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Burlington City Council advances homeless funding but postpones Short Term Rental item during this week’s meeting

Burlington City Hall
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Burlington City Hall (file)

The Burlington, Vermont City Council had several items on its agenda earlier this week including a presentation on options to control public outbursts during their meetings.

The council has faced a number of incidents in the past few months in which individuals or groups of people have disrupted proceedings, shouted insults or made threats. Burlington City Attorney Daniel Richardson outlined a draft memo reviewing council options for maintaining decorum.

“The first recommendation is, and this really comes from Robert’s Rules of Order, there has to be effective enforcement. The second is to revisit the layout of the city council. You know how do we make sure that everybody feels safe? The third is to develop a formal code of conduct. Using virtual media as an alternate is something that we really haven’t explored but I think it’s a good alternative." Richardson explained, "With a virtual meeting you can mute their mic which is allowed under the First Amendment if they’ve violated some of the code of conduct or rules.”

City councilors have been considering changes to the city’s ordinance to regulate Short Term Rentals. During a public hearing Julie Marks said she is among more than 520 residents who have signed a petition against the measure.

“Don’t forget that Short Term Rentals are a valuable resource for the city. They bring in over $100,000 in meals and rooms tax alone every year, not inclusive of all the other business activity that is supported while visitors are in town. I urge you to shift your perspective and try to use Short Term Rentals as a critical part of the affordable housing solution.”

Debate on the Short Term Rental resolution was postponed until the council’s February 22nd meeting.

The panel heard two presentations on redistricting. The first reviewed preliminary state plans for Chittenden County. Later the city’s redistricting plan was discussed. Ward 1 Progressive Zoraya Hightower asked City Planner Meghan Tuttle how much of an overlap is expected between the state and city plans.

“What is the possibility of aligning the state maps or even the pros and cons of aligning it? Or is there a lot of impracticality to that?”

Tuttle answered, “There was a little bit of discussion about this that the ad hoc committee engaged in about whether that was something important to the community. And the state process hasn’t been completed yet. It’s something we can certainly pursue if that’s something the council would like us to. But how closely those maps will ultimately align is too early to tell.”

Ward 4 Democrat Sarah Carpenter moved a resolution to use $2.975 million in federal pandemic relief funds to address homelessness.

“This resolution proposes the use of ARPA funds to serve the houseless and create a position of Special Assistant to End Homelessness. I think in particular giving us some staff capacity to deal with this is going to be critical. It takes a lot of work family by family, person by person to find resources and that’s really what this proposes to do," said Carpenter. "And then in addition proposes a very innovative possibility for a low barrier shelter using sleeping pods.”

The panel unanimously approved the measure.

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