Burlington measure seeks to reduce minimum parking requirements for developers

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 6:30 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A new parking policy in Burlington would reduce the number of new spaces being built. It’s already happening in the downtown and along city bus routes. Our Katharine Huntley looks at plans to expand it and what that could mean for visitors and residents in the Queen City.

“If they didn’t have this, we probably could have developed four units there, maybe three units. Because of this ordinance, we are able to do 16,” said Bob Duncan, an architect with the firm Duncan Wisniewski Architecture, who is working on a new building on Main Street for the Committee on Temporary Shelter. He says getting rid of rules forcing developers to add parking lets developers add the number of parking spaces that will actually be used, rather than relying on old rules requiring two parking spaces per unit. “I think giving them some autonomy --to the property owners-- is a good thing and I think people make bad decisions. It will affect them more than anyone else because they haven’t provided the parking their clientele needs.”

But even if the property owners don’t need the minimum parking requirements, they often pay for it because developers pass along the cost of building excess parking. Now, the Burlington City Council is looking to expand the ordinance and eliminate parking minimums city-wide to further spur growth and development, something South Burlington did two years ago.

It’s part of a national trend. The latest journal of the American Planning Association says building parking raises the rent. The typical cost renters pay per month for parking is $145, whether they use it or not.

Supporters say the proposed ordinance will also encourage developers to only charge for people who are using the spaces. “This is definitely going to make it easier and cheaper to build in Burlington. And so I see this as something that is really addressing the housing crisis and the housing affordability crisis and also the climate crisis,” said Burlington City Councilor Jack Hanson/P-East.

Other supporters say in addition to more housing, a bonus would be to push people away from a car-dependent lifestyle. “If we can get this one little piece of the puzzle, it’s not going to solve all the puzzles and it does not mean that no parking is going to be built, but we will stop requiring an unnecessary amount of parking to be built for a cost that cannot be managed by the ultimate residents,” said Regina Mahony with the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission.

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Burlington considers changing minimum parking requirements

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