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Burton hosts public discussion on possible Higher Ground move

(WCAX)
Published: Sep. 30, 2019 at 12:17 PM EDT
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Burton on Monday held a public meeting about a proposed expansion to their warehouse facility in Burlington's South End Arts District.

In June, the Burlington City Council approved a zoning change allowing any performing arts venue to take over a warehouse owned by Burton Snowboards.

About 50 people showed up to voice their concerns about noise, traffic and safety.

Justin Worthley, Burton’s senior vice president of human resources, led the two-hour discussion.

"Lots of energy here tonight. Some really positive and some people with concerns," Worthley said. "I don’t actually think there’s anything that we heard tonight that was unexpected."

People at the meeting said they’re worried the bass of the music will disrupt their peaceful neighborhood at night.

"We don’t want 500 cars roaring past our house when our children are trying to sleep at 11 to midnight," said Kyle Creason.

"Imagine having that venue next to your bedroom at night," said Laurie Smith. "And at 11 at night, having people screaming and peeling out and carrying on while you’re living in a quiet neighborhood. It doesn’t make a lot of sense."

A representative from Higher Ground told the crowd the building would be soundproofed and the music will not escape it.

Another frequently asked question was about the influx of cars that concerts would bring to the area.

"The road infrastructure, the sidewalk infrastructure, everything isn’t ready for it. Can’t handle what’s already there," Creason told WCAX News. "We’ve been waiting for the Champlain Parkway for a few decades now. And so, we believe that needs to be built before a 1,200-person rock club gets built in the middle of our neighborhoods and they’re going to use neighborhood streets to get cars in and out."

Sharon O’Neill, who lives in Burlington, says she’s most worried about too many cars driving over the one-lane bridge leading to the venue.

"There’s a one-way bridge where people alternate taking turns going over the bridge and I’m just concerned there isn’t enough infrastructure to support possibly 600 cars every day of the week," she said.

Burton and Higher Ground didn’t have answers for all of their questions but they told the crowd they’re going to continue weighing their options. One solution they did come up with was a no tailgating policy. This was in response to people’s concerns that drunken concertgoers will be rowdy, wander into their neighborhood and cause trouble or jump off the cliffs into Lake Champlain.

"We want people in the venue, not outside of it. And we’re not looking to create a nuisance," Worthley said. "It’s not about the party outside. It’s about coming to events and checking them out and leaving in an orderly way."

Worthley said they are considering collaborating with the city of South Burlington to have police patrol the area. They’re also thinking of recruiting people to help out with traffic and parking.

Most people in the crowd said they support Higher Ground but they’d like to see it relocate somewhere else.

"I would support the project if it was going into the Hannaford grocery store, which is about to get vacant, which is not in a residential area, which opens up onto a commercial street. I think that makes a lot of sense," said Smith. "I’d be supportive of Higher Ground going into Memorial Auditorium where there’s a rock venue, it’s in the center of the city where there’s already late-night noise. That makes a lot of sense. I don’t support it going to a location where there are bedroom communities."

Nothing is final yet. Burton still has to obtain a conditional use permit from the city and be approved. Worthley said they plan to file that application sometime this fall.