Thursday December 14, 2017
The University of Vermont announced the signing of a Purchase and Sale agreement on Monday, December 4 for the sale of approximately 44 acres of UVM land intended for development. Aligning with the university’s academic mission and addressing Chittenden County’s continued need for affordable housing are driving forces behind the decision.
The agreement is with Spear & Swift Associates, a limited liability company established by Frank von Turkovich, to buy the Edlund South and Martin tracts—nestled between Spear and Swift Streets—for $3,000,000; von Turkovich also owns Eastern Development Corporation, which was selected by the university in September to purchase the land for development. UVM issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) in June.
In selecting a buyer, the university sought out applicants who have established a history of working with the state and municipalities to achieve regulatory approvals such as zoning revisions, and have demonstrated a history of stewardship and community interest.
The vision, in-the-works
In addition to the 44 acres, Spear & Swift Associates plans to transfer a 22-acre parcel located adjacent to UVM’s East Woods Natural Area at closing. Sixty-six acres would then lay the groundwork for community housing in response to an initiative laid out in the Building Homes Together campaign, which aims to increase availability and affordability for the Chittenden County workforce; the campaign has set a goal to build 3,500 housing units over the course of five years.
Though the vision is in early planning stages, von Turkovich proposes a green design, in which UVM’s East Woods Nature area would be enhanced and a regional network of public walkways and bike paths would be expanded.
“We have just completed a negotiation with UVM for the purchase of the Swift and Spear streets properties and will soon commence a careful and considerate planning process for the land,” von Turkovich said. “We look forward to working with the city to develop a plan for the land that will provide much needed housing, recreation amenities and significant conservation areas, all of which will benefit the community.”
A Public Process
The sale is contingent on a zoning change for the Edlund South property and acquiring all necessary city and state permit approvals.
The Edlund South tract is currently zoned in the Institutional and Agricultural—South district, which is reserved for educational facilities and related educational facilities. Spear and Swift Associates will need the approval of the seven-member South Burlington planning commission to rezone the land as residential. The Martin Tract is currently zoned as Residential 2.
South Burlington has not yet received any requests for changes to the zoning, confirmed Director of Planning and Zoning Paul Conner. However, when it does come before the planning commission, the principal reviewer under state law, it will need to go through a series of steps and be vetted by the community.
Some entities, such as the South Burlington Land Trust (SBLT), are opposed to the project. The SBLT has been vocal about its concerns from the initial RFP announcement and has since released a full position statement on its website and shared it with city leadership and planning commissioners. The statement suggests that the proposal is misaligned with the city’s Comprehensive Plan and poses environmental issues and infrastructure concerns.
“The commission’s policy is to hold an initial discussion of any request for a zoning amendment shortly after receipt. At that time, they can decide whether to take up the request in the short term, take it up as part of a separate or ongoing project, or not to pursue the amendment,” Conner said.
“In considering any amendment, the commission welcomes input from the public and committees, and can reach out to various resources and groups to assist in an evaluation. Any changes to zoning will be evaluated against the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Throughout this review, all commission meetings are open to the public.”
Should the commission propose an amendment, one or more public hearings would be warned. Proposed changes would then go to the city council and hold one or more public hearings of its own.
Spear & Swift Associates confirmed that it will initiate a community conversation prior to bringing a formal zoning change request before the planning commission.
SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent