Thursday January 01, 1970
The South Burlington City Council approved two resolutions Tuesday night that will send the long-awaited City Center project to the voters on the Nov. 6 ballot.
But it was not unanimous.
A motion to approve a resolution for incurring bonded debt for the new municipal building, and a motion to hold a special election of the voters on Nov. 6 for a vote on the conveyance of land from the South Burlington School District to the city for the municipal building, were both approved by a council vote of 3-1-1. Councilor Tim Barritt dissented, and Councilor Tom Chittenden abstained. Council Chair Helen Riehle and councilors Dave Kaufman and Meaghan Emery voted in favor.
Another motion to request a substantial change to the Tax Increment Financing Plan (TIF) in order to fund the fully eligible portion of the City Center project with TIF funds was also approved, by a vote of 4-1, with Barritt dissenting. The request to the Vermont Economic Project Council (VEPC) is based on the changed amount that would be serviced by TIF funds, from the previously projected 10-30 percent to 22-28 percent.
The votes came after a lengthy public hearing on the City Center project Tuesday night 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.
That was also the position of Councilor Chittenden, who prior to the votes read a statement explaining his view.
“I am not convinced that South Burlington needs a new City Hall,” he said. “ Our current facility has been recently been updated and I’d rather we build Parks and Rec a facility for them to move into to free up more space here in our current city hall… I think this plan is putting too much on too small of a lot and has not addressed the very relevant parking needs for a facility like this… I would much rather scale back this plan to just the library with an underground parking garage...”
Chittenden said the City of Winooski just passed a bond for $3.9 million to build a public pool.
“I would much rather we build a library for $15 million, with 30 percent paid for with TIF monies, and a public pool at Jaycee Park. I just don’t think we need a new City Hall so I can’t support this proposal as it is currently presented.”
However, Chittenden added that because he truly believes that South Burlington needs a library, he would not vote against the proposal.
“Because I can’t vote for a new City Hall and I don’t want to vote against a new library, I currently plan to abstain,” he said.
Going around the table, Emery, Kaufman and Riehle each expressed their support for the project.
“I do feel a level of satisfaction that we will have a beautiful, long lasting building for generations to enjoy,” Emery said. “The longer I’m on the City Council, the more humbled I am. The residents of this city are visionary, curious, generous people and they are very forward thinking. This is a place that has so much to give, and although we’re little Vermont and little South Burlington, when we add it all up, we are very important and we deserve this building, and I will do everything I can to make it happen.”
Councilor Dave Kaufman took a more pointed approach, expressing his support and noting Chittenden’s ancestry.
“I can’t think of one community in Vermont where the city hall isn’t downtown,” Kaufman said to Chittenden. “I think of your ancestor, Thomas Chittenden, the first governor of Vermont, and I think he would say, ‘Darn it, Tom!’”
The room erupted with laughter.
“Wow, you went right to the ancestry,” Chittenden remarked with a smile.
Barritt echoed Chittenden’s sentiment, to a point.
“I don’t like the present incarnation with the city hall,” he said. “It’s too expensive. Just because we have a TIF District doesn’t mean we have to build there. I’m on the same page as Tom, but I wouldn’t abstain. I would vote ‘no’.” That level of debt for that long for something we don’t need has tilted it in the wrong way and it’s turning me off.”
Council Chair Riehle was the last to speak before the votes.
“I’m a very strong supporter of this concept,” she said. “We’ve been dreaming of a city center for 40 years. I think we have right-sized it to fit our purse strings and the needs of our community. I think it’s time to ask the voters to make this critical decision. This project is vital to a successful downtown. I will definitely be voting ‘yes’.”
In the end, the measures were approved and most of the residents gathered at the meeting erupted with applause
According to Project Manager Ilona Blanchard, all told, the debt resolution authorizes a general obligation debt against the city’s credit for $20.4 million, the bulk of the cost of the City Center project, which will include a city hall, library and senior center on Market Street near the Rick Marcotte Central School. If approved by voters, the project would be paid for with two primary sources, the City Center Capital Improvement Reserve Fund (CIP) and the TIF District Financing Increment.
There will be no increase to the tax rate specifically for the City Center project. The city will continue to extract $736,000 a year from the General Fund for the CIP, as it has for the last five years, toward the project.
South Burlington’s TIF District is one of 11 created in cities around the state and authorized by the VEPC under the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. TIF Districts are established in areas that require public infrastructure improvements and encourage property development. Once approved by the VEPC and with voter approval, the city can incur debt and keep a portion of the property tax revenue growth within the district to finance the infrastructure being built. Those are TIF funds. The city keeps 75 percent and will send 25 percent of those funds back to the state.
The conveyance of one acre of land from the South Burlington School District to the city would allow the city to include needed parking for the City Center project. In a memorandum of understanding with the city, the school district would in turn receive the current City Hall building on Dorset Street to house its administrative offices.
SOURCE: Lee Kahrs, The Other Paper