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Burlington council adds member, debates old subject - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Burlington council adds member, debates old subject

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Monday night, the Burlington City Council welcomed its newest member. Democrat Kevin Worden replaced fellow Democrat Ed Adrian who resigned - unexpectedly - earlier this year. Despite the addition of a new councilor, the body tackled an old topic: how to reinvigorate the space occupied by the long-defunct Moran Power Plant.

The plant sits idly on the Burlington waterfront and has since it went offline in 1986. Monday night, Burlington's city council once again sat down to discuss policies for bringing new purpose to the property.

The problem has stymied Burlington's elected officials for decades. Recently, the Kiss Administration planned to redevelop the prime real estate with an ice climbing facility and other attractions. The plan failed to generate financing though and current Mayor Miro Wienberger pulled the plug on his predecessor's plans.

Weinberger says he remains committed to finding a solution. Monday he and councilors met ahead of their scheduled meeting to try to reach consensus on two resolutions. The proposals - both floated by Progressive councilors - would provide non-binding guidance on how to proceed with re-purposing and ask voters if the property should remain in public hands.

The measures lack teeth but gave the body plenty to chew on. Progressive Councilor Max Tracy proposed guidelines for the mayor's search for a new fit.

The resolution called for:
          - engaging the public
          - striving to create affordable and accessible uses
          - ensuring redevelopment include free and meaningful public space
          - retaining at least a majority ownership stake in the property.
 
It also called for a full report on what's been spent on the plant to date, a timeline for redevelopment, and a plan for public involvement. All of those details would be due in one week.
 
Every member of the public who addressed the issue in front of the council said the property is theirs. "We decided in the 80's and 90's that the waterfront is ours," said Wendy Coe.

Coe and others referenced a campaign slogan from former mayor and current U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. "The waterfront is open for business but not for sale," they echoed.

But, consensus proved much more difficult to reach for the council. Progressive Rachel Siegel complained the council frequently begins searching for compromise too late. "It always comes down to the wire," she said of frequent last-minute deal brokering sessions.

"I'm still at a loss about why we're having this discussion now," said Democrat Norm Blais. He called the debate theoretical, and a waste of the council's time until there's substance.

The non-binding nature appealed to others who see the Intervale Community Garden an example of when selling to a private entity may be necessary for public good. In that instance, the city's sale allowed for developers to fundraise.

The council did pass the resolution calling for guidelines as the re-purposing moves forward. Ironically, Councilor Tracy and two others who sponsored the measure voted 'no' because of amendments made during meeting.

The second resolution, which would have sent the question of whether to allow sale of a majority stake in the Moran property to the public did not pass.

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