Coalition for a Livable City Position on the Town Center Project

Coalition for a Livable City Position on the Town Center Project

·         The developer wants to wrap his project in a specially-designed zoning district; this is spot zoning. We demand that the City reject spot zoning.

·         We do not know anything about this developer and no agreement should be signed with him before his viability and credentials have been responsibly vetted.

·         The requested zoning change, up from 65 feet from the absolute highest allowable with bonuses, allows 160 foot buildings, twice the height of the Hotel Vermont and eleven stories above much of the downtown. The City must reject this height explosion and retain the heights established by Plan BTV just two years ago, 65 to 105 feet.

·         All new structures should be 100% Healthy Building/LEED/Platinum certified green, and meet the 2030 energy challenge.

·         Height, views, and shadow patterns affect the sunlit streets that pedestrians and retailers desire. The developer must present a physical scale model of his plan prior to any City action that shows these values are protected. 3-5 stories is the optimal height for downtown buildings to maintain quality of life and character.

·         The developer, and Plan BTV, admit the present configuration of the mall is a failure. Before the City supports a new configuration, the public needs to see market studies that support the viability of any proposed design.

·         The rationale for City support of this project rests on the affordable units of housing it will bring--a mere 20% of the total, with the possibility that he will default and just pay a fine. A better project would have every unit be affordable.

·         A pre-lease agreement with Champlain College puts 80 units and as many as 160 or more students into tiny apartments on a segregated floor. Student housing downtown should be treated like all other housing with annual leases at comparable rates in any portion of the housing complex.

·         The Town Center “superblock” includes two street footprints obtained through federal Urban Renewal funding and transferred to the mall. Now the mall owner wants taxpayers to give him millions of dollars via a TIF bond for the public use of these still-private streets which he will use for retail frontage and access to his apartment blocks and office. The City must reject this outrageous demand!

·         The developer is able to avoid undergoing Act 250 environmental review because he is planning 274 units—one unit below the 275 threshold. This is an avoidance in bad faith and should not be allowed, especially considering the fact that this development would be the highest building in the state of Vermont, with a mass of 300 feet x 300 feet by 160 feet high.

·         Sound city planning begins with a definition of Burlington as pedestrian friendly, architecturally-interesting, and view-maximizing, a sunlit city of street cafés and locally-owned businesses. To get there we must preserve lower building heights, expand pedestrian streets, reduce cars and visible parking lots, and add more mass transit. Planning fails when it is a knee-jerk embrace of developer mega-proposals.  If the City won’t change course, the public must step in, demand change, and vote down any public subsidy for this behemoth! 

Here is the Pre-Development Agreement entered into by the City Council and Donald Sinex

Predevelopment Agreement - City of Burlington, Vermont Burlington

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