Zoning Revisited

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Thursday January 12, 2012

The challenge to balance the needs of a growing community has long been the topic of debate in South Burlington.  It was front page news in 1981, as it is today.  To view the full version of the ‘Mid-October’ 1981 issue of The Other Paper go to www.otherpapervt.com.

In another attempt to regulate development and growth in South Burlington, City Council will grapple with the topic of Interim Zoning in a public hearing on Tuesday, January 17th, at 7:30 pm at Orchard Elementary School.

The topic re-emerged when City Council members convened on December 19th for a regularly scheduled meeting. The introduction of a new resolution on Interim Zoning was on the agenda, and council was met by an audience ready to challenge the controversial subject.  In attendance were business owners, developers, legal representatives, citizens, and members of various city boards and commissions who took positions for and against a building slow down.

The December resolution was crafted by Council Chair Dooley, and was approved by Councilors Greco and Emery.   Councilor Knapp, who anticipated a late arrival at the meeting due to a professional commitment, had provided a lengthy letter which was read in his absence, noting his strong opposition to the bylaw on many levels. Councilor Engels joined Knapp in voting against the resolution. (Full text of the resolution is available at www.sburl.com and on The Other Paper website, www.otherpapervt.com.)

With the 3-2 vote approving the resolution, the public hearing was set.

The Interim Zoning Bylaw, if adopted, would put a hold on future development for up to two years. It would not affect over 700 residential units that have already been permitted, but not yet built, or other already approved projects.  If accepted, the bylaw would affect new residential, commercial and industrial planned unit developments, and the subdivision of land. Reconstruction or modifications using existing footprints would be unaffected. The approval process of any amendment seeking to add a new principal structure to a site plan would move from the Development Review Board to City Council during the period.

Councilor Greco, who first brought Interim Zoning to the table in July, feels that a lot has changed since the first proposal and that this is the time to reevaluate the momentum of growth and development with an eye towards sustainability, agriculture and affordability.  She cites the city’s recent consideration of a new ‘form-based code’ approach to zoning, and the initiation of new city studies on cottage style housing, along with the frequent granting of waivers to existing rules, as strong reasons to reconsider current land development regulations.   Greco also believes that results from the 2011 Community Survey show that many residents are in favor of a re-evaluation of growth and development.

Many with business and real estate interests in South Burlington are vehemently opposed to any change in how the city is currently regulating development.  Opponents to IZ cite immediate financial concerns, both for private businesses and for the city, and worry about unemployment due to layoffs, and lost tax revenues.  They also worry about long term effects, as builders might choose other communities for their projects, and steer away from South Burlington for future business expansion and ventures.  Many feel that the city already has a proven system in place, and that growth should be allowed to proceed according to the policies and positions of the boards and commissions whose job it is to plan for development.

What is your vision for the future of the City of South Burlington?

The purpose of a public hearing is to provide a forum for the many individual voices of the community to be heard.  This is an opportunity to make your interests and concerns known, and to take part in the shaping of the place you choose to live and/or work. Whether you are in favor of or opposed to an Interim Zoning Bylaw, come out and be a part of the process.