To the Editor:

We are responding to the opinion piece by Thomas Chittenden titled “Councilor expresses concerns about land regulations.” (The Other Paper, Dec. 16, 2021)

Chittenden states that his “allegiance is always to the residents of South Burlington.” However, his message paints a picture of someone who wants to protect the largest landowners in the city. The city council is elected to represent and govern for the good of all residents. Our local democracy fails if elected officials cede their power to the largest landowners who demand that new land development regulations cater to their immediate and long-term development plans.

Rather than applaud our new land development regulations for being exemplary and forward thinking in terms of environmental protection and climate change mitigation, Chittenden calls them the “most aggressive in the entire state.”

He is concerned that “we are over-conserving swaths of South Burlington for the wrong reasons.” As we heard from the South Burlington Fire Department at a recent city council meeting, the population growth in the city has led to fatigue and burnout in our firefighters. Maybe over-conserving is just what our city needs?

Chittenden’s message is that the consultants hired by the city to identify our most valuable natural resource did not use thorough enough methods to withstand legal challenges. He presents no evidence to back up this statement. For fear of litigation, the city should ignore the consultant’s scientific recommendations, back down and let the largest landowners determine the fate of our city.

Regarding the University of Vermont, Chittenden says he wants to “honor their centuries of expert land stewardship in the public interest to keep them as a collaborative partner with city leadership.”

Many South Burlington citizens, as well as the university’s students and staff, would agree with this. However, Chittenden would have us believe that he is saving residents from “a legal collision course with the deep pockets and expertise of the University of Vermont.” Indeed, it is not the citizens that will benefit from lax environmental standards, but rather the largest landowner in South Burlington and Chittenden’s full-time employer, the University of Vermont.

It is no surprise that there will be differing opinions on the new land development regulations. It is a surprise that Chittenden is speaking out now, at the end of our three-year interim zoning process. The planning commission has updated and briefed the city council regularly on its progress in amending the land development regulations. One would expect that the city councilors would be actively engaged in this process and work collaboratively with city committees, rather than obstruct the process at hour 23.

Allan Strong

Janet Bellavance

South Burlington

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