Thursday May 10, 2018
Efforts to improve and enhance pedestrian and cyclist safety have been in the works in South Burlington since the 1980s, when the concept of a recreation path to link neighborhoods first took shape. Over the years the work of the original Recreation Path Committee, now the Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee, expanded into the creation of the extensive system of paths and bike lanes in existence today. The committee has identified a number of key gaps in the system, and has devised a funding strategy to create a more seamless link between neighborhoods, schools, parks and services. Upon the recommendation of the city’s Bike and Pedestrian Committee, the council voted unanimously Monday night to test the community’s temperature for investing in this infrastructure by placing a “Penny for Paths” initiative on the August 14 ballot. If approved, the program will utilize an additional 1 cent on the tax rate for the duration of ten years to build out bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
Prior to this action, at the April 16 council meeting, a presentation and discussion was held with the Bike and Pedestrian Committee regarding their proposal. Members of the committee, Amanda Holland and Shawn Goddard, explained that the goal in creating the “Penny for Paths” program for South Burlington was to establish a long term funding stream with the purpose of closing the gaps in connectivity and building additional infrastructure to facilitate that aim. The current gaps in connections were outlined on a map to illustrate their point.
In addition to building infrastructure, the committee is also trying to develop a strategic approach to building a city that is truly walkable and bikeable, and they believe that establishing a ten year plan will improve their opportunities to apply for external grant funding. The committee also noted that other area communities such as Winooski, Burlington, and Shelburne have been making significant investments in their recreation paths and South Burlington doesn’t want to be the outlier. They noted Winooski’s Main Street revitalization project, the expansion of the Rte 15 recreation path between Lime Kiln and Susie Wilson Roads, and the extension of the Williston Road bike lanes as examples.
While the additional penny to the current tax rate, if approved, wouldn’t take affect until July 2019, the committee is hoping that placing the item on the August 2018 ballot will allow time during the summer to do community outreach and gather support for the plan.
The program is estimated to raise $300,000 per year. The tax impact to the average homeowner would be $33.61 per year and the average condo owner would pay $23.14 annually, according to Deputy City Manager Tom Hubbard.
At the second council meeting in June, City Attorney Andrew Bolduc will present ballot language to the council for potential action.
SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent