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Burlington City Councilors Updated On City Place Development Dispute And High School Building

The Black Lives Matter flag flies in front of Burlington City Hall
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Burlington City Hall (file)

The Burlington City Council meeting earlier this week featured a report on the stalled downtown development project and an update from Burlington school officials on plans to address PCB contamination in the high school building.
In late July the city of Burlington issued a notice of default to developers of a planned $200 million redevelopment project in the city’s downtown.  During this week’s city council meeting the latest update on the legal wrangling was provided.  City attorney Eileen Blackwood told councilors that developer BTC Mall Associates had filed a response to the city’s complaint.  “We are still working on getting mediation scheduled. We would be happy to talk to you about sort of more details of the strategy and details of communications that have been happening around those issues in executive session. As you may recall they initially filed a lawsuit against the city and the city’s filing came a few hours after theirs. They have withdrawn their complaint and instead filed an answer which includes a counterclaim back against the city of Burlington. In addition they have filed what’s known as a third party complaint against PC Construction and brought them into the lawsuit.”

Real estate attorney Marc Heath has been retained by the city. He outlined the developer’s counter claims which include breach of contract by the city; that the developer legally terminated the development agreement and it is impossible for the developer to comply with the development agreement.  “Both parties have mutually stated their desire to enter into a mediation session in an attempt to achieve a resolution of this dispute without having to go to court.  We anticipate that the next step would be mediation if we can arrange it. Other things that are outstanding we have served discovery, written discovery, on BTC (Mall Associates). We have also issued a subpoena to Brookfield.”

Councilors entered executive session to further discuss the city’s legal strategy.  When the council reconvened Burlington School District Superintendent Tom Flanagan provided an update on the high school.  That building and the adjacent technical center were closed after air quality tests in September found PCB levels above Vermont Department of Health minimums.  Flanagan outlined three options that integrate an in-progress remodeling and rebuilding plan for the school board to consider.   “The first is an immediate return back to the school building.  The second option is to move to an alternation for two to three years while remediation and ReEnvisioning (Burlington school redevelopment plan) occurs at the BHS (Burlington High School) site and then to move back into that BHS site after the construction. And then the third is that we move to an alternate location for two to three years while building a new high school and tech center at our current site or in a new location.”

You can view the entire Burlington City Council meeting below:

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