beaudry Lane rather than negotiate easements with neighboring property owners to widen the road and adjacent rec path to the required 64 feet. The Development Review Board declined his suggestion to formally support the request. 

“That is outside our ability to influence,” board chair Peter Kelley said. “We are going to stay silent on that.”

The first phase of the development calls for the construction of three new roads and 208 new homes. A second phase would include the 65-unit senior housing building, three 12-unit apartment buildings and 32 townhomes. 

Phase one is being reviewed under current land use regulations, even though new regulations that would encompass this parcel are the subject of ongoing deliberations by the selectboard. Snyder said he is designing the Annex neighborhood under the assumption that the second phase will be governed by the new regulations.

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