Senior housing project clears legal hurdle

Appeal of town permit settled out of court

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Two Williston neighborhoods – one long-established, the other not yet built – have settled their legal dispute through mediation, clearing the way for a new senior housing subdivision.

Pinecrest Village and the developer of Balsam Circle reached an out-of-court settlement, according to papers filed Aug. 28 in Vermont Environmental Court. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The court requires parties to an appeal to attempt mediation before a trial is held.

In May, the homeowners association for Pinecrest Village appealed a decision by the Williston Development Review Board giving preliminary approval for Balsam Circle. The board has since granted final approval.

No details about the settlement were available. Balsam Circle developer Russell Barone said a nondisclosure agreement was part of the settlement. “It’s settled, resolved, and now the parties can move forward,” he said.

The project still needs an Act 250 state land-use permit before construction can begin. Barone said he hopes to obtain that permit in time to break ground before winter.

The dispute concerned access to the new subdivision. Pinecrest Village representatives complained during the approval process that plans for Balsam Circle called for an access road that crossed their common land.

After the appeal was filed, Pinecrest Village lawyer Vincent Paradis told the Observer that the neighborhood association appealed the DRB’s preliminary approval because the town improperly allowed Balsam Circle to use Pinecrest Village’s private road and set a speed limit of 25 mph on it. The board’s final approval omitted the speed limit requirement.

The settlement brings to a close a rancorous town review of Balsam Circle, which will have 14 units. The dwellings will be age restricted to those 55 and older.

Former Williston Selectboard member Herb Goodrich, who owns the land between Taft Corners and Williston Village where the subdivision will be located, filed a permit application in October 2004.

During the review process, Pinecrest Village expressed concerns about the development’s impact on their neighborhood. They said Balsam Circle’s access road crossed their property and complained the new subdivision would create traffic problems on Timothy Way, the road that connects Pinecrest Village to U.S. 2.

The Development Review Board initially rejected a permit for Balsam Circle, reasoning that it needed an emergency road and that such a road was not included in plans. The board later determined that Pinecrest Village had an emergency road that Balsam Circle could share and approved the project.

But then a town inspection of the road revealed it was not passable for emergency vehicles. D.K. Johnston, Williston’s zoning administrator, issued a notice of violation that alleged the road did not comply with conditions in Pinecrest Village’s original subdivision permit.

Pinecrest Village appealed. Lawyers for the town and Pinecrest Village continue to negotiate, said Williston Town Manager Rick McGuire.