Swift Street Extension Analysis Requested by Residents City Cites Public Safety Needs for East/West Connector

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Thursday January 14, 2016

At the December 21 city council meeting, the Swift Street Extension was a main topic of discussion as the dialogue regarding the draft comprehensive plan continued.

City Planner Cathyann LaRose reviewed notes from the prior meeting, including changes the council had requested. Some of the alterations included incorporating a statement into the plan on form based code, its development and purpose, and some wordsmithing on the vision and goals statement. Elements of the vision and goals statement that received modification involved keeping the unique features of South Burlington and enhancing and maintaining the quality of life (including air quality). The council also accepted and implemented Jennifer Kochman’s comments from the Recreation and Leisure Arts Committee.

At a prior hearing, members of the public expressed concerns that the Swift Street Extension was included on the Official Map. Many advocated for further study on potential impacts of the extension’s development. Residents noted the dated nature of the studies and emphasized the need to conduct updated analysis, the need for environmental assessment that looks at wildlife inventory, and a traffic study. How such a road might change the quality of life for residents of the Village at Dorset Park has also been broached. Resident Abby Crocker presented a petition with over 100 signatures of residents who would like additional analysis pursued.

LaRose pointed out that simply because a road appears on the Official Map, it does not mean it will definitely be developed, nor does removing it preclude development at a later date.

The voices of concerned citizens are in sharp contrast to those of public safety officials who focused on the benefits of establishing more east/west connections in the city to create additional routes for emergency vehicles, especially in light of anticipated city-wide growth

Fire Chief Doug Brent, Director of Public Works Justin Rabidoux, and Deputy Police Chief Paul Edwards were invited to the Dec. 21 meeting to offer a bit of background. Swift Street Extension has been on the map for years and all three support it remaining there. Brent focused on the importance of emergency vehicles having alternative modes of access to all areas of the city. Rabidoux stressed that, as with any development, the value of connectivity and delivery of basic services should strongly be considered. He noted, as did Brent and Edwards, that South Burlington is lacking in east/west connections. “The city will continue to grow and it will put more pressure on the main arterial corridors . . . these connected residential streets can be designed well so as to avoid cut through traffic,” Rabidoux said. Edwards echoed the safety concerns voiced by Brent and added, “Many east/west connections have stalled over the years . . . we paint ourselves into a corner (in terms of emergency response services) when there aren’t other ways to go.”

Nowak said that she supported the extension remaining on the official map due to public safety concerns. It was noted, however, that there are not any projects in the pipeline at the moment that would cause Swift Street Extension to be built.

The second public hearing on the draft comprehensive plan will be held Feb. 1 at 7 p.m.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent