As the temperatures plummeted this January, the conversations among the council, committees and staff have been full of energy and possibilities about development in the city keeping us warm and fully engaged. Add to that, the organization of Interim Zoning Committees and 2019 is off to an amazing start!
The March ballot will see the budget proposal for FY2020. All departments did an admirable job holding the line and keeping the increase to 2.84 percent. The Penny for Paths increase (approved by voters last August) is 1.95 percent. With both of these factored, the total increase is 4.79 percent of which 2.84 percent is up for voter approval this March. Staffing increases are limited to two firefighters, anticipated to reduce overtime expenses, and a part-time position to oversee and develop programs identifying energy efficiencies, tracking those investments and creating a revolving fund of accrued savings for continued and future investments. My hope is this will support the city’s commitment to reducing fossil fuel, address global warming goals, and save money!
Additional funds were allocated to paving, our stewardship fund, and reserves. Embedded in the budget is continued TIF reserve allocation, $860,000 for debt incurred by the November approval for a Community Center. Although not all union contract negotiations are finalized, I am confident the proposed budget is adequate to cover potential salary and benefit increases. From my perspective, this is a realistic budget and serves our community well. I hope you vote “yes” on March 5!
The city council has worked closely with the planning commission in assigning the tasks identified in the Interim Zoning proposal. Two committees have been established. One will focus on open space in areas not currently designated as appropriate for high density development, utilizing, as a starting point, the recommendations from a 2014 Interim Zoning report. Another will review the current Transfer Development Rights program and its efficacy. Lastly, city staff is working with local experts to develop a Request For Proposals that will produce a cost-benefit analysis of hypothetical development to measure its impact on city services such as sewer, roads, emergency services.
Many citizens have volunteered their time and considerable expertise (I am always impressed with the depth and breadth of talent found right in our city!) to participate in addressing and evaluating these topics. A planning commissioner, city councilor, and staff will join the committees. The Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission has offered to provide assistance and expertise as well. Meanwhile, our planning commission will finalize Planned Unit Development proposals and amendments to Land Development Regulations. Lots of moving pieces, tough conversations and complicated solutions to be undertaken - hopefully within the initial nine months of Interim Zoning!
If all this were not enough to keep us fully occupied, the council is also exploring some exciting and wonderful opportunities to address other South Burlington interests. Firstly, a recreation center has long been identified as a need. With the parcel for the Community Center unable to accommodate a rec center, the Parks and Rec Committee and the staff pursued other options. In coordination with the Cairns Arena, they identified Memorial Park as a possible location and have gathered preliminary information. Options have been presented and are under discussion.
At the same time, local artists and entrepreneurs began a serious exploration for a Performing Arts Center that could compliment the City Center and provide future economic development possibilities for South Burlington and the county. While details and questions need to be addressed prior to any action, including a possible local options tax increase to help fund these economic engines, I am excited about the potential to enhance our community and add to our economic vibrancy.