Grocery store, apartment project gets preliminary nod

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

Williston’s Development Review Board approved a preliminary plan Tuesday for an Aldi grocery store and three-story apartment building in Taft Corners. 

The development is slated for 2 acres of vacant land that was once the site of the Skateland roller rink, which was torn down in 2003. The approval allows the grocery store portion of the project to proceed to final review and the 24-unit apartment building to compete with other residential proposals for allocation under the town’s growth management process.

At 20,000-square-feet, Aldi would be a smaller option than the Hannaford grocery store located about a quarter mile away. 

“It fills a nice niche in the grocery store market,” said applicant Jeff Nick of J.L. Davis Realty.

Between the two buildings, a parking lot, green space and artwork are planned. The development will require an extension of Wright Avenue and construction of a portion of Trader Lane. It is at the heart of what is envisioned as a walkable neighborhood under new zoning regulations that town planners are creating for Taft Corners. 

The board reviewed the application under the existing regulations. If J.L. Davis submits an application for final review before the new regulations are in place, it would also be reviewed under the existing regulations, according to Planning and Zoning Director Matt Boulanger. 

The new regulations, a complete rewrite of zoning rules for Taft Corners, are expected to be in place by the end of the fiscal year in June. Boulanger said the proposal as presented Tuesday would not comply with the new regulations. 

The Planning Commission is in the final stages of drafting the new regulations and plans to hold a public hearing on them at its Feb. 1 meeting. The regulations would then go before the selectboard for a public hearing and potential approval. 

The new regulations would change Taft Corners to a “form-based” district, where buildings are reviewed based on their look, materials and relationship to their surroundings, rather than their uses. The draft sets a minimum height of two stories for buildings, mandates sloping roofs and outlaws parking lots that front a street.

“Requiring at least two stories … leads to a more efficient use of land that encourages the creation of housing and prevents further development of the single-story ‘big box’ form,” Boulanger wrote in a Dec. 28 memo to the selectboard. 

The new code also prescribes the location of streets and alleys “rather than developers choosing on a project basis.”

“(It) sets the stage for a development pattern of human-scale, walkable, interconnected blocks that will be fronted by attractive buildings,” the memo states.

The new regulations draft was created after a series of public visioning sessions last year and with the help of a consultant. More information about the project is available at