There’s no sign of slowing down when it comes to the work of the development review board, as confirmed by this month’s meeting agenda. The board tackled everything from an interim zoning-exempted project over 15 years old to minimum parking requirements.

Grandfathered growth

Earlier this month, David Burke of O’Leary-Burke Civil Associates came before the city council and asked that a proposed project from Rivers Edge Building Development be exempt from interim zoning, the current hold on new development.

The project involves subdividing a 4.22 acre parcel into nine parcels, including a proposed public road, and constructing 11 dwelling units as a planned unit development on the newly-established parcels along Dorset Street across from Vermont National Country Club and south of Foulsham Hollow Road. It’s also across a fairway from a residential development on Fairway Drive.

Burke requested that it be exempt from interim zoning since it is on a master plan and is subject to a court-ordered ruling. The development review board approved a master plan for the property in September 2003 and elements were appealed. The master plan was amended in 2017 through a settlement agreement with the city and the property owner to allow for 11 dwelling units, which would be no larger than fourplexes and be subject to review under the 2003 Land Development Regulations (LDRs), not the current regulations.

The council granted the request, and the board reviewed the sketch plan, which is a high-level overview of the plan.

According to the staff memo, the most notable differences between the May 2003 LDR and the current standards affecting this review are the addition in the current standards of design review standards for projects in the Southeast Quadrant, the area of the city containing the most open space and viewsheds of the Green Mountains. Staff also mentioned that the applicant has adjusted the project to generally meet the goals of the current Quadrant standards.

“It is hard for me to accept the fact that a project in 2003 is grandfathered to the point that it doesn’t have to look at any of the present regs,” said Mark Perkell, president of the Ironwood Homeowners Association. “In 2003, we didn’t have a whole lot of the development that now exists on Dorset Street and that really should be taken into account.”

Perkell recommended the applicant emulate the look and feel of the Ironwood development to preserve the neighborhood character and remarked that they “would sell like hotcakes.”

Resident Jane Lawlis, who often walks her dog down by a nearby pond, emphasized that the “wildlife there is fantastic,” and that any potential buffer impacts should be noted.

Resident Phil George presented photos of the views from the neighborhood to the board, and he went down a list of requests, such as having the units at 3,000 square feet or less and having the proposed 30-foot rear yard setback increased to 50-feet.

As this was not a public hearing, no formal decision was made. The applicant will return to the board at a date to-be-determined.

Market Street

With 180 Market Street given the green light, the board heard a continued conditional use application from the city to extend the regulations of the Form Based Code Transect 5 zoning district up to 50-feet into the Form Based Code Transect 4 zoning district. 

A portion of the voter-approved city center/library/senior center municipal building is in the Transect 4 zone, and the majority is in the Transect 5 zone, which allows for more building height but is generally more stringent than Transect 4 building envelope standards. Extending the Transect 5 zoning to the entire building provides consistency and is within the board’s power, said Illona Blancard, the city’s project director.

Blanchard confirmed that the city put together an application and combed through the applicable review standards and “found that, in our opinion, this will not negatively impact anything.”

The board voted to close this application.

In other Market Street news, a continued sketch plan and continued conditional use application from Snyder-Braverman Development Co., LLC at 268 Market St. have both been withdrawn. 

The sketch plan proposed to subdivide an existing 4.1-acre lot into three lots and construct a project on two of those lots. The project details would have been reviewed administratively under a separate site plan application. 

The withdrawn conditional use application asked to extend the regulations of the Form Based Code Transect 4 zoning district up to 50 feet into the Form Based Code Transect 5 zoning district to allow construction of driveway access nearer than currently permitted to Market Street.

Making room for FedEx 

Shifting to Technology Park, the board heard from the SunCap Property Group about relocating the FedEx facility, which has outgrown its space in Williston. The preliminary and final application requests to subdivide five lots and one easement into four lots of 6.9 acres, 43.8 acres, 6.7 acres, and 6.6 acres as well as eliminate a previously-approved city street.

 This would make way for constructing the 144,000 square foot warehousing and distribution center at 635 Community Drive. The applicant also submitted a site application for the construction of the 35-foot building, as well as paved equipment storage, parking areas, and site plan improvements. The request includes widening and signalizing the east intersection of Community Drive and Kimball Avenue.

John Illick of Technology Park explained that the signal is what is being proposed, but he acknowledged that the city approached them about a roundabout. 

Though they would entertain the idea, there were associated concerns regarding the size, expense and safety. A conceptual roundabout designed by Stantec Engineer was a narrow residential-scale roundabout and would make it difficult for trucks, which would have to drive over the island, Illick said.

“It would have a direct effect on how I would vote on this,” board member John Wilking said. “I know Kimball Avenue very well. I own three buildings on the street. One of the biggest problems Kimball Avenue has is a traffic issue where cars just keep coming. They come to that stop sign, and every 75 to 100 feet there is a car, so you can’t cross traffic at all because they just continually come.”

“We did have a meeting with the city council for the specific purpose of discussing applying certain costs of this traffic mitigation solution – either a roundabout or traffic signal – against the impact fees or vice versa,” Illick said. “They were in agreement, unanimous, that they would support that concept; we did not talk specific numbers.”

Illick said the project team estimates a signal could cost about $250,000. There are disagreements about what a roundabout would cost. Staff offered that it could be as low as $400,000, he said, but they believe it could be north of $1,500,000.

Board member Brian Sullivan requested that the city engineer, Justin Rabidoux, Stantec and VHB, the project engineer, be present at the next hearing, which was continued to Sept. 17.

Minimum Parking Standards

Following Frank Kochman’s disagreement with a proposed land development amendment to eliminate parking minimums and his opinion piece in The Other Paper (Aug. 22), Kochman urged the board to provide formal feedback to the city council regarding members’ concerns. There will be a public hearing on proposed land development amendments at the Sept. 16 city council meeting. 

“This is going to get worse, particularly around the Form Based Code area,” Wilking said. Though he was supportive of multi-modal efforts – be it walking, biking or public transportation – he said it was unlikely to happen more during the winter months.

“All the people along Williston Road will be screwed if we take out the parking regs,” he said. “I think we’re making a fundamental, dumb mistake.”

Kochman will draft a letter and bring it to the next meeting of the development review board on Sept. 4 and have it prepared ahead of the Sept. 16 public hearing.

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