Planning Commission Faces Demanding Schedule: Affordable Housing Subcommittee Created

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Thursday July 11, 2013

After countless meetings surrounding Interim Zoning, the Planning Commission spent almost the entirety of its June 25 meeting solidifying a game plan for time-sensitive decisions. 

Ever since the Interim Zoning bylaw was adopted in February 2012, communication amongst Commissioners and Interim Zoning Committees has been non-stop. Careful vetting of Land Development Regulation amendments, approval of the final reports from the Sustainable Agriculture/Food Security Task Force and Affordable Housing, frequent check-ins with the Form Based Code vision for City Center, and a plethora of other obligations have given the Commissioners considerable possibilities in shaping the revamped South Burlington. Although Interim Zoning will not officially end until February 2014, the city is rapidly sewing together the expert work of the committees.

That being said, the newly formed Staff Review Committee--a committee charged with collecting and organizing Land Development Regulation amendments and Comprehensive Plan recommendations and then relaying them to appropriate parties--  has created an extensive matrix for the committees, commissions and City Council as a transparent road map equipped with a universal timeline and mode of communication. The Planning Commission will review the matrix at every meeting under the Commissioner Announcements and Staff Review agenda item until completion.

Commissioners specifically hovered over Affordable Housing Committee recommendations. The Affordable Housing Committee, one of the Interim Zoning committees that recently disbanded after the final report, asked the Planning Committee to devise an Affordable Housing subcommittee to refine the necessary tools needed for a couple of the listed recommendations: inclusionary zoning and density bonus language and incentives.

Inclusionary zoning, City Planner Cathyann LaRose explained, would require developers to incorporate an affordable housing component--or contribute to a housing fund--as part of the development. The final report requests that the city require at least 20 percent of all units in any housing development with 10 or more units to be affordable -or low or low moderate-income households. The committee posed this recommendation to assure affordable housing when Form Based Code takes shape. 

As for density bonuses, the city doesn’t have enough to accommodate for affordable and moderate-income housing. The subcommittee would be able to suggest solutions to increase the bonus density to allow for more affordable housing. 

Members of this new subcommittee would consist of a few previous Affordable Housing Committee members as well as new members to provide a fresh perspective. The original committee was comprised of a diversity of experts ranging from residents, non-profit developers, for-profit developers and financiers, among others, Director of Planning and Zoning Paul Conner said. The collaboration should also include one or more attorneys with expertise in zoning law, as suggested by Simson. Clerk Gretchen Calcagni is the unofficial Planning Commission representative until the subcommittee is formalized.
Once formed, the subcommittee will have to hit the floor running; there’s a fall deadline to meet.  

“They’ve already done 80 percent of the thinking on the complex issues here,” Conner reminded commissioners. Even with the short time frame, the heavy groundwork has, for the most part, already been laid out. 

Over the course of its life, the subcommittee will also be able to share its recommendations and information with Form Based Code which will simultaneously continue its efforts designing City Center. Form Based Code and the Comprehensive Plan are both anticipated to be completed in the fall, so the Planning Commission is looking at a full plate.

For a full list of recommendations, visit the city’s web site and select the Committees/Agendas/Minutes tab to reach the matrix via the Staff Review Committee documents.

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent