Could South Burlington permitting delays push out big developers?

Published: Apr. 2, 2022 at 7:16 PM EDT
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A South Burlington city councilor thinks the City needs to boost its planning and zoning department to clear what he describes as a ‘backlog.’

“It’s like any other business -- we need to catch up,” said South Burlington City Councilor Matt Cota.

Cota says at Monday night’s City Council meeting, he plans to ask fellow councilors to support giving the Planning and Zoning Department more help to speed up the permitting process, which he says got backlogged during COVID-19.

The cost would be borne by the developers through fees to offset the impact to taxpayers.

He says South Burlington has a lot of developers who want to invest in the city, but a lengthy permitting process might push them to look elsewhere.

“A process that drags over many months or years for simple permits costs money, and that money can be invested elsewhere,” Cota said. “There is a catch-up, a backlog of permits. I’ve heard it from business owners and those developers that want to invest in South Burlington about delays, and delays in many ways is denial.”

When WCAX News asked South Burlington’s Director of Planning and Zoning Paul Conner about delays, he said they will work with developers to make sure that applications are heard in a timely manner.

“This is a busy time in South Burlington with lots of exciting projects going on -- 50 and several really big important ones. So the fact that we have many doesn’t mean they aren’t all important,” Conner said.

This comes as development in the city is front and center again.

The City’s Development Review Board Tuesday reopened an application from Beta Technologies to build an electric plane manufacturing site off of Williston Road following strong words from as high up as the governor, who warned the state couldn’t afford to lose that company over a parking lot fight.

The company says they’ve been in the permitting process with the City for nearly a year so far. Cota says that’s too long to wait to get projects that will invest in the city and bring in tax dollars moving.

“We’ve set the rules for how people can build in our city. Now we need to make sure that people who want to invest in our community can comply with them and we can move forward accordingly,” Cota said.

WCAX News asked Cota whether he thinks his fellow city councilors will support his proposal. He’d only say it’s a process.

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