Burlington mayoral candidates weigh in on CityPlace
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The Burlington City Council Tuesday night was expected to approve a settlement agreement between the city and the developers of CityPlace that could allow construction on the long-stalled project to begin as early as this fall. As Dom Amato reports, while all three of the top candidates running for mayor support the project, they disagree on how the city got to this place.
A historically problematic spot for Burlington continues to sit dormant. Progress has been made behind the scenes to get CityPlace built after control of the project changed hands multiple times. City Council President Max Tracy, P-Ward 2, says he would have pursued legal action sooner to get work started earlier. “Hopefully we’ll be able to find a path forward that will result in construction at that site after three years of really painful delays,” he said.
While he supports the more scaled-down project and public infrastructure improvements, union jobs to construct the multi-use building is a major sticking point for Tracy. “That speaks to the equity that we need to see in this project to make this a project that brings people in rather than keeps people out,” he said.
Councilor Ali Dieng, I-Ward 7, supports more development to make Burlington welcoming and vibrant but he wants taxpayers to have a bigger voice in major city decisions. “The project was pushed to the people,” he said. “This is not the way we should do business.”
He believes financing should have been in place before the demolition of the mall and says the city lost money because of the delays. “It was a pipe dream and what resulted with it? We lost tax base, we also lost jobs, and we lost -- businesses are leaving,) Dieng said.
The city did collect less in property taxes when the mall was torn down but they will re-coop those losses in a new agreement with the developer. Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington, believes the city took all the right steps at the right time. “I think we’ve been holding the developers to account throughout this process. We’ve secured hundreds of thousands of dollars for Burlingtonians and downtown stakeholders,” he said. He shares frustration with the public and says a complex project like this isn’t easy to pull off. Since the city does not own the land, he says progress can only be made through a partnership with the developers. “We will deliver on this project.”
The developers of CityPlace are now looking at next Wednesday’s Development Review Board meeting, where they are looking to get a new zoning permit for the project. The City Council approving the settlement agreement was a crucial step for the DRB to grant the permit.
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