The interim zoning bylaw will be extended for three months – potentially ending Nov. 13 – following a public hearing Friday.

Interim zoning took effect on Nov. 13, 2018, to slow development around the city – with some exemptions. The bylaw was enacted partially in response to some residents’ concerns with the pace and scale of development around the city, particularly in the Southeast Quadrant (SEQ) where farms and open spaces dapple the land. At that time, all councilors, save Thomas Chittenden, voted in favor of pausing development for nine months with the opportunity to extend the bylaw in three-month increments for up to two years. 

Present at the Aug. 9 meeting were Council Chair Helen Riehle, councilors Meaghan Emery and Tim Barritt. David Kaufman attended remotely by phone. Councilor Chittenden was absent due to a previous engagement. 

About 13 community members – some from interim zoning committees – attended the meeting. Many were in favor of extending interim zoning, but one was opposed. 

South Burlington resident Leo Nadeau worried about one extension leading to another. He hoped to see the interim zoning committees complete their studies expeditiously so that the bylaw could be lifted.  

“I come before you today knowing the four of you have most likely made up your minds to extend your interim bylaws for another three months,” he addressed the council. “Hopefully, I can at least make you think twice before you sway [to] the support of others that want to see the interim zoning extended as long as possible.”

Nadeau and his wife own land in the SEQ. They are aging and considering selling their 10.1-acres in the future, Nadeau said. But they fear interim zoning and any recommendations that come out of it could impact the value/development rights of their land. 

“Since your enactment of interim bylaws, I believe that I’ve probably attended more of your subcommittee meetings than any other citizen in our community,” Nadeau said. “I heard a lot of folks being extremely passionate about protecting our wildlife, waterways, open land, scenic views, forests and agricultural areas. Sad to say I did not hear anyone being passionate about protecting the rights and fairness of landowners having open space within the SEQ.”

After attending many interim zoning committee meetings, Nadeau was concerned that most of their conservation focus was targeted on the SEQ. Riehle said the council could share that concern with the committees as they continue their work. 

Nadeau was also concerned that interim zoning emphasized the strain development in the SEQ places on emergency medical services and infrastructure. He hoped the council and committees would study development outside the SEQ such as a proposed hotel near the Holiday Inn, a proposed hotel by the airport and the O’Brien Farm property. He said data from the South Burlington Police Department showed greater demand for service outside the SEQ than in it. 

“I highly recommend that during your three-month’s extension, you direct those under your leadership to complete their tasks in a timely manner,” Nadeau told the council. “It’s imperative that as soon as possible, you lift the cloud of uncertainty for those landowners in the SEQ effected by the interim zoning.”

Resident Rosanne Greco clarified that residents who wished to conserve land didn’t wish to ruin landowners’ property values. 

“There are many of us that are passionate about saving the land,” Greco said. “Not taking it, not re-zoning it so someone who owns land has lesser value, but to make sure they’re fully, financially compensated should they be willing to conserve, sell land for preservation.”

She said she hoped the city would learn a lesson from the last interim zoning, in which she said findings were largely unapplied.

“We all know what happened the last time, IZ was ended without those policies being codified,” Greco said. “I really encourage the council to extend it, only for the time needed to complete the work and to enact whatever policies ... you choose to enact to save the land.”

Resident Penne Tompkins agreed the bylaw should be extended so that recommendations could be applied to the city’s land development regulations. Several other attendees voiced their support. 

Councilor Thomas Chittenden sent an email explaining he had “double booked” meetings for that afternoon and could not attend. He shared his appreciation for the interim zoning committees’ hard work and said it would be of great value to future land use planning and regulations. But, he said, he wouldn’t have supported extending the bylaw had he attended the meeting. 

“Though I didn’t vote for IZ and wouldn’t vote to extend it, I would certainly want all of the committee members to complete their work so that the collective recommendations could be duly integrated into our city planning policy,” he wrote. 

With an additional three months granted, the open space, and transfer of development rights committees, and the planning commission on planned unit developments/ subdivision master plan, will be able to continue their studies without developers proposing projects on land they are observing for conservation/development use. 

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