Burlington business refuses to sell property to VTrans for roundabout

Published: Nov. 19, 2019 at 12:18 AM EST
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One Burlington business is opposing a proposed Shelburne Street roundabout redesign because the owners are worried construction will negatively impact their shop.

The Burlington City Council voted 10-2 Monday night to adopt the findings of a VTrans report that states the plan to construct a single-lane roundabout on Shelburne Street is good for the public, convenient, in compliance with state law and necessary.

In order to start the project, VTrans and the city of Burlington need to acquire rights from property owners to build on pieces of their land. Project manager Michael LaCroix says 16 out of 17 owners are on board. Majestic Car Rental Group is currently the only property standing in the way of the project.

Majestic’s Vice President Maura Fitzgerald says they’re not selling their property without more money.

“We want VTrans to factor and take into consideration how this project is going to impact our business, impact our loss of business,” she said.

Fitzgerald is concerned Majestic will lose customers and money during the two-year construction period mainly due to heavy traffic and people not being able to get there.

“People will not be able to access our business. Where are they going to actually be able to come in? Where are we going to be able to park our inventory which is what our business is-- it’s a car rental,” Fitzgerald said. “The car payments in and of itself are over $30,000 a month and then tack on what it is to pay employees and worker’s compensation and property taxes.”

Fitzgerald says they want to be compensated for the total loss of business before signing over ownership.

“Everything is negotiable. It’s a matter of what are they going to come to the table with. And are they going to come to the table with anything?” she said.

VTrans told WCAX News they are willing to negotiate with Majestic but they can essentially override the business now that the city has agreed the project is necessary.

“The necessity process just allows us to acquire the rights without their agreement,” LaCroix explained. “We will fairly compensate them for those impacts for fair market value based on an appraiser and the appraisal process.”

According to VTrans, construction will likely begin in 2021 and last for two years. During that timeframe, VTrans plans to rip up the road. re-work the underground utilities and create a single-lane roundabout to slow traffic and reduce accidents. LaCroix thinks the redesign will be good for everyone.

“Bicyclists and pedestrians frequent this intersection all the time,” he said. “There’s a school right on the corner. It’s a high traffic location for not just cars.”

The Burlington City Council in 2009 approved the single-lane design. The council’s Transportation, Energy, Utilities Committee reviewed proposed alternatives, such as adding a second lane. They ultimately decided on one land after determining an additional lane would lead to less speed control and a higher crash rate.

The city also wants to incorporate flexibility to modify the single-lane roundabout in the future to a hybrid design should it be deemed necessary. That would allow drivers coming from the north to continue onto South Willard Street with an extra lane.

According to the VTrans report, the selected design is expected to reduce crashes by 72 percent while improving traffic flow from all approaches.

It will also include roadway drainage and stormwater treatment, utility relocation, modernized bicycle and pedestrian facilities, signage, pavement markings, landscaping and street lighting.