Thursday June 23, 2011
With lights flickering from intermittent power outages, city leaders wrestled June 16 with the long-running question of how to develop new Interstate 89 interchanges in South Burlington. Around thirty-five residents attended the special joint meeting of the City Council and Planning Commission that took up the dual land-use and transportation planning necessary for future exits.
At issue are three potential I-89 interchanges in South Burlington. A slew of transportation studies over the past two decades chart the evolution of municipal planning on the exits: 12B would connect Hinesburg Road/Rte. 116 with I-89 near Tilley Drive. Exit 13 would retool the interchange between I-89, I-189, Kennedy Drive and Shelburne Road. Exit 14N, a long-range proposal, would connect I-89 directly to the Burlington International Airport.
A number of CCMPO transportation experts addressed the joint meeting on Thursday, as well as Brian Shupe, deputy director of the Vermont Natural Resources Council, and Michael Oman, a transportation planning consultant.
“There’s no smoking gun that says, ‘This is exactly what you should do,’” said Oman, flipping through a series of slides depicting options to lessen traffic congestion while improving airport access and connectivity throughout the city.
Progress on the potential interchanges is snagged on what some call a lack of a coherent land-use vision. Michelle Boomhower, executive director of the CCMPO, which is providing transportation analysis for South Burlington, says her organization can’t move forward on transportation planning until the city provides a stronger outline for managing the land use around the interchanges. “We’re at a stopping point...until we understand your underlying planning and zoning assumptions,” she told board members.
Residents were more outspoken in their opinions. “It seems to me that we’re surrounding ourselves with highways,” said a member of the audience. “Does the city have a vision for the city itself? What do we want out of South Burlington?”
Sandra Dooley, chair of the City Council and the meeting’s moderator, said that the Comprehensive Plan provides some guidance, but she doesn’t see it as a long term vision. She suggested that the city needs another, more strategic document.
John Dinklage, a member of the city’s Development Review Board, disagreed. The Comprehensive Plan represents significant time, resources, and public input, he said, and to say that it doesn’t represent the community’s vision is “disrespectful.”
“What other vehicle do we have [besides the Comprehensive Plan] to establish our vision?” asked an audience member of the City Council.
Outside perspectives seemed to capture the discord. As she pushed city leaders to present her organization with clearer land-use planning, Boomhower suggested that South Burlington vision “may be in a transition.” Randall Kay, a long-time member of the Planning Commission, reminded the City Council that, although the current council may have concerns, many preceding councils have supported the 12B interchange.
Shupe commented that the South Burlington interstate area is more representative of a sprawl-style growth than smart growth. He said this is in keeping with the Comprehensive Plan, which has led developers to believe that more exits from I-89 would be forthcoming and thus steered them toward interstate-appropriate development. Even as the land-use vision evolves away from that, said Shupe, the city is still left with development characteristic of highway corridors: “You’re at cross purposes.”
SOURCE: Eric Blokland, Correspondent