Vermont Tech approved for new dorms, classrooms12/11/08

Dec. 11, 2008

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The Development Review Board granted a discretionary permit Tuesday night for Vermont Technical College to change the use of a recently purchased office building. The three-story building, located at 72 Helena Drive and adjacent to Vermont Tech’s Blair Park campus, will house offices, classrooms and laboratories, as well as 22 to 24 dormitory rooms on its third floor.

The acquisition of the building marks another period of growth for the technical college, which opened its Williston doors in 2003. The main campus is located in Randolph, with the Williston campus serving as a commuter satellite school.

Brent Sargent, dean of the Williston campus, said last week the college’s goal is to grow to nearly the size of the Randolph location, which serves 1,000 students. Sargent said Williston would like to have 700 to 800 students enrolled in five years.

Jack Daniels, dean of admissions for Vermont Tech, told the Development Review Board the college’s growth rate made the purchase of the building a positive addition to the campus.

“As our college continues to grow and the campus continues to grow, we need more space,” Daniels said.

The building currently has a few tenants, including the Williston Mortgage Company and Stelletta Salon, and Daniels said the college would honor their leases. But as leases come to an end, the school will move into those spaces. Daniels said the tenants are aware of this and he expects the college to be the building’s sole occupant in three years.

The third floor is currently unoccupied and Daniels said work on student dorms will hopefully start soon. Vermont Tech is looking at three designs for single- and double-occupancy rooms. The rooms may also be modified suites with small kitchenettes, since the Williston campus does not have a food service program.

While the board expressed support for the college’s growth and presence in the town, there was concern about the amount of parking. The school has just more than 200 spaces for the current student body of 400. The new building has a maximum capacity for adding 180 more students to Vermont Tech, Daniels said.

Daniels said not all students are on campus at the same time, but there are peak periods when the lot is completely full. Planning Director Ken Belliveau told the board the college has enough parking for its student body, according to the town bylaws. The bylaws state there must be .35 parking spaces per student. Former Town Planner Lee Nellis added the regulation to the bylaws earlier this year during the re-writing process, Belliveau said.

“Lee pulled this out of some national sources — this one specifically for community colleges,” Belliveau said.

Daniels said the school is looking at purchasing or leasing additional lots outside its campus, with the idea that students could be shuttled to campus.