The Burlington City Council has approved a revised settlement agreement with developers that will allow a long idle multi-million dollar downtown project to move forward.
At the February 16th meeting of the Burlington City Council, Mayor Miro Weinberger presented for approval a settlement agreement between the city and BTC Mall Associates, the current developer of CityPlace. At the time, concerns were raised about the agreement’s impact on unions and workers. Councilors delayed action and met in special session February 23rd.
In the intervening time, further negotiations were held and Weinberger - a Democrat seeking his fourth three-year term on Town Meeting Day March 2nd – presented a revised agreement for what he called a consequential vote. “This settlement agreement achieves a great deal for Burlington residents. It will result in just a few months, if the council approves it, in the city getting back the land for streets and sidewalks that it gave up in the 1960’s. In addition this settlement agreement also clears the way for this new development team to be able to move forward next week.”
The changes appeased regional labor leaders. AFL-CIO and Building Trades Council President David Van Deusen urged the council to approve the revised agreement. “Unlike the first iteration of the agreement, this agreement includes provisions which establish the Vermont prevailing wage as the base rate for all construction workers on this project. Having Vermont’s prevailing wage in place will boost workers’ pay and benefits up by a value of 42.5%. These are real victories for working people in Burlington and construction workers across Vermont. We invite you to pass a unanimous vote to adopt this agreement and to move forward with the CityPlace project.”
Some of the councilors’ support was tentative as they recalled the storied history of the project. East District Progressive Jack Hanson expressed misgivings despite his plans to vote in favor. “I’m really glad that the council voted to postpone action on this and as a result of that we’ve been able to cement some critically important provisions. So yeah I’ll be supporting this. You know there’s also a part of me that is uncomfortable and is nervous because we’re years into this and I think the city has been burned along the way and been misled and trust has been broken along the way. This is really a starting point or a reset rather than okay we’ve fixed this whole debacle and we’re good now. I think we still have a lot of work to do to actually achieve what we actually want to achieve which is the project itself being built and the downtown being revitalized.”
The developers appeared at the meeting virtually and partner David Farrington said they worked to resolve every issue. “Some of the issues were harder, a lot of back and forth, but we’re all happy to be where we’re at and looking forward to moving on with this project. We’ve got the DRB (Development Review Board) on the I believe it’s the 3rd of March and that’s just one more big step ahead. So we’re very excited and can’t wait to get going here.”
The council voted unanimously to approve the revised agreement.