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Burlington City Council reviews a packed agenda at last meeting before new council sworn in

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

The Burlington, Vermont City Council held its last meeting March 21st before a new council is sworn in next month. It reviewed a number of items including a controversial transportation study and whether to override the mayor’s veto of a measure pertaining to short-term rentals.

Councilors also considered a plan to place a so called shelter pod community in what is currently a city owned parking lot on Elmwood Avenue. Resident Alex Twombley lives next door.

“There really wasn’t any community outreach done with the site selection for the pod encampment," Twombley said. "Me and most people in my building did find out about this through news crews.”

Ward 3 Progressive Joe Magee calls the project a critical step in the city’s efforts to end “houselessness.”

“It’s crucial for us to support this tonight and allow the city to continue this vital work of getting this community built and stood up by July 1st so that we can have these 30 shelter pods in place because it is crucial that we have this short term emergency solution in place while we work on these longer term solutions to ensure that we are fulfilling our goal of having housing as a human right here in Burlington," said Magee.

The resolution passed on a voice vote with one opposed.

A study has identified recommendations for the North Winooski Avenue area to create bike lanes. But some area residents and businesses are concerned about the potential loss of parking. North Winooski Avenue resident Kara Greenblott says she is an avid biker but is opposed to the plan.

“A plan to remove any parking on North Winooski Avenue is one that will cause unnecessary hardship for essential workers like myself as well as vulnerable populations living in our community," Greenblott said. "There is already a northbound bike lane one block over on North Union.”

Ward 2 Progressive Max Tracy, the outgoing council president, noted the bike lanes would be part of a planned transportation network.

“There simply is not a more direct route if we want to have a bike network here and we absolutely need to have a network here," Tracy said. "The patchwork approach that we’ve taken to this will not yield the carbon reduction goals that we set in the Net Zero roadmap. So what we’re really thinking about here it needs to be placed in a broader context.”

North District Independent Mark Barlow is against the plan due to its potential impact on stakeholders along the route.

“What happens if after a year there are no additional off-street parking options?" Barlow asked. "What’s going to happen to the stakeholders we’ve heard from if we don’t find the additional off-street parking?”

The resolution to advance the bicycle transportation plan passed 8 to 4.

At its February 22nd meeting the City Council passed new short-term rental regulations. Democratic Mayor Miro Weinberger vetoed the decision.

East District Progressive Jack Hanson supports the original resolution to regulate short-term rentals and urged councilors to override the veto.

“We all agree that there’s a housing crisis in Burlington," Hanson said. "There’s very little housing available. And we all agree that Short Term Rentals are making that problem worse by taking more rental units offline.”

Ward 6 Democrat Karen Paul says after voting in support of the original resolution she looked more deeply into the data and found short-term rentals comprise about 1 percent of the total rental housing in the city.

"I don’t think that this ordinance is balanced," Paul said. "I don’t think that it strikes a middle ground and I don’t think that it meets the intent of the Housing Action Plan. I don’t think that it is good best practice.”

The council voted 7 to 5, failing by one vote to override the mayor’s veto.

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