Thursday July 10, 2014
Last year, when the City of South Burlington purchased the Underwood Property to preserve more open space in the city, a plan for its future use was still to be determined. Last month, Councilor Meaghan Emery, along with Planning Commission member Sophie Quest, proposed a plan to take a step forward by enriching the soil on the property by planting a sunflower crop. Time was of the essence, as planting had to occur quickly in order to take advantage of seasonal growing and a timely harvest. Ultimately, it was not possible to pursue this idea as City Manager Kevin Dorn and City Attorney Jim Barlow subsequently discovered that the city could not engage in a Memorandum of Understanding for these services with Mack Farms, Inc. , as proposed, since the business is on a list of debarred contractors. Another alternative was necessary.
With this option off the table, the council held a special meeting July 1 to discuss ways to move forward. Councilors Emery, Nowak, Shaw and Chair Mackenzie were present; Councilor Riehle was unable to attend. Councilor Emery said she had been in contact with several farmers, but they reported either being too busy to take on the project of seeding the Underwood Property quickly or lacked the proper equipment to do so. Mackenzie and Dorn suggested leaving the land in “as is” condition until a specific management plan could be solidified with the assistance of a hired consultant and a task force. The proposed task force will consist of one person from the Bike and Pedestrian Committee, one from Open Space, one from the Energy Committee, one from Sus/Ag, one from Recreation and Leisure Arts, and four community members. The cost of a consultant is estimated at $10,000 and would be paid for with open space funds.
After a brief discussion, the councilors agreed that the downside to leaving the land alone for now was reasonably minimal. Councilor Emery made a motion to designate the balance of the Open Space Fund ($9,500) to hire a consultant to head a task force to create a management plan for the Underwood Property on or before January 1, 2015. Chris Shaw seconded and the decision was unanimous. Deputy City Manager Tom Hubbard will create an RFP for review on the consent agenda of an upcoming council meeting.
Councilor Nowak said she wanted to see the best use of the property. “What are the things the city needs?” Nowak asked. “An additional park? Another ball field?”
SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent