Thursday May 07, 2015
Residents of the East Terrace/Spear Street neighborhood have witnessed changes over the past several years. The neighborhood, which was once filled with families in single family homes has transformed, as an increasing number of residences have been purchased and converted to rental properties for students.
Residents have become increasingly frustrated by ongoing issues such as late night noise, trash on lawns, and parking violations. Although the residents have banded together, presented their concerns to the city council numerous times, and requested a resolution to help solve these persistent issues via a task force, their recommended process has not moved forward. At the May 4 city council meeting, council members unanimously approved taking a different route - setting up a neighborhood forum and inviting the property owners/landlords to meet with residents to see if a resolution can be reached.
The residents initially brought their concerns to the council in the fall of 2013. At the time, they expressed frustration regarding the conversion of many single family homes to rental properties. Residents indicated that these properties rent to students for $700-$900 per bedroom, due to their proximity to the University of Vermont. This practice has led to investors paying premium prices for neighborhood homes, which has made it difficult for young families of moderate income to move into what would have been an affordable home in the neighborhood. The residents also believe that the city rule that limits the number of unrelated adults living in a single home to four is being violated since the rental conversions often include the addition of several extra bedrooms per residence.
At the mid March 2015 council meeting, resident Patrick Clemins presented a resolution to the council to establish a neighborhood preservation task force. Clemins explained that the task force was necessary in order to address the two major issues facing the area: the elimination of affordable housing and the declining sense of place or community. In addition, Clemins provided a list of potential task force members as well as a list of the owners who rent out properties on East Terrace and Spear Streets. Clemins, representing a number of residents in the audience, requested that members of a task force be appointed no later than April 30, 2015; which would give them enough time to complete their work and make recommendations to the council by July 31, 2015.
At past meetings, most of the councilors voiced their support regarding the development of a task force, but Chair Pat Nowak gave pause and suggested that giving the landlords an opportunity to be heard would be prudent. At the May 4 meeting, Nowak reported that she had a conversation with the owner of ten properties in the area who said that he wanted to be part of the solution. Nowak proposed a meeting between the residents and landlord (s) the week of May 25. A letter will be sent to the rental property owners, strongly recommending they attend the meeting with the residents. The meeting, which will be separate from a council meeting, will be facilitated by councilors Chris Shaw and Tom Chittenden.
“There are serious issues that need to be discussed, “ Nowak said, “it will be their (the landlords) choice whether they show up for the discussion...the council is behind East Terrace in finding a solution.”
SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent