By Jason Starr
Plans to build 21 homes, two roads and a bike path extension in the first phase of the Northridge development off Metcalf Drive in central Williston received Development Review Board approval last week.
Future phases of the neighborhood, a project of South Burlington-based Blackrock Construction, would roughly double the number of homes to 40.
Blackrock Vice President of Development Ben Avery has worked with neighbors to the south on a landscaping plan to shield their backyards from the project, particularly the bike path extension that would skirt their backyards. The developer agreed to build the path further away from neighboring homes compared to earlier versions of the plan, and install 23 trees along the path to shield it from view.
“We want to be a good neighbor (and do) everything we can to mitigate the visual impact,” Avery said during the board’s March 13 hearing.
The board set a condition of approval that the developer consult with neighbors to determine the best location of the trees.
“I really appreciate Blackrock working with us,” Metcalf Drive resident Greg Bates said. “As the abutters, we’re going to be dealing with noise and construction for who knows how long. To have a buffer in place that will give us some privacy is really valuable.”
The bike path extension amounts to about a quarter mile of paved path. Resident Brad Chirgwin argued that the extension provides little value for bikers compared to the concerns it is causing neighbors and the expense to Blackrock.
“It seems like we’re creating a problem that doesn’t need to be there,” he said. “Just leave it alone. Don’t make them build it. Don’t put it behind these people’s houses. Let (bikers) go down Metcalf like we have for the last 16 years.”
Board chair Scott Rieley noted that the Williston Town Plan calls for increasing bike path connectivity.
“The Town Plan wants bike paths, so when we have a development going in, we’re going to get a bike path,” he said. “We’ll do it one small (piece) at a time.”
The majority of the first phase homes will be located on a new horseshoe-shaped road. Eight will be single family homes, and three will be multi-family. Avery said nine of the units will be built as perpetually affordable units in accordance with federal Housing and Urban Development guidelines.
Coyote Lane resident Pete Watson said an assessment of the project’s impact on wildlife was inaccurate, saying more wildlife exists on the property than was depicted in the report.
“I can only back it up with photos. I’m not a biologist but I sure know a lot about the woods,” he said. “I’m going to ask that the habitat assessment be redone. (It) just does not accurately reflect what’s going on on the property.”
After closed-door deliberations, the board did not require a new habitat assessment. It did set a requirement that Blackrock delineate wetlands on the 44-acre parcel and add deed restrictions that preclude building on the wetlands.
The board’s “discretionary permit” approval allows the development to move toward the final plan phase of review.