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South Burlington City Council holds public hearing on draft city plan

South Burlington draft City Plan 2024 cover page
City of South Burlington
South Burlington draft City Plan 2024 cover page

The South Burlington, Vermont City Council held its first meeting of the year this week. It included a public hearing on a draft 2024 City Plan.

South Burlington officials are holding public hearings on a draft City Plan from the Planning Commission that outlines future goals and actions. It lists four guiding principles: Climate resilience, inclusivity, sustainability and collaboration in economic development.

During the hearing, concerns were raised over a sentence in the plan’s introduction which states: “The overriding guiding principle of this Plan is to make every policy decision through the lens of climate resilience and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions....”

Resident Vince Bolduc, a member of the Affordable Housing Committee, said he is disappointed the wording has not been changed or removed.

“I think it’s hyperbole," Bolduc said. "It reads like an ideological manifesto and it’s a put off to the whole rest of the plan which is very good. I mean of course it’s the most important existential threat facing us today and we have to deal with it. But is it true that this plan makes every policy decision through this lens? That’s just an overstatement that sure strikes me as a real put off to the whole plan.”

Resident Linda Bailey also had issues with the wording.

“Unfortunately right at the beginning you have a dichotomy of words that are used," stated Bailey. "Your very first overriding principle is about climate resilience, but then you move into climate mitigation which is a very different type of thing. Climate mitigation looks to stop adding greenhouse gasses and such to our atmosphere while climate resilience is more about how you help your population, your city in this case, deal with climate changes that are happening.”

Councilor Larry Kupferman says the four principles in the plan’s introduction are intertwined.

“The focus of the entire plan is the four guiding principles and I think without having a clear understanding of climate work the other principles aren’t going to, it’s not going to matter.”

As councilors considered whether they should change the wording, Planning Commission chair Jessica Louisos noted that there had been considerable discussion about the language in the draft plan before its submission to the council.

“I think that there are some decisions that may or may not need the lens of climate change," said Louisos. "But I think what we wound up coming down to is you know when you’re doing decision making about new equipment or like it seemed reasonable to have the language as written. Many different parts of the plan are aspirational and it felt like an important point to put out there, you know, as kind of a guiding principle right out front.”

In other aspects of the plan, Planning Commission member Michael Mittag said the document needs more focus on growth management plans.

“In order to implement our plan, our municipal plan, it’s necessary to know what our expected growth will be," said Mittag. "We should have a plan for that. I think it’s fair to say that currently we sort of react and then plan to build the necessary infrastructure as and when development proposals come before the DRB (Development Review Board). That’s not really planning or it’s not a good way to plan. City Plan 2024 has many goals which I think will be quite difficult to reach without a plan or a growth management plan.”

Another public hearing will be held on South Burlington’s City Plan 2024 on Monday, January 8th.