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Burlington City Council agenda includes review of Champlain Parkway and short-term rentals

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

The Burlington, Vermont City Council has held its first full meeting since new councilors were sworn in last week. Monday’s agenda included an update on a road project and a revised short-term rental ordinance.

The Champlain Parkway is a planned 2.8-mile two-lane transit corridor intended to connect the city’s south end with the downtown. Public Works Director Chapin Spencer updated councilors on the status of the project.

“We have advanced the Champlain Parkway project in this last year as part of a larger south end construction coordination plan effort," Spencer explained. "And the goal here is to bring tens of millions of dollars of reinvestment in our transportation systems in the south end of Burlington in a way that minimizes impact on the community.”

City Engineer Norm Baldwin described the bid process and noted that several factors have impacted the engineer’s estimates versus actual bids.

“You can see there has been an increase of the bond requirement of $1 million," Baldwin said. "This is over that first three-year period over this first phase for local match. So what’s driving these pricing, bid pricing factors? Energy is a big part of any business. There’s supply chain issues and there is competing interests with other projects. And unfortunately I think there’s also a backlog within much of the construction industry because of COVID that it really put us in a difficult circumstance.”

East District Progressive Jack Hanson found the increase in cost estimates alarming.

“Based on the numbers that we were shown it feels like that this price has not being set by the cost of doing the work," Hanson said. "It seems like it’s more being set by the market dynamics. It’s a tough pill to swallow that we’re having to pay that premium because of those dynamics.”

Councilors approved the presentation to be placed on file. The Department of Public Works plans to return to the council at its next meeting to seek authorization to award the initial construction bids.

The new council returned to wrestling with short-term rental revisions to the city ordinances. Ward 4 Democrat Sarah Carpenter proposed a measure Monday that she said repeats some work she had presented in a previously defeated amendment.

“The gut of what is being introduced would ask us to consider significantly narrowing short-term rentals to owner-occupied buildings," Carpenter said. "It would allow owners to also short term rent a unit that might be attached or on their property.”

South District Democrat Joan Shannon had presented a vetoed short-term rental proposal during the previous council.

“I am concerned with continued conversions of short-term rental units," Shannon said. "And while there are certain ways in which this closes some loopholes I fear that it opens some others. And there are other actions that we can take where we would do more to restrict short term rentals.”

Ward 5 Democrat Ben Traverse reminded his peers the question was not if they support the measure but rather whether to simply refer it to the Ordinance committee.

“In running for this seat I heard multiple times from voters who were taking a keen interest in short-term rentals," Traverse said. 1'And as I see it there’s an expectation from the public that this new council take it on. I agree there’s a housing crisis. I don’t think the status quo addresses that situation. I strongly feel that the council needs to take another look at this.”

Councilors approved referring the proposal to the Ordinance Committee on a 7 to 4 vote. One councilor was absent.

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