The development of housing in South Burlington in recent years and months is hard to miss. From Kennedy Drive to the proposed project at Dorset Meadows, residents have been expressing their concerns regarding the pace, density, and location of such development to the Planning Commission, Development Review Board, and on Monday night, the City Council.
The 24 residents present insisted that they had all come to the meeting individually and did not represent a single neighborhood or have a specific project in mind. Rather, they said their concerns were driven by the overarching issue of development citywide. The residents wondered what could be done to slow the pace and have more of a voice in the process. Being caught off guard by driving down Kennedy Drive, to see swaths of trees missing was noted as an example.
The crux of the group’s request was to have the city develop a document residents can access that outlines how much development is planned for the city now and into the future. Residents suggested a spreadsheet that includes what stage each project is in, as well as an outline of the impacts to schools, public safety, and infrastructure maintenance.
“The nature of the neighborhood is changing dramatically,” said resident Al Gross, who has lived in South Burlington for 14 years. “We want growth, but the intensity and density are the issue. The nature of what we have seen around Dorset Street and Nowland Farm Road, it threatens the value of our homes, changes the tenor of the neighborhood, and seems to be all for maximizing the profit of the developer.”
“There’s a disconnect between the citizens and the council and the council and the board,” resident Denise Olsky said. “One year ago, I went to the DRB with this issue and they said they would look into it, but they haven’t. You are so busy approving developments. Why are wetlands included? We should know when a builder is buying a track of land. There needs to be a pause (in development) until the density equation is looked at. It’s urgent. The train wreck just keeps on going and somebody needs to put the brakes on it.”
Chair Helen Riehle said it sounded like people wanted more than seeing what is in the plat application that goes to the DRB.
“I’d like to know a little more proactively, and farther out, what’s in the pipeline so we have the financial impacts, like property taxes, but also how the project will affect services, and is that how we want to develop? “Riehle said. “And, there is zoning, and you can change zoning.” The residents reacted with applause.
Councilor Meaghan Emery said that the comments speak to dissatisfaction with the LDRs (Land Development Regulations) and that the city needs to be careful with development. Emery said she had heard from the Director of Public Works and the Fire Chief recently about potential strains on resources and the need to remain cognizant of those factors.
Riehle added that the council was not in a position Monday night to change anything, but said she wanted to set up a public forum where residents could voice their concerns more completely. “The Comprehensive Plan is good for five years, but it doesn’t mean you can’t change it,” Riehle said.
Riehle suggested residents send their questions to the council in advance of the public conversation so they can be adequately addressed by city staff. The public forum will be scheduled for either the third Monday in September or early October.
SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent