Monday, June 13, 2016

Your Voice is Needed at Planning Commission Meeting, June 14th

The Planning Commission will be meeting Tuesday, tomorrow, June 14th, at 6:30 in the Police Station, One North Avenue to discuss their plans to approve a new downtown overlay district that will allow a developer
to build up to 160 feet, by right, in the area of and surrounding the current mall.

And they are fixing to do this without seeing a physical model of what this would look like even though a number of commissioners have admitted to feeling very uncomfortable about doing this without a model.David White and Jane Knodell are assuring us that there will be a model, but only AFTER the zoning change has been made! We must demand that there be a model BEFORE this change is contemplated.

The city staff, led by David White, is pushing the planning commission to rush this major decision, against the will of the people who have made it abundantly clear over years of input and, more recently, in Plan BTV Downtown, that we do not want a height increase of these proportions in the city center. 

Not only would this be a radical change in height allowances, but it would be a radical change in how we negotiate with developers about providing public benefit in exchange for allowances. Under the current zoning, a developer may build up to 65 feet "by right". If he wants to build up to 105 feet he has to give us some public benefit in exchange (how about more than the required 15% affordable housing, for example?!). Now the planning commission and city council are changing the rules radically by allowing a developer to build up to 160 WITHOUT GIVING US ANYTHING MORE THAN HE WOULD FOR 65 feet! 

Further, this change is being made in response to a particular development and does not fit into our comprehensive plan. A change this huge would, under sane, democratic, responsible stewardship, require public input for a very long period, not just 120 days.  It sounds like a classic case of "spot zoning"(see our definition) and is probably actionable. 

If the planning commission and city council do persist in recklessly pushing this zoning through we will fight it and overturn it. But that fight will require that we make it clear now, before the fact, that this is being done against our will. Public comment time is in the beginning of the meeting. Please come and speak, especially if you have not spoken before. Or just come and hold a sign or bear witness. 

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