The controversy surrounding South Burlington's interim zoning hasn't subsided since its passage last February. Now, a former councilor is accusing the current council of missing one of its own deadlines.
Monday former South Burlington City Councilor James Knapp addressed his former peers. He tells WCAX that he he left the council earlier this year out of frustration with interim zoning, which slows development while new rules are designed.
At the recent council meeting, Knapp criticized the body for its failure to complete studies called for in the ordinance. "This stop-gap measure was intended to address the fact that the data didn't exist before," he said.
His criticism is based on language in the bill which sets the first October meeting as the deadline for the bylaw's evaluation. The ordinance also specifies the criteria for councilors to consider:
The ordinance requires the council to base its consideration on set criteria:
- Council's decisions on development proposals that came before council
- Report of the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Agriculture Committees
- the financial impact to the city's budget, residents and businesses.
- the types of development that create a net cost or gain for the city.
- costs of services and infrastructure ie, maintenance, upgrades, replacement, and expansion
- associated costs on the environment
Council president Roseanne Greco says her understanding of the ordinance did not mandate everything be done by now. She says the city's financials dictate a more deliberate pace. "We can't do everything all at once, we only have a limited budget and limited resources," she said.
Completion of all the studies could cost more than $100,000. Greco says they'll try to complete some facets dealing with open space, agriculture, affordable living, and form-based codes by February. She says putting some off for now will should provide more data for the remaining work and save money.
Greco also adds that, so far, interim zoning doesn't appear to be slowing down business. "We've done a quick analysis and it doesn't seem as if the construction cost or number of permits have dropped hardly or at all," she said.
Knapp says he would like to see the council follow the path he feels it established when it passed the interim bylaw. "Some of the goals that are addressed in interim zoning are important goals, the process is wrong," he said.
Greco says interim zoning is giving the council time find the right path for the city's future. Knapp says the measure needed a roadmap before heading down that avenue. The studies may reveal who's right.
Legal experts we spoke with say the ordinance should stand even if the city does not live up to the letter of the ordinance. However, failure to do so could also leave South Burlington open to legal challenge.
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