How a Williston official's Front Porch Forum post spurred misunderstanding and conversation

Burlington Free Press

January 17, 2020

By: April Barton

Williston residents fired off in Front Porch Forum over a 500-unit development they did not want in their backyard. There was just one problem — the comments were more than three decades too late.

"The intent of this particular post was to discuss a piece of Williston’s planning history (the 1983 subdivision proposal) and to draw some parallels between the reaction of the citizenry at the time and what we often see and hear when development is proposed today," Matt Boulanger, the post's author wrote in an email.

Boulanger, the director of planning for the Williston Planning and Zoning Department shared the information in a Jan. 7 Front Porch Forum post in order to spur civic involvement.

Read the full post here: Williston Planning & Zoning post from 1/7/20

The post begins with the 1983 example in the second paragraph.

"A residential project with more than 500 units is proposed. Six new major streets and 21 cul-de-sacs will be built on both sides of Mountain View and Old Stage Roads."

After the introduction, the post goes on to say, "This is not a fictional project, but it is a proposal from Williston's past — 1983 to be exact. You can see the plans and read more about it on the "Planning History" page of Williston's Planning Department Web Page."

Even though 1983 is referenced five times within the article, residents latched onto the second paragraph which was written in present tense.

Confusion abounded and 35 successive posts about the project, including a couple explanations from the Planning & Zoning office, flooded Williston residents' Front Porch Forum emails in the past couple weeks.

It was always Boulanger's intent to get Williston residents involved in city planning. And, it worked, just maybe not the way intended.

"I have had several email conversations with citizens I didn’t know before- people who have told me they want to be involved in the future of their town. I hope more people will continue to engage with the planning program and the boards and committees we staff going forward."

The correspondence back and forth has put a new vigor into planning and zoning involvement, and as a result, Boulanger has had some fruitful conversations with folks.

"That kind of direct discussion is some of the most rewarding work I get to do in this position, and I look forward to the opportunity to do more of it," he said.

Did the Front Porch Forum post grab your attention?

You can express your views at the next Williston planning meeting.

What: Development Review Board

When: 7 p.m. January 28

Where: Town Hall meeting room, 7900 Williston Road

See the entire post below.

Williston Planning & Zo... by Emilie Stigliani on Scribd

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