Market Street continues to progress into a major artery in South Burlington’s envisioned downtown. While the street is closed for reconstruction, the Development Review Board is assessing subdivision proposals before development details undergo administrative review.
Vision for Market Street
The Market Street reconstruction project will revamp the entire street, from Dorset Street to Hinesburg Road. It will serve all modes of transportation, have a disability-compliant, multi-use path available to pedestrians and cyclists on both sides of the street, on-street parking, LED street lighting, landscaping, traffic calming and safety features. The project is funded by a variety of sources, including TIF District Financing (Tax Increment Financing), which was approved by voters in 2016. Federal grants have also been secured.
The vision for the street is gradually being realized with the opening of the Allard Square senior housing community; the opening of City Center Park (between Barrett, Iby, Market, and Dorset Street), which also received TIF Financing; townhomes at the Hinesburg Road end constructed in 2016; permitting of a 60-unit apartment project and townhome development, and the green light from voters in November to enter a bond for the construction of a new library, city hall and senior center building at 180 Market Street, east of the new Allard Square building and south of the Rick Marcotte Central School.
DRB Reviews Subdivisions
Market Street is in the Form Based Code District, which “encourages sustainable retail, commercial and mixed-use development of open land, redevelopment of existing mixed-use land and preservation and improvement of residential areas through pedestrian and bicycle connectivity,” according to the land development regulations (LDRs).
In this district, the department of planning and zoning conducts administrative review and approval of site plan applications. However, when it comes to approving subdivision plats, that review falls to the review board. Development Review Planner Marla Keene referenced a section of the LDRs to the board on May 7 to define the scope:
“Lots shall be laid out in such a way that they can be developed in full compliance with these land development regulations, and giving consideration to topography, soils, and drainage conditions,” she said, pointing to 15.10 Lot Layout A under Article 15, Subdivision and Planned Unit Development Review.
The explanation preceded the two sketch plans for an existing lot and a related conditional use application on Market Street. The first sketch plan meeting was with Snyder-Braverman Development Company, the same developer responsible for Allard Square, in regard to the eastern portion of the existing lot. Snyder-Braverman Development Company is proposing to subdivide one existing 4.1 acre lot into three lots of 3.26 acres (Lot B1), 0.38 acres (Lot B2) and 0.45 acres (Lot B3) for the purpose of constructing a project on Lots B2 and B3, which will be reviewed under separate site plan application at 268 Market St. The developer plans to further subdivide the larger lot (Lot B1) in the future. This would be a private, mixed used development, residential and non-residential.
Snyder-Braverman Development also proposed a conditional use to extend the regulations of the Form Based Code Transect 4 zoning district up to 50 ft. into the Form Based Code Transect 5 zoning district to allow construction of a driveway access nearer than currently permitted to Market Street.
In the same night, per staff recommendation, the board also heard a sketch plan to subdivide the western portion of the existing lot for the new library/city hall/senior center at 180 Market St. The application, from the City of South Burlington, proposes to subdivide a 4.09 acre lot into three lots of 0.27 acres, 0.61 acres, and 3.21 acres for the purpose of constructing a project on the 0.61 acre lot and dedicating the 0.27 acre lot as a public right of way, which will be reviewed under separate site plan application.
Since both subdivision applications for the existing property, staff recommended that the applications be combined or reviewed consecutively without overlap for preliminary and final plat. If it were not done this way, staff warned that potential legal issues could result from conditions of approval not being addressed in a timely manner.
Preliminary and final plat applications are already pre-drafted, city attorney Andrew Bolduc confirmed.
“I think it’s a public project on a private parcel. Therefore, it makes no difference if it is public. They should go through the process,” board member John Wilking said, noting that, “we can’t hold up one [project] for the other.”
“We’re not here to slow up projects. We’re here to make sure that they’re done right,” he said.
The board and applicants – both for the private and public projects – had extensive discussions about the Building Envelope Standards in the Form Based Code District and some of the challenges associated with it.
In first reviewing the Snyder-Braverman applications, for example, staff said that the conditional use request could result in future issues with the frontage buildout requirements for each of the T4 and T5 zoning districts, which applies to individual lots. As a possible solution, staff asked if the board would consider calculating the frontage buildout for the T5 district as a whole rather than on a lot-by-lot basis. In doing this, the board could ask the applicant to meet the 85 percent frontage building across multiple lots.
Board member Frank Kochman said he needed to review the regulations more in detail before coming to a conclusion. There was also concern about common ownership.
“We have to ask the fundamental question: does every lot have to have a building on it?” board member Brian Sullivan said. “I don’t have the answer to that yet. It’s on me to get the answer,”
Other issues discussed included not allowing curb cuts in the T5 District and subsequently how to service/access the back of the buildings on Market Street. Underground parking and the easement agreement with the school district also contributed to what Ken Braverman referred to as a “design Rubik’s Cube”
Developer Chris Snyder said in response to the public development, “We want to make sure the school, district, the city and our residents and retail users are all speaking the same language and understand what is being proposed.”
Both sketch and conditional use applications under Snyder-Braverman Development have been continued to June 18. The public project for the city will return to the board at a date to be determined.