Spear Street Development Considered

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Thursday January 12, 2012

The board was presented with continued sketch plan application #SD-11-36 by Farrell Real Estate for a planned unit development (PUD) on 25.91 acres. The project includes razing one single family dwelling, constructing 25 single family dwellings, and constructing 21 two-family dwellings at 1302, 1340 and 1350 Spear Street. Eric Farrell said that the single family dwellings average 1731 square feet and duplexes average 2981 square feet. Farrell asked for the project to be approved in one phase, so they would not be restricted to the number of buildings they could build in one year “although the market does a pretty good job of providing those restrictions.” They would start at Spear Street and extend the road.

In response to board concerns regarding waiver requests, Farrell presented a plan that was devised to avoid setback waiver requests. This would include eliminating a sidewalk from one side of the street, which Farrell Real Estate did not promote. “We don’t think it is good planning for these homes, which would be occupied by families, to not have sidewalks on both of the streets, but we can do it if you insist,” Farrell said. He explained that two sidewalks promote safety, especially for children. The development includes a neighborhood park and community gardens. Others voiced that sidewalks on two sides of the street add a feeling of a cohesive community and a better neighborhood feel.

Block lengths were discussed. The board said they would approve a waiver for this.

Questions were raised regarding density and transfer development rights, TDRs. Some board members expressed frustration that the discussion continues to go back to TDRs. The policy of transfer development rights makes some areas receivers and other givers in order to encourage development in some areas and preservation of open land in others. The property Farrell is proposing to develop is designated a receiving area.

One neighbor whose property abuts the land being discussed told the board, “I think we are coming from two different planets.” He expressed concern that the board is moving forward while over fifty residents have spoken against this development. He feels the density of this project will limit use and views in the area. He characterized the proposed development as a “project” and raised concerns about safety and crime rates. He said, “The eyes of this city are on the DRB. Will it cater to the developer or listen to its citizens?”

Chair Mark Behr said, “We’ll agree to disagree.” He said the development would provide “needed work force housing. From a city standpoint, I support it.”

Associate City Planner Cathyann LaRose spoke out passionately that she is uncomfortable hearing testimony characterizing South Burlington neighborhoods as ‘projects’ or ‘ghettoes.’ She urged the board to consider carefully that type of testimony.

Chair Behr said this PUD would be beneficial to the city and acknowledged the work Farrell has done to meet their requests and concerns. The board said that they felt the applicant should proceed.

SOURCE: Katie Lenox, Correspondent