The Ward 6 Sandwich, Whose Lunch are We?

Ward 6 is caught between powerful downtown development interests and those of the Hill Institutions. Rather than acting as an honest broker, City Hall and our current council member have sacrificed neighborhood needs. This is startlingly clear in the Residential Parking Study of 2015. While saying it isn’t touching existing resident-only parking restrictions (ROPs), it asks for rule changes that favor the big players at residents’ expense. It seeks to further restrict ROPs by days and hours; to shift it from specific streets to areas; to test the sale of commuter permits at $480/yr where 85% of curb space isn’t utilized; to limit new ROPs; to charge residents for on-street parking; and to monitor parking using intrusive license plate reading cameras. Beneficiaries of such a “balanced” parking strategy are explicitly downtown developers who would be relieved of their obligation to create on-site parking in their projects. Instead they’d pay a fee to support public parking garages, an amount “carefully structured so that the fee per space does not preclude developers from being able to finance new projects.”, pg. 89.…/Residential-Parking-Study-Draf… , pg. 89.

Blocks from Main to Maple would be redefined as “shared use” with on-site parking obligations reduced. Hill institutions, currently pricing close-in parking at $329 and facing the loss of the Lakeside Ave remote lot to a limited access highway, would see employee and student parking shift more easily to our quiet residential streets.

Neighborhood outrage forced the City to delay this parking assault. But as a specific recommendation of the new “Neighborhood Project”, it’s back. What else is in this “Neighborhood Project”? It’s aim is “neighborhood balance” in housing, by which it means shifting many of the roughly 3000 off-campus UVM students now living in the Loomis/Pearl/Buell/College Street area into Ward 6, but not onto the lightly used Trinity Campus where there is space.

Instead, they’d go into “purpose built” housing by third parties in Ward 6’s historic district “near the institution’s campuses” and “along corridors between downtown and campuses”, all this to “relive pressure on traditional rental neighborhoods” in the Loomis-to-College area. In other words, the 305 bed student dorm on St. Paul and Maple is a harbinger of things to come. Practicalities in delivering meals and amenities to students off-campus will favor scaled up residence projects. Thus accommodating zoning changes to RL areas are called for.
Like the parking study, this housing study is shrouded in distractions and omissions that draw the eye away from the developers’ goal. There’s a call for better code enforcement and buying single-family homes at risk of being snapped up by subdividers. Real issues, but minor initiatives.

Omitted is the Trinity Campus whose low density and location makes it ideal for a new, fully-supported UVM campus housing every one of its off-campus students. This alone would deflate rents across the city. Taken together, these two plans are body blows to Ward 6. We can’t trust City Hall and our incumbent member of council to protect neighborhood livability. With your help, I’ll put a stop to this!

Elect Charles Simpson for City Council representing Ward 6.

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