Election Day is fast approaching and the presidential race is on the minds of many. But at the local level, there are other pressing issues, such as down ballot candidates and, in South Burlington, the much anticipated TIF (tax increment financing) bond vote. Over the past two months, there have been numerous opportunities for the public to engage with city officials to have their questions and concerns addressed regarding Article I, which will ask for the authorization to secure $5 million in debt for the construction of Market Street and Phase I of City Center Park. A press conference held at City Hall October 27, showed the breadth of support for this ballot item from numerous community stakeholders.
City Council Chair Helen Riehle gave the opening remarks emphasizing that the November vote on the bond would enable the TIF to be triggered and allow the city to develop Market Street and City Center Park projects without any additional tax burden to residents. Riehle was joined by three fellow city councilors, Pat Nowak, Tim Barritt, and Meaghan Emery, as well as representatives of the city’s committees, organizations and businesses. Her statements were followed by expressions of support from Mike Keller on behalf of the South Burlington Business Association, Duncan Macdonald from the planning commission, Jennifer Kochman, chair of the Recreation and Parks committee, Katelin Brewer-Colie from Local Motion, Cathy Frank from the Bicycle and Pedestrian committee, Chris Snyder from Snyder Braverman, Bob Britt of South Burlington City Center Collaborative (SBC3), Cindy Reed from Cathedral Square, Adam Bortz from the Friends of the Library, Mark Coel from the Library Board of Trustees, and Tim Barden of South Burlington City Center for the Arts.
Speakers focused on the importance of enhancing the ability to walk and bike to city services, parks, and cafes and decreasing pressure on development in other parts of the city.
Reed, development director for Cathedral Square who has plans to build a four-story, 38-unit affordable housing building for seniors in partnership with Snyder Braverman, spoke to the great need for this type of housing. The lower level of the building will be home to social service agencies seniors need most. Reed explained that Market Street is an ideal location due to its proximity to transit adding that the 65-74 age demographic is the largest growing population in the state. Reed also pointed out that currently there is a wait list of 700 individuals for this type of affordable housing, which supports aging in place.
Local Motion representative Brewer-Colie said the organization is proud to be a partner with South Burlington in this process of promoting safer streets for walking and cycling. She added that surveys show this is the type of environment where millennials would prefer to live; one in which cars are an afterthought to alternative modes of transport.
The 40-minute press conference concluded with Riehle pointing out that city council members don’t always vote unanimously on an item, but in terms of the City Center bond vote, all five members have been consistently and enthusiastically in support. She said, “We all feel passionately that this is a really important thing for our community...the breadth and depth of the speakers today shows that this is not a brand new concept, we have been working on this for years and have been very engaged in public outreach. We made sure our fiduciary responsibility was supported by this proposal.”
Have questions? Come to the final public hearing at the November 7 city council meeting at South Burlington City Hall. There is also a wealth of information on the city website, www.sburl.com.
SOURCE: Corey Burdick,Correspondent