Mega church to present scaled-back plans (4/23/09)

April 23, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

What could become Williston’s first mega church will appear before the Development Review Board next week for a pre-application permit hearing on new, scaled down plans.

The Essex Alliance Church will begin the permit process again with the town after providing plans that are drastically different from the original ones presented two years ago.

The plans locate the church off Vermont 2A behind Beaudry Lane. The church bought 44 acres from Allen Brook Investments for $3.3 million late last year to secure the location. Church officials have stated in the past that Essex Alliance Church, which has locations on Old Stage Road in Essex Junction and at Essex Cinemas, outgrew its capacity in 2005, thus the need for a larger space.

According to the new plans, the church complex will consist of two attached buildings totaling 96,000 square feet. The main building will contain a 1,000-seat worship center, multi-use rooms, a bookstore, a café and a lobby area.

Administrative offices and youth ministries will be located in the main building as well. A two-story children’s ministry will be attached to the main building. Parking will be available for more than 400 vehicles.

While the church’s plans would still make it the largest place of worship in town, “it’s a scaled-down version of what they proposed originally,” said Williston Planning Director Ken Belliveau.

“The project is substantially different,” he said.

Original plans called for a church more than 141,500 square feet in size with parking for 600  vehicles and space for 1,800 worshippers.

Essex Alliance Church’s pastor, Rev. Scott Slocum, was unavailable for comment on the project’s changes. The church’s executive assistant, Judy Verity, said members of the church administration would be on hand at the Development Review Board meeting on April 28.

Other additions to the church’s plans include four housing units built off Beaudry Lane. The street will be improved and another entry point to the church would be built just south of Beaudry Lane. A softball diamond and soccer field are also proposed in the plans.

Belliveau said the church would also build recreation paths around the site, stretching to Allen Brook. He said the paths would help Williston create a trail network alongside the stream through town in accordance with the town plan.

Since Allen Brook is considered at risk for pollution, the church plans to build its facility far enough away from the stream to minimize storm water runoff. The open space and trail network will also help preserve the area, Belliveau said.

“In the long run, this will go a long way in protecting the water quality of the Allen Brook,” Belliveau said.

Essex Alliance Church is scheduled to present its plans at the next Development Review Board meeting, scheduled for April 28 at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall.