East Terrace/Spear Street Neighborhood Survey Results: No to Overlay District

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Thursday December 03, 2015

In a step to find resolution to issues that residents of the East Terrace/Spear Street neighborhood have been bringing to them for years, the City of South Burlington recently conducted a survey among residents.

At the heart of the issue is the changing nature of the neighborhood, due to a growing number of owner-occupied single-family homes being bought for conversion to rental property units. Noise, parking, disrespectful behavior, and trash have been persistent issues residents have been trying to resolve since 2012, when the subject was first brought to the attention of the council by resident Barbara Bull.

Over the past year, meetings have taken place between the council and residents to brainstorm resolutions to the problems. In addition, non-resident property owners and landlords were invited to weigh in at a May 29, 2015 public meeting. Residents have suggested resolutions, developing a task force, looking at ordinances that have worked in other cities, and the implementation of an overlay district.

The survey, sent to 69 residents, was an effort to measure response to the possible creation of an overlay district as a means to address these concerns. An overlay district is a regulatory tool used to establish special development requirements within a particular area.

The four-question survey, which received 35 responses, asked neighbors if they would support some form of action by the city council to prohibit the sale and conversion of currently owner-occupied property into rental units, and if any such restriction were to have an effect on the home’s sale price, would they support it? In addition, if any such restriction were to potentially influence who might or might not be interested in a property, would they support this restriction? The votes were tallied, and for the most part, neighbors answered “no”.

At the November 16 meeting, councilors reviewed and discussed the results of the survey and their efforts in general, including the multiple community forums. The councilors were unanimous in determining that at this point, the only thing left for them to do is to enforce the current city ordinances (pertaining to parking and the number of unrelated persons who are permitted to live at the same address) and to ask the neighbors to continue brainstorming ideas for how they want to move forward.

Council member Helen Riehle said, “They (the neighbors) should meet and come up with more ideas of how to maintain the integrity of their neighborhood, but we need to assure them they will be listened to.” Riehle also pointed out that an overlay district was not the only solution that was on the table and that she does not feel the parking issue has been resolved yet either.

Chair Pat Nowak added, “The city has put in a lot of time and effort, now this issue needs to go back to the neighbors . . . to an association or the creation of a deed amendment . . . the city has done what it can and doesn’t think an overlay district is appropriate at this time.”

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent