Burlington senior housing center pleads with city for more parking

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BURLINGTON, Vt, (WCAX) A Burlington senior housing center is asking the city for more parking.

Birchwood Terrace has been serving the community for 55 years but administrators say parking has just recently become an issue.

The executive director, Alecia DiMario, brought the concerns to the Planning Commission on Tuesday night. She says the center currently has 75 spaces and needs 96 to 100 to adequately accommodate staff and visitors. She says their proposal has two components.

“We’re looking to see if they will change the zoning ordinance as it pertains to lot coverage for senior housing as well as the ordinance as far as parking ratios and maximum parking ratios,” said DiMario.

DiMario says Birchwood has been working with the city to address parking issues since Birchwood was issued a violation in May 2017 after employees parked in a nearby neighborhood. At the time, Birchwood only had 45 designated parking spots and the city had just issued a street parking ban on Starr Farm Road, where the senior center is located.

“It forced all of that street traffic into the two lots on Flynn Avenue and Birchwood Terrace and we just didn’t have adequate space or permitted space for all of the vehicles that we needed to run the operation on a daily basis,” DiMario said.

Birchwood staff also resorted to parking on Grey Meadow Drive, which upset many people living on that street.

“We were opposed to having them bring all of their cars at 7 o’clock every morning and park in front of our houses, fire hydrants, our mailboxes and everything and kind of disrupt our neighborhood. And this went on for a couple of weeks,” said resident Gary Widrick.

Widrick and a group of his neighbors testified before the city to express their frustrations about a year ago. He told WCAX News he acknowledges Birchwood’s parking issue and hopes something is done to address it but said the solution shouldn’t be at the expense of him and his neighbors.

“We would like to see a different arrangement so that Birchwood takes care of this problem themselves. This is not a problem of the Grey Meadow neighborhood. This a problem that Birchwood has,” Widrick said.

As a part of the violation Birchwood received in 2017, the city required the facility to obtain an approved site plan to address parking concerns. Some of their suggestions included off-site parking and construction of a parking garage. In January, the Development Review Board approved the site plan and increased the number of parking spots from 45 to 75 but Birchwood said that didn’t fully fix the problem. Birchwood is now progressing into phase two of its plan and is proposing amendments to the Comprehensive Development Ordinance to allow for greater parking and lot coverage. The planning commission says they will continue looking at the recommendations.