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Finney Crossing surges forward

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

As construction of an apartment complex in Phase 1-A of the Finney Crossing subdivision plodded on by day, the evening of Aug. 28 found project developer Chris Snyder in the Development Review Board hot seat, pitching a plan to increase the residential units of the building from 43 to 45.

Snyder, of the eponymous Snyder Homes, put the project in historical perspective for the benefit of the newer DRB members.

“It’s a project in action and movement, so that’s a great thing for us. We’ve been working on it for 12 years, so we’re excited about where we are today,” Snyder said.

Finney Crossing is a mixed-use residential and commercial subdivision that, when completed, will encompass most of a 107-acre parcel of land north of Maple Tree Place that formerly served as a horse farm.

While the DRB approved a holistic concept plan for Finney Crossing in April 2007, specific phases of the project are individually subject to subsequent DRB approval. As Snyder explained, that phased approach has been both a blessing and a curse from a development perspective.

“The phasing was set up early on, because it was based on growth management allocation,” Snyder said. “The recession has hurt us and helped us, in that we actually have lots of allocation that’s available, and we need to start chewing it up at a faster rate than what we have been. Otherwise, we will have the potential of losing it, like we did in 2011.”

Besides the increase in residential units to the apartment complex currently under construction (aka Building M3), Snyder also requested discretionary permit approval for a proposed 57-unit complex to be built during the project’s second phase. In addition, he sought pre-application approval for two additional 57-unit buildings, as part of the third and fourth phases of the project.

Snyder, who revealed that the anticipated occupancy of Building M3 is March 1, 2013, also acknowledged that the completion of Phase 1-B of the project is likely a two-year plan, and that the extension of Zephyr Road to U.S. 2 will be completed as part of the project’s second phase.

Williston Fire Chief Ken Morton, who stopped by the meeting to provide a fire safety opinion on the Finney Crossing project, also spoke of Zephyr Road.

“Although I wouldn’t be inclined to travel through Zephyr to go further out on Route 2A … for the folks who live in this Finney development, as well as possibly the backside of The Hamlet, (the Fire Department) will use Zephyr Road. So I think it’s really critical that we have Zephyr completed as soon as possible through your phasing and your approvals.”

Marion Cushner, a resident of the Chelsea Commons townhouse community immediately north of the Finney Crossing build-out, offered a different take on the project during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“The sketches may look fine, but I tell you, in reality these buildings are truly monstrous looking, and to me, totally out of synch with the look and feel of the town of Williston,” Cushner said.

DRB Vice Chairman John Bendzunas responded that the Finney Crossing development is in the town’s Designated Growth Center, which is intended to promote population density.

“Taft Corners is a growth center. This is where we want to have development, so the idea is to kind of create a dynamic place that brings commercial development with residential development,” Bendzunas said.

Williston Senior Planner Matt Boulanger told the Observer on Wednesday that the DRB, after emerging from executive session, approved Snyder’s request to modify the layout of Building M3 to accommodate the two additional dwelling units.

The DRB also approved the discretionary permit for the 57-unit building of the project’s second phase.

In addition, the DRB approved the pre-application of the two 57-unit complexes to be built during phases three and four. While Snyder will need to receive discretionary permit approval for the buildings prior to construction, the pre-application approval will allow him to apply for the 46 residential growth management allocations needed to see the project through to completion.