Zoning amendment could make finding spot for Burlington ‘pod’ community easier

Published: Jun. 13, 2022 at 6:22 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington’s plans to build a homeless pod community could be changing. Tuesday night, the city’s Planning Commission will take up an amendment that could make it easier to find a spot for those planned pods.

The zoning amendment comes on the heels of the proposed 30 shelter pod community proposed for a three-year stint on Elmwood Avenue in Burlington’s Old North End.

Currently, the Elmwood Avenue proposal is in the Development Review Board process which was halted due to questions from a lawyer representing a property owner in opposition to the pod community.

The zoning amendment appears to allow a temporary or interim shelter community for three years or less on city property, which will only be subject to a pre-application neighborhood meeting, instead of having to go through the more lengthy process like the pod project is currently going through.

A planning memo says the goal is to change permitting provisions that correspond with the level of urgency and level of investment associated with shelter models in the city.

The memo also says the zoning amendment might be able to be applied to the Elmwood Avenue shelter site.

However, some in the business community worry the ability to fast-track a pod site would diminish the public’s ability to weigh in.

“If the planning commission tomorrow night passes this proposed land use regulation, there would not be a public forum for future locations for this type of pod community or any type of emergency shelter, could be tents,” said Kelly Devine of the Burlington Business Association.

If the zoning amendment is approved Tuesday by the Planning Commission, it would go to the City Council for review and ultimate vote.

Where the process of the pods currently stands remains a mystery. To our knowledge, they have yet to identify a management partner to staff the site 24/7 and operate the site, as well.

I reached out to the city for more information on what the site will entail but had not received a response when this story was published.

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