Saturday, September 3, 2016

Ward 7 NPA Report by Diane Gayer: School taxes, Champlain College Housing Plans, roads, Mall developments, &c.

Last night's NPA meeting was a full schedule with updates on many key city concerns. The following are my comments:

1. Burlington Schools and their physical needs.  This adds up to $65million in deferred maintenance with a vote coming in November or March according to the school board.  it appears they are finally seriously considered using the existing school buildings and not assuming a tear-down as previously advised by architects.

2. Champlain College update with focus on where they are housing students this year: 287 College, Bayberry Place Ward 1 (the old Ireland concrete mix site); Eagle's Landing is several years away because of purchasing tie-up on the old parking lot.

3.UVM update: they are solving student noise problems with quick response and community action. A new Campus Master Plan is underway... and who knows where they are housing the students--we didn't' get to that.

4. Don Sinex of Devonwood presentation on the Burlington TOWN CENTER.
Where to start?  We have seen so many presentations on how great this is going to be for Burlington, but meanwhile no one is talking about the impact of this major urban renewal project on surrounding properties; viability of Cherry Street, esp in winter; or how it does not comply with our existing zoning ordinances or planning documents.  Meanwhile City Council is still moving forward on the OVERLAY DISTRICT to allow the Mall redevelopment to go forward without any of the rules that apply to the rest of us.

The presentation by Mr. Sinex and Jesse Beck of Freeman French Architects was very professional and reflected a lot of thought, but it is a massive design compared to what we collectively included as redevelopment for the Downtown Core in PlanBTV.  And it does not solve the complexities we actually face.  Why? well at minimum it is still regressive on parking, consolidates jobs that already exist, avoids ACT 250 even though promising 274 rental housing units, and believes that an 8-story building wall next to 15ft of sidewalk with triple towers above is an improvement to Cherry Street's walkability.

Scale is always troublesome for developers and architects especially when they compare their project to other places, say NYC, instead of comparing it to the existing neighborhood(s).  When asked about this last night, the response was that the adjacent small buildings and historic houses were ephemeral (ie would disappear sooner or later).  So imagine Bank Street-- all of two lanes wide--with a 160ft building on the north side and a 105ft building on the south... I am glad we might have the Waterfront for some daylight... well as long as the water is still good.

Overall, there is no reason why the Mall can't be redeveloped according to our existing codes and PlanBTV.  It could still be 105ft.  There would be less parking.  The two streets could still come back, even as pedestrian ways similar to Church Street.  Scaling back is sometimes much more affordable--for both the developer and the City.... We need to consider what's doable.

Sincerely, Diane Gayer

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