East Terrace/Spear Street Neighborhood Issues Revisited

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Thursday July 23, 2015

Issues plaguing the East Terrace/Spear Street neighborhood have been ongoing, and escalating for years. The residents of this once family oriented neighborhood have seen affordable single family homes disappear, as many of these houses have been purchased by property owners and converted into multi-bedroom rentals for student housing. Noise, parking, disrespectful behavior, and trash are persistent issues residents have been trying to resolve since long before the fall of 2013, when the topic was first brought to the attention of the city council by resident Barbara Bull.

Council and residents have met several times to brainstorm resolutions to the problems, and property owner/landlords were invited to weigh in at a May 29 public meeting. Residents have suggested developing a task force, looking at ordinances that have worked in other cities, creating resolutions, and implementing an overlay district, among other ideas. The council took up the issue once again at their July 20 meeting where City Manager Kevin Dorn suggested categories for discussion, such as the St. Paul rental housing overlay district ordinance, parking and enforcement, noise, a rental registry, and the city ordinance that requires no more than four unrelated people can live in one household.

Council Chair Pat Nowak said she wanted more input and voices involved in the resolution than simply those of the five councilors. Of the issues outlined, Nowak is ready to get moving on the noise and parking pieces, in particular. She has asked fellow councilor Tom Chittenden to spearhead a public forum on the noise issue to address mitigation and consider possible updates to the current ordinance to increase fines for offenses. Chittenden noted that South Burlington’s current ordinance holds a violation penalty of $150 per residence, and compared it to Burlington’s, which starts at $300 per household resident after a mandatory first warning.

Councilors Emery and Shaw will be working on the parking issue. They will address the issue not only for the East Terrace/Spear Street neighborhood, but will be looking for input from residents of the airport and Red Rocks neighborhoods as well. They discussed the possibility of conducting a survey to see how residents feel about parking in their neighborhoods. An ad will go in The Other Paper soon, seeking applicants for this committee. Nowak envisioned two people from the East Terrace/Spear Street neighborhood and two from the airport neighborhood joining in on the conversation.

Several residents present at the meeting asked for more action to be taken to change and enforce the existing ordinance that stipulates no more than four unrelated people can live together in one residence. Resident Sandy Dooley cited a Michigan ordinance where the number of unrelated people allowed to live in a residence was reduced from four to two, with positive results.

Dooley also suggested adopting a neighborhood protection overlay district focusing on rentals to unrelated persons (irrespective of student status), and said that the definition of “household” needs to be strengthened. The current South Burlington Land Development Regulation lacks clarity, Dooley explained, it does not define who is unrelated, who is related, or identify appropriate exceptions. Changing this language will be crucial to moving forward in addressing the conversions to rental properties in the neighborhood, Dooley stressed.

A specific timeline was not determined by the council for the forum or committee development, but Nowak assured the residents that it would be a short range project, especially since students will be returning to properties soon.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent