Council Approves Interim Zoning Bylaw

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Thursday March 01, 2012

After months of discussions and postponements, last Tuesday evening, the City Council approved an amended version of the Interim Zoning Bylaw.  The City Council defeated a similar proposal last summer, and began discussing this latest version, introduced in December 2011 by City Council Chairwoman Sandra Dooley and Councilor Rosanne Greco.

The much-debated bylaw will bring several changes to land development throughout the city.  It restricts new planned unit developments, new subdivisions, new principal buildings that require site plan approval, alterations to exiting principal buildings, alterations to any other existing structures used for commercial to industrial purposes, and affects amendments to previously approved Master Plans.

Though the bylaw will significantly slow development in South Burlington, not all districts will be affected.  Several areas were identified as not included under the bylaw’s purview including the airport and airport industrial districts, Queen City Park, Lake Shore Neighborhood, Municipal, Park and Recreation, Southeast Quadrant Village Commercial, Mixed Industrial and Commercial District, and Industrial Open Space district.

Additionally, the bylaw allows for certain types of development such as alterations of an existing single family dwelling or an existing two-family dwelling that do not result in an increase of more than 750 square feet to the building’s footprint, or alterations to commercial or industrial buildings that do not alter the building’s square footage or footprint.

According to the bylaw, the City Council also has the authority to “authorize the issuance of permits for any type of development as a conditional use not otherwise permitted by this Interim Bylaw.”  However, such an action would require a public hearing. 

The proposal of the bylaw drew out many citizens who gave their comments at public hearings and also in writing to the City Council.  Though the economic impact of its implementation is uncertain, the goals the drafters of the bylaw hope to achieve are “to provide the City time to complete… work and necessary studies; review the results of the studies, the Form Based Code and the updated Comprehensive Plan; to determine whether additional studies are needed to plan for the development of the City in a manner that is consistent with the City’s goals and objectives; and to prepare and adopt amendments to the Land Development Regulations that implement the City’s goals and objectives.”

Departing Councilors Jim Knapp and Meaghan Emery opposed the motion, while Councilors Dooley, Greco, and Engels supported it.  Councilor Knapp opted to abstain from the first round of voting, stating that he doubted the bylaw’s constitutionality, however he later gave a nay vote.  Councilor Emery also voted nay.  “You’ve got money growing on trees I don’t know about,” she told the Council once voting was complete.  “I’ve been on this Council for four years and I haven’t seen that kind of money.”

SOURCE: Annalisa Parent, Correspondent