A plan by Snyder Homes to develop the 54-acre meadow between the Allen Brook and Route 2A in Williston has received preliminary approval by the Planning Commission, but may not conform to new form-based code rules still being finalized. OBSERVER FILE PHOTO BY JASON STARR
By Karson Petty
Community News Service
A disagreement over whether a pre-planned development project in Taft Corners should have to conform to a new set of zoning rules came to light during last week’s meeting of the Williston Planning Commission.
The debate was sparked by developer Chris Snyder’s housing proposal for the Essex Alliance Church property along Route 2A, which has already received preliminary approval from the Development Review Board.
Snyder’s proposal calls for rows of houses with private open spaces and outdoor recreation areas. But with a sprawling street layout and garages for every residence, some town planners say it is more car-oriented than pedestrian-friendly.
When Planning Commission Chair Meghan Cope first saw the plans last September, she thought they were out of line with what the Planning Commission was looking for in Taft Corners.
“That was such a great opportunity for the first form-based development to hit the ground,” she said, “and instead it had tons of garages and the way it was arranged was not in line with what (the commission was) hoping for.”
Planning Commission members are attempting to finalize new zoning rules for Taft Corners — called form-based code — while taking into consideration feedback from developers and residents submitted during public hearings in February.
Snyder said the form-based code had been drafted without consideration of his project ― which he began planning in December of 2020. The Planning Commission began brainstorming the new set of zoning rules about a month later.
“I think the way that (the code) has been developed is saying ‘we don’t care what you already did,’” Snyder said.
Cope told Snyder that the Planning Commission had no intention of excluding his plan from their considerations in drafting the code. It was working to draft rules that would create a strong pedestrian element in Taft Corners.
“The (code) is not a matter of ‘let’s see who we can squeeze,’” she said, “it’s a matter of what we want in our town and how we want our town to be organized.”
Planning Commission vice chair Chapin Kaynor was sympathetic to Snyder, realizing that it would be unrealistic for Snyder to redesign his project in order to fit the code. He suggested continued talks in hopes of reaching a compromise.
“I don’t want this discussion to derail our entire thing about adopting form-based code,” Kaynor said.
The Planning Commission continued the hearing on the form-based code to its March 15 meeting.
“We still have work to do,” Cope said.