At its May 17 meeting, the South Burlington City Council held a public hearing on the Long family’s request to allow its application to develop family-owned property on Spear Street to go forward under interim zoning. After testimony, the council closed the public hearing and will deliberate in executive session on whether to grant or deny the Longs’ request.
Based on comments made at the meeting, councilors appear likely to deny the request. The likelihood of this outcome is extremely troubling.
A few days following this meeting I received the following email from Alan Long, the family member who spoke on behalf of the family at the meeting. Note that the Longs are not the garden-variety developers that no-growth folks rail against. Their mother continued to live on this property until a few years ago when she died.
Read the email below, and then ask yourself this question, “Was interim zoning intended to prevent this family’s application to go forward now, to develop property they have owned for more than 70 years?”
Note that interim zoning began 31 months ago, in October 2018. I hope your answer to the question is no. If your answer is no, do not remain silent.
The email reads: “Half of the people complaining about our proposal live in new developments themselves, many of which wouldn’t have been allowed at all if map 8 in the 2016 comprehensive plan had been a regulatory document. South Pointe is crossed by a big swath of prime agricultural land, and 12 of their first 31 houses were built in a class 2 wetland buffer (and six more in a class 3 wetland). Map 8’s secondary conservation zone extends across South Pointe, our land, and significantly into South Village. Maybe the city was too lenient in allowing those and many other developments, but does that mean they should be too restrictive going forward?
“It’s costing us a lot of money just for taxes, insurance, plowing and mowing every year. At more than $30,000 per year for those things, the interim zoning delay has cost us almost $100,000, and now it looks as if our property will be significantly devalued by the new regulations.
“This seems to be our reward for being generous with the folks in South Pointe, allowing them to hike and ski on our land and set up a camera in our copse — now they’re calling our property a crucial animal corridor to and across Spear Street. The city’s Underwood property abuts the same developments west of Spear Street that our land does, but we’re now responsible for providing an animal corridor and Underwood isn’t?
“Also, the city council and the planning commission have to listen to nonsensical allegations from a South Village neighbor that our missing-middle housing is going to cost $600,000 to $700,000 per unit, when 43 of our 49 proposed units are condos, duplexes and carriage houses, none of which would cost anywhere nearly that much.
“And, by the way, since when do two parking spaces for each of our multiplex units create more impermeable surface than the driveways of all the single-family houses in the South Village that he boasts about?
“I don’t even know what to do next. We’ve worked hard with the planning commission to make sure that the new low-density residential developments aren’t too restrictive, but now it looks as if they’ll have so little flexibility that a project that protects 29 of its 39 acres, including all the forested areas identified by Arrowwood; respects wetlands and their buffers to state-mandated levels; provides walking trails that can double as animal paths; creates a diverse traditional neighborhood development … compatible with the adjacent developments; connects those adjacent developments with a road the city has planned for; decreases curbcuts onto Spear Street; uses its small stub of prime agricultural land as a neighborhood garden; provides 10 percent of its units to the affordable housing pool in perpetuity; and contributes almost all its other units to the missing-middle problem will be squeezed down to such a degree that our family’s investment in the land is valuable only to our neighbors.
“This isn’t fair, and it isn’t good for the city,” Long concluded.
So again, I ask, “Is interim zoning intended to prevent this family’s application to go forward now, to develop property they have owned for more than 70 years?”
Sandy Dooley, a 48-year resident of South Burlington, is a former city councilor. While vice-chair of the city’s affordable housing committee, these views do not necessarily represent those of the committee.