Voters Approve City Center Building Project

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Thursday November 08, 2018

South Burlington voters overwhelmingly approved all four articles on the ballot to build the long-planned City Center municipal building on Market Street, some by an almost 3-1 margin.

Breaking Down the City Center Vote

The South Burlington Election Day Ballot featured four articles related to the City Center building project, which will house a new library, city hall , and senior and recreation center, and the $20.4 million bond question necessary to fund the project.

All four articles related to the City Center project had to pass in order for the project to move forward.

City Article I asked voters to approve letting the city use city credit to bond, borrow, or use Tax Increment Financing to fund the proposed City Center building project for an amount not to exceed $20.4 million. That article passed, 6,379-2,500.

City Article II asked voters to allow the city to lease the current city hall building on Dorset Street to the South Burlington School District for three years, with two, three-year renewals, along with an option to buy the property. The lease would be for $10 a year. If the school district decides to buy the current city hall property, the city will sell it to the district for $10. That article passed, 6,940-1,899.

School Article I asked voters to approve the conveyance of three easements at the Rick Marcotte Central School property from the South Burlington School District to the City of South Burlington to use for parking, utilities, and present and future access to the proposed City Center municipal building. The article passed, 6,697-2,045.

School Article II asked voters to authorize the South Burlington School Board to enter into the option to lease the city hall for three years, with two, three-year renewals, along with an option to buy the property on Dorset Street and move the school district’s administrative offices to the city hall building. The article passed, 6,852-1,886.

City Manager Kevin Dorn said he was thrilled with the results when reached for comment Wednesday morning.

“The voters have spoken with overwhelming support for the Community Center project,” Dorn said. “We will continue our design and pre-construction work with the goal of beginning the project this coming summer. The new library, senior center, city hall, clerk’s office and auditorium will provide a great central gathering place for South Burlington residents and also be a powerful anchor for the build-out of City Center.”

Background

The project will be funded through a combination of City Center Reserve Fund money ($15,400,00), revenues from the Tax Increment Financing District ($5,000,000), future roof solar array credits ($720,000) the Library Blanchette Fund ($428,000), and impact fees ($220,000).

A TIF District is established by a city or town to promote growth and development in a specific area. Property values are established at the time the district is created, and taxes are paid to the state education fund and to the municipality. However, the community can then bond for infrastructure improvements to enhance or encourage private development within the TIF district, and then retain a percentage of the new property tax revenue created, rather than sending it to the state. It is a 75/25 split, with 25 percent going to the state

The funding formula for the $21.8 million City Center project is based on projections of what the TIF District will generate over the next 20 years, and those funds will be used to pay for the bond on the City Center project.

Dorn and South Burlington Project Manager Ilona Blanchard, who calculated the proposed financing model, have said that the projected TIF revenues are conservative and could potentially be much higher. The TIF District has generated $84,928 so far for fiscal year 2019, which ends in June. The city projects TIF revenues to increase to over $2 million a year within the next 20 years.

Mixed Council Support

The city council at a Sept. 5 meeting approved a resolution for incurring bonded debt for the new municipal building, and approved a motion put the City Center building project on the November ballot, but the votes were not unanimous. Both measures passed by a vote of 3-1-1. Council Chair Helen Riehle and councilors Dave Kaufman and Meaghan Emery voted in favor. Councilor Tim Barritt dissented, and Councilor Tom Chittenden abstained.

Chittenden said at the time that he supports a new library, but does not feel a new city hall is needed, so he would abstain rather than vote against the measures.

Barritt said he voted “No” because he feels the current building plan is too costly and he does not believe the city should incur this level of debt.

The votes came after a lengthy public hearing on the City Center project at that meeting, where many of the over 50 people gathered at the meeting expressed support for the project, while a few voiced opposition, saying they did not feel the project needed to include a city hall.

On Wednesday morning, Riehle thanked the voters and others for approving the city center project.

“I’m really grateful and appreciative of the support the city has given this project,” she said. “ A huge shout out to the Library Board and all their supporters, and to [Parks and Recreation Committee Chair] Jennifer Kochman. They made it happen. I’m very, very pleased. This bodes well for City Center and future private development there.”

Construction on the City Center building project is tentatively scheduled to begin in the spring of 2019, with an opening scheduled for some time in 2020.

 

SOURCE: Lee Kahrs, The Other Paper