Comprehensive Plan Objectives Studied by Commission

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Thursday January 19, 2012

The South Burlington Planning Commission is continuing its work on a document that spells out how the city will look in the upcoming decades. During a meeting last Tuesday evening that ran nearly three hours, the eight-member commission examined and refined goals in a number of areas, including community facilities, social infrastructure, traffic and economy.

The drafting of the objectives are part of a comprehensive overhaul of the document, which started two years ago, according to South Burlington Director of Planning and Zoning Paul Conner.

Under Vermont law, a municipality must re-adopt its plan every five years, Conner added.”The Plan looks forward,” said Conner. “They (the Commission) will continue to work on its objectives.”

During the meeting, Commissioner Tim Duff asked when the plan will likely receive public comment, and Conner responded that if all goes as scheduled, the first in a series of public forums on the document will kick-off by mid-February (see Public Notice, page 19). Additionally, the South Burlington City Council will hold open meetings about the Comprehensive Plan prior to adoption.

The bulk of the discussion centered on the city’s need for affordable, single-family housing. Commissioners and audience members both pointed out that South Burlington has a large glut of expensive, roomy houses.

“People aren’t buying homes,” said  Planning Commissioner Bob McDonald. “There are no vacancies in the rental market.”

Planning Commissioner Chris Cole, agreed, noting, “No one’s getting financing for housing.” Cole went on to point out that he was concerned the plan wouldn’t be comprehensive without the inclusion of affordable housing. “To me, density in a city is something you want.”

As discussion about the need for affordable housing continued, audience member City Councilor Rosanne Greco expressed concern about the future and scope of the area. “We’re not a city solely of apartments, and we’re turning into one.”

As the discussion continued, Commissioner Jessica Louisos sought to clarify the plan’s appearance. “I feel we all agree. It seems what we see as an objective we may want to see as a strategy.”

As Commissioners took up the issue of community facilities and how to meet residents’ needs, departments such as the Recreation Department and the SB Community Library were praised or cited for improvements. Conner said City offices and the Library are small, but the Recreation Department was lauded as being the best in the state, he said.

The panel pushed for the creation of a wishlist to determine what services the city needs. Conner planned on talking to other city agencies for input as the Commission continues to work on the Plan.

SOURCE: Gail Callahan, Correspondent