Lets Not Allow Anymore Deal Sweeteners!
Charles Simpson Speaks out as City Council Deliberates on the Burlington Town Center and Deal Sweeteners
1. As the Progressive Party candidate for City Council in the South District, I’m concerned about this administration’s preoccupation with “sweetening the deal” in order to net big development projects such as BTC and Cambrian Rise. I ask Council for a more rigorous stewardship of the public interest.
a. Design aspects essential to these projects should be paid for by their investors. This means internal roads and essential open-space elements.
b. Return our focus to improving the fine grain of the city. Lot by lot, there is great potential for density and mixed use now wasted.
i. Vacant commercial parcels, some mere feet from Church Street, are eyesores and don’t contribute to employment, to the tax base, or to the ambience of street life. Council should craft incentives and penalties that shift vacant commercial property back to work for the city and its residents.
ii. The myriad of empty lots downtown, most used as surface parking, need Council’s attention. They should support mixed-use development with below ground parking. Such surface parking lots are on South Winooski and Center Street in the middle of our CBD, others on Maple and South Catherine. Council should prioritize incentives and penalties to get these properties back into economic use.
iii. Council needs to mandate proper maintenance of public facilities and forbid their de-acquisition to private ownership, including to non-profits. This pattern began with a sweetheart lease of the Taft School to UVM for a mere $20,000 annually, a small apartment rent. It may well extend to Memorial Auditorium. In each case, the City’s excuse is that catching up with deferred maintenance is too costly. That’s like saying our past failure is our excuse for present failure. In the same 1926-28 period, a forward thinking administration constructed City Hall, the Central Fire Station, and Memorial Auditorium. The first two remain functional and part of hour heritage. If Memorial has fallen into disrepair, that’s government’s choice. And as a result in has had to cease serving public needs–youth music, performance space, BCA studios, and potentially many more. The grain of public life requires Memorial.
iv. It also requires a City Hall Park where maintenance is equal to use, where toddlers can play in a naturalistic setting of grass, sand, and flowers, where residents can identify with the beautiful and historic stone bowl fountain as a central feature, where bathroom access exists. It is the residents’ park first, not simply a driver of the tourist economy.
It also requires a City Hall Park where maintenance is equal to use, where toddlers can play in a naturalistic setting of grass, sand, and flowers, where residents can identify with the beautiful and historic stone bowl fountain as a central feature, where bathroom access exists. It is the residents’ park first, not simply a driver of the tourist economy.