Trader Joe’s One Step Closer

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Thursday May 16, 2013

Last month when Trader Joe’s presented the latest iteration of their proposed building and accompanying space developments to the City Council and a contingent of vocally supportive fans, they were met with equal parts gratitude and concern. The Council certainly recognized and acknowledged the progress that had been made in terms of the building design, which underwent several modifications, before it was found to be closer to what South Burlington envisioned. Supportive members of the public said they were anxiously anticipating the good deals that have become synonymous with Trader Joe’s, but the Council had more to consider. They brought to the applicant’s attention several areas that would enhance the project. Suggestions included ideas such as constructing affordable housing above the building and considering the potential for solar panels on the vast open rooftop space.

Monday, May 6, the Council held an open deliberative session on interim zoning application #IZ-13-02 of Malone Dorset Street Properties, LLC (Trader Joe’s). Although the Council now holds interim zoning application deliberative sessions in public, the sessions are not open to public comment. Project Coordinator Kimberly Murray presented the Council with a copy of a decision that had been drafted by staff per the Council’s recommendations. Councilor Chris Shaw once again pointed out that affordable housing was not mentioned. “We have a glut of commercial space already,” Shaw said, “If we are tearing down three homes, at the very least, three more should be put back on the table.” Shaw mentioned the success that Church Street has had with placing housing above retail space. Helen Riehle and Rosanne Greco shared his concerns regarding affordable housing. Both Greco and Shaw said that the corner upon which Trader Joe’s is proposing to build is a key spot and will set the tone for Market St. /City Center. Greco added that she thought the form based codes committee should weigh in as well. 

Pat Nowak said that she was happy with the application as presented and didn’t think it would be fair to add a provision requesting they add affordable housing at “the 11th hour.” Paul Conner, Director of Planning and Zoning, added that such a request would require the applicant acquire an umbrella or change of use permit. 

Shaw said, “If we don’t ask for these things at the beginning, we will get more of the same (mainly referring to the height of the building) low- scale projects.” 

Nowak moved approval, subject to the conditions listed in the decision, Shaw seconded. There were 4 “ayes” and 1 abstension from Rosanne Greco, who had been interviewed for a related article published in Seven Days Newspaper. Although it likely did not qualify as an ex-parte communication, she felt it would be prudent to abstain nonetheless. 

Can Trader Joe’s supporters rejoice?  The applicant still must receive final DRB approval and obtain both a zoning permit and all other applicable City permits prior to moving forward.