Long-delayed village subdivision wins approval

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

A Williston man’s eight-year battle to build homes on his land ended last week when the Development Review Board approved the small subdivision he proposed.

The approval means John Remy can now construct eight homes in Williston Village. The 7.7-acre parcel, located along U.S. Route 2 east of Williston Central School and next to Williston Bed & Breakfast, is the site of Remy’s home and business, Slate Barn Antiques.

“At this point I’m really happy I finally got the project approved,” he said. “The process started in 1998, and it’s been a long, hard road.”

Remy was sharply critical of the review process. He estimated that he spent $50,000 for permit, engineering and legal fees.

He blamed changes in town staff and shifting development review rules for the delay. He noted there had been three different town managers and three different town planners since the project was first proposed. That’s significant, he said, because rules governing development can be viewed differently depending on who is in charge.

“The problem I ran into over all the years was that there were so many changes with the town,” Remy said. “Everybody has their own interpretation of things.”

For example, Remy said he was originally told zoning allowed him to build 16 homes. But later, when planning staff changed, he was informed he could have fewer units because of wetland areas.

Town Manager Rick McGuire defended the review process. He said Remy was warned from the beginning that the project would face sizable hurdles because of its location in the historic district and the wetlands on his property.

“At the time I first heard about this project, he was told he would have a long road ahead of him,” McGuire said. He also noted that the review process is almost a moot point because until recently the town did not have enough sewer capacity to serve new developments.

In 2004, Remy appealed Williston’s growth management system under which the town decides what homes can be built and when. The state Environmental Court upheld the town’s rating system but using the town’s own point system calculated a higher score for Remy’s project.

Even as the final approval was granted last week, one Development Review Board member expressed reservations. Bill Sheedy cast the lone dissenting vote, saying the development was suburban in character and therefore not a good fit with the historic district.

As approved, the development, called Slate Barn Estates, will include four three-bedroom homes and four four-bedroom homes.

Remy said the custom-built homes would likely have sale prices in the $400,000 range. He expects to begin construction this spring