Interim Zoning Update and Viewpoint from your City Council Chair

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Thursday June 30, 2011

Interim Zoning (IZ) has generated much debate and discussion. I write to clarify, update, and share my views on IZ.

IZ does not freeze development. IZ designates specific Land Development Regulations (LDRs) for which City Council makes the final decision on IZ-defined development. Thus, IZ establishes a different final review body for certain developments.

On June 6th, City Council passed a motion authorizing the drafting of an IZ bylaw over a wide array of LDRs. Councilors Dooley and Emery indicated their support for the motion rested on the City Attorney’s assurance that Council could narrow the IZ proposal without starting the process anew. IZ documents based on this motion were published on June 17th .

On June 20th, City Council reviewed and voted on these IZ documents, a vote that failed. A motion directing the City Attorney to reduce the scope of the June 17th-published 1Z proposal passed. The motion requested that the 1Z provisions address only the following items:

(1) Applications for development in Residential Districts (e.g. R4, R7) or non-Residential Districts allowing residential structures (excluding the Central Districts) that match (a) or (b), as follows:

(a) Applicant seeks to develop a two-or-fewer-acre lot under the Planned Unit Development (PUD) process. PUD rules allow waiver of most LDR requirements. OR

(b) Applicant seeks to build housing within 150 feet of existing neighborhood with twice or more density than neighboring housing.

(2) Applications for development in “Areas” on Map 10 of the 2002 Open Space Strategy, with the exception of “Areas” in Southeast Quadrant (SEQ).

(3) Applications seeking these waivers:

(a) More traffic than Traffic Overlay District allows; or

(b) Non-compliance with View Protection Overlay District; or
(c) Residential or other structures within/next to Residential Districts exceeding the height limit.

Amended IZ documents are available at

IZ Goal #1: The Protection of Neighborhoods

Our Comprehensive Plan (CP) includes: “Existing and developing residential neighborhoods shall be identified and protected through appropriate zoning and responsible site planning” and this Housing objective: “Identify and protect existing and developing residential neighborhoods” (CP, pp. 9&40). Yet, May 12, 2003, LDR amendments removed standards for height waivers relating to topography utilization and relationship to other existing and proposed structures so as to be aesthetically compatible with the neighborhood and eliminated this standard from PUD rules: “is aesthetically compatible with surrounding developed properties” (7/9/02 LDRs, p. 92). Concurrently, the R12 district (12 units per acre) was added. R12 generated four-storeyed multi-family units, virtually all requiring height waivers. LDRs allowing such high and dense development next door to streets having only one- and two-storeyed houses undermine the goal of protecting existing neighborhoods. In general, existing neighborhoods constitute our most affordable housing stock.

IZ Goal # 2: Preservation of Open Space

“Natural resources (NR) constitute an element of planning for South Burlington’s future that cuts across all other pieces of the plan” (CP, p. 82). NR recommendation 15 states, “The City should encourage through its zoning and subdivision regulations development patterns that preserve open space areas of sufficient size in order to maintain important wildlife populations” (CP, p. 97).

The 2002 Open Space Strategy, along with 2006 open-space-focused SEQ LDRs, the latter enabled by IZ, marked important progress focused on a single, but large, City district. Taking action to preserve open spaces in the remaining districts is critical to maintaining a “Quality Environment” for all: “The City plans to protect the aesthetic quality and maintain the diversity of the living environment, both natural and man-made, through open space preservation; minimized view disruption; . . . Both fiscal and statutory resources shall be used toward this end” (CP, pp. 7-8).

The City made dramatic changes to its LDRs in the last decade. Some produced consequences that may already have weakened existing neighborhoods. Some put in place open space protections for part of the City. The targeted Interim Zoning proposal is about having development rules that support our Comprehensive Plan, nothing more, nothing less.

What Does This All Mean?

Because the draft IZ bylaw was revised, a new Warning for the July 18th, 2011, Public Hearing was published in the Free Press. By law, development applications are now being reviewed under the June 20th-revised, narrower scope IZ. Only after the Public Hearing can Council vote whether to adopt the new draft IZ.

To participate in the IZ review process, attend the public hearing, Monday, July 18, 2011, 7:00 p.m., SB City Hall, or submit written comments to Paul Conner, Director of Planning and Zoning, at or 575 Dorset Street, South Burlington, 05403.

SOURCE: Sandy Dooley, City Council Chair