2016 City Council Candidate Questionnaire: George Donovan

Home » City » 2016 City Council Candidate Questionnaire: George Donovan

Thursday February 18, 2016

George Donovan

2 Year Term

Education: Champlain College

Occupation: Vermont Army National Guard

Years as SB Resident: 28 Years

What is the city’s most pressing concern, and what actions/solutions are required? What is your own top priority for the city; how will this goal be accomplished?

Our city’s most pressing concern is how we move forward as a community. We have great opportunity with the airport neighborhood to refurbish and improve. City Center is still in the development phase and requires more vision and public input. One possibility is a commercial/municipal/Library space in City Center moving forward. This solution is made very attractive with the TIF district classification. My personal priority would be a new modern city library, but the priority for development must be a community decision. The library could fit well in either the City Center, using TIF money, or the University Mall redesign.

What is the right balance and rate of residential and commercial growth throughout the city? How does the preservation/acquisition of open space fit with your views of growth and development?

Growth must be proactively managed, consistent with the new Comprehensive Plan, occurring at a level required to maintain our schools and the services expected by the community. The Open Space Report and Need and Gap Analysis recommends “25 acres of city parkland per 1,000 residents.” Based on projected demographics, the city will have a deficit of 5 acres in 2020, and 16 acres in 2025. I support the ½-cent for acquisition of new open space and ½-cent for open space maintenance. Our city should strive to meet the guidelines of the OSR while caring for the properties we now have.

What is your vision for City Center, taking into account the complex components of TIF financing and bonds, zoning, municipal and/or civic use, residential development, commercial interests of local and national businesses, citizen and stakeholder needs, and proposed plans for University Mall?

In short, a vibrant, thriving, welcoming, sustainable place that takes advantage of our existing infrastructure to add diverse civic, business, and residential opportunities. I see City Center being a place our community could gather for parades, festivals, or just coming to enjoy an ice cream and be with neighbors and friends. To see City Center reach its full potential will require a balanced approach and an ability to build consensus in a way that does not jeopardize the current quality of life South Burlington offers. The TIF district classification brings amazing opportunities for our city if it is used wisely. We must create value in the properties of City Center. Incorporating civic and commercial spaces on level one, and residential needs on the levels above within the development will create excellent value for the community and maximize the potential of the TIF. A coordinated partnership with University Mall development will create additional living, shopping, and recreation opportunities within a comfortable walking distance of City Center. Developing a modern city library into the University Mall design would serve to increase available commercial space in City Center. All ideas must go before the public for review, comment, and update.

Do you think the city would be best served by the Rick Marcotte Central School property being retained by the school district, sold or traded to the city, or sold to a developer?

The School Board needs to develop a plan for our schools. At the current time only 26% of the students attending our neighborhood schools live within walking distance of their school, 74% are bussed. That tells us that our current neighborhood centric school system is broken. I would not suggest selling, or trading Rick Marcotte Central School to the city, unless that action is part of an overall plan to provide a better quality learning environment for all our kids. Before implementation of any plan is undertaken all details must go before the public for review, comment, and update.

What are your priorities for the airport, the surrounding airport owned properties and the Chamberlin neighborhood? What is the councilor’s role?

As a current Chamberlin Neighborhood resident, who has lived in this neighborhood over 28 years, it is important to me to see both our neighborhood and the airport come together to support each other’s needs. Having our airport fully operational and available for business, the Air Guard, and residents is a high priority for our city, our region, and would be for me as your councilor. I recently met with the airport to better understand its future plans. From our conversation, it seems that they are working hard to be a good neighbor to both the residents and the city. They continue to look for opportunities to keep the Chamberlin neighborhood viable by exploring programs that may be able to provide soundproof windows and doors, and the option of central air conditioning. Our City Council provides oversight for the operations of our city and as such is invited to hold a member seat on the Burlington International Airport Board of Airport Commissioners. We appoint a member to that board and have a voice on that body. I see a councilor’s role as being a community listener, hearing the concerns of the community and to work towards finding appropriate solutions.

How should the city address requests by citizens for increased public transportation, and safe pedestrian and bike accessibility throughout
the city?

New development generates impact fees supporting bike and pedestrian paths. This creates an opportunity to increase the overall reach and quality of our paths. Paths requested outside developments are funded by limited resources in our Recreation Department budget. Each year Chittenden County Transit Authority (CCTA) submits routes to our city staff for proposed bus transit in and around our city. The city can request routes be modified as is most appropriate. Similar to the Airport Commission, we appoint a member to the CCTA board of commissioners. Public transit and our bike/pedestrian paths are vital to the vitality of our city.

Closing Statement

South Burlington is thriving. I am very excited for our city. There are many great examples of the bright future that can lay ahead. I ask you, the voters of South Burlington, to give me an opportunity to participate in these efforts as a member of your city council. I look forward to working together, building consensus, and finding ways to make all of these opportunities a reality for our city. Because we can. As a community, we can do it together. Please lend me your trust and your vote for the 2 year City Council Seat. Thank You