Business & Economy

Artists say Burlington’s South End planning process is a ‘sham’

The City of Burlington has solicited public input for a city-led South End redevelopment plan, but artists in the neighborhood question whether the mayor’s office has taken their suggestions seriously.

The 2-mile-long by 1-mile-wide wedge of Burlington is slated for a massive redevelopment as outlined in planBTV South End, which was released by the city in mid-June. In just over one month the public comment period for the proposal will be over, despite statements made by planners at the June 16 unveiling of the master plan that the process was just beginning.

In the beginning, artists say, it appeared that the city wanted to maintain a vibrant arts community in the South End. The city put out calls for artwork and involved artists in collaborative planning sessions.

Now many of the artists that committed time, artwork and countless hours in planning sessions say they feel their feedback has been ignored.

Only two pages of the 99-page book, which was released will illustrations of the master plan when it was made public back in June, mention how to preserve the artistic and cultural area that has made the South End attractive to businesses big and small.

Artists also wonder what became of a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts awarded last year to Burlington City Arts to enable an “artist-led engagement and visioning process to help develop a comprehensive cultural master plan.”

Charles Norris-Brown, a children’s book writer and illustrator who works in the South End, said that in early discussions the city had called local artists “the core” of the planning process. “It’s such a big sham, the whole thing is a total big sham,” he said.

City officials, including the city planner for Burlington as well as the head of the arts organization, say they have made an effort to include artists in the planning process.

Increasingly, the demands of artists like Norris-Brown and others are appearing on signs all over the main strip of Pine Street, on utility poles, on bulletin boards and outside local shops.

“Weinberger Administration: Developers Gone Wild” reads one sign. “BCA: Will you stand with the arts community to preserve industrial zoning in the SEAD?” says another, referring to the South End Arts District.

The slogans contrast with green and white official city road signs for the arts district directing tourists to the quirky neighborhood.

Terry Zigmund, a glass artist who’s been in a studio behind Speeder & Earl’s on Pine Street for 17 years, said she’s skeptical now of her early involvement in PlanBTV South End.

“They say there was a community input stage, and I’m one of the artists that did get grant money from them, through their RFP process which was a joke,” said Zigmund, a South End glass artist with a shared space in the Howard Center studio.

The request for proposals (RFP) was put out by Burlington City Arts, which is both the nonprofit partner that was charged with leading outreach to the arts community – as well as a city agency in its own right. It first asked artists to create ways of engaging the public with a re-envisioning process in October 2014, after winning the NEA grant.

“I’m happy to take their money,” said Zigmund, but added, “I felt like it was a joke. The stuff that we did, they didn’t take it seriously.”

Her piece, which was interactive and had wooden leaves hung on trees along Pine Street, is in storage somewhere, she said.

On Oct. 31, when she thought she and the other grant recipients were going to present the results of their artwork in a public show, turnout was sparse, and the show didn’t have signage. “We were talking to an empty room,” she said.

Grant recipient Amey Radcliffe, who now prints the protest fliers, recalled what she was told to do for the grant: “I thought they wanted to know what we thought and what our ideas are for the South End – but it wasn’t really about that, it was about how can you help us engage the public,” she said.

“It became clear that the kind of data they were seeking seemed to be superficial,” she said.

Red Light, Green Light, in its early stages, a piece by Amey Radcliffe that gathered input on various ideas in the South End development planning. Photo courtesy of Vimeo/Andrea Greyson
Red Light, Green Light, in its early stages, a piece by Amey Radcliffe that gathered input on various ideas in the South End development planning. Photo courtesy of Vimeo/Andrea Greyson

Burlington City Arts and consultants the city had hired told the artists to gather suggestions for what could be improved in the South End.

Radcliffe took her own approach. Brainstorming with some friends, she created development statements for the South End, and then hung big posters with the phrases written on them in a black circle. Then people voted on them with colored stickers. One of her statements – Build more housing – set off a firestorm.

Amey Radcliffe's piece, following a hanging at Feldman's Bagels. The dots represent how people feel about building more housing in the South End. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Amey Radcliffe’s piece, following a hanging at Feldman’s Bagels. The dots represent how people feel about building more housing in the South End. Photo courtesy of the artist

In early photos she took of it, a smattering of red, yellow and green stickers fill that page – green, meaning go, yellow meaning “proceed with caution” and red meaning stop. After she hung the work at Feldman’s Bagels, she said, it got really interesting. In a final photo, red stickers cover the statement completely.

“That’s the one that got so many red stickers. And it was a hot button issue like I thought it was, and it got a lot of feedback,” she said. The poster series is in the BCA’s possession now.

At the release of planBTV South End, an event held at the venue Arts Riot that was anticipated since public forums began last fall, consultants hired by the city unveiled the glossy, multi-page master plan.

It shocked some members of the arts and business community that the plan showed several pockets of residential rezoning in a gritty industrial stretch now known as the Enterprise Zone.

There were no renderings of swimming pools and leafy biking corridors, as was suggested at those meetings leading up to the proposal – although renderings of a park at the current Superfund site of Barge Canal showed breezy boardwalk paths and recreational spaces.

To many, it looked mostly like lot like sleek, multi-story residences and passive green space over what is now empty lots, rail yards, and old buildings.

Options such as light industrial, retail, or more open space weren’t really put out there – and businesses weren’t polled, noted Norris-Brown.

“They haven’t really gone to the businesses and asked them what they need. Those businesses haven’t talked to planBTV people,” he said.

Burlington City Arts, on Main Street, in downtown Burlington. The group is a city agency, but also is funded by a related foundation that helps pay for programming. Photo by Jess Wisloski.
Burlington City Arts, on Main Street. The group is a city agency, but also is funded by donations and a 501(c)3 for programming. Photo by Jess Wisloski.

Genese Grill, another artist, said she’s tried to get the Burlington City Arts – also called BCA – to publicly show support for South End artists’ concerns and desire to retain the industrial zoning in the district. But she said other groups’ engagement, no matter how passionate, seems ignored if it runs counter to the city’s housing suggestions.

“The real problem is that the plan (and the consultants and BCA too) has studiously ignored that we already have a very good protection against the whims of the market: our industrial zoning,” she said in an email.

Doreen Kraft, executive director of the BCA, said her organization’s role wasn’t to take sides, and it wasn’t to back any city agenda – it was to find a way to use the work of artists to engage the public.

“What we’re trying to do is develop an expertise in the community to be able to use the arts to engage, and to bring people out,” she said. “So it’s not traditional talking heads meetings.”

PlanBTV Downtown in 2012, which some South Enders pointed to as having a more publicly visible engagement process, was run the same, said Kraft, except for one thing: her group’s role.

“We got this grant to allow us to do a more significant engagement process, and to use the work of artists as tools to bring different constituencies out to be involved in planning,” she said.

But a description used by Sara Katz, the assistant director of BCA, in a presentation to the New England Foundation for the Arts in early June themed, “Community Engagement and Planning Through Arts: What it Means to Have a Place at the Table,” framed the artists as an “obstacle” to the project’s completion.

“…A number of artists in the South End revolted against the project, believing that the intentions of the plan were to gentrify the area rather than protect its unique characteristics. While it was a small group, it created confusion about the purpose of the plan, and our communications efforts were too behind to head-off the initial derailment,” read the document.

In a six-page screed, Norris-Brown objected to the characterization. He sent his response to the National Endowment for the Arts, asking it go in the file for the group’s $100,000 Our Town grant.

His rebuttal stated that the South End Alliance’s ranks weren’t small, at roughly 300 strong, and they included businesses and residents.

“Secondly, we are not ‘creating confusion’ about PlanBTV South End. We have very sincere concerns both in terms of what the hidden agenda of the Plan is (or at least its implications) as well as how our voices have been represented,” he wrote.

When asked how the NEA handled complaints about the Our Town grant’s use in Burlington, Director of Design Programs Jason Schupbach wrote in an email:
“The NEA is responsible for working with its grantees to assure that projects are completed as those projects were detailed in the application. If issues about the project are brought to the NEA’s attention, then we will be in touch with the grantee directly to assure compliance.”

He said they were already aware that the community-based partner organization that partnered with the city for the grant, was also in fact, a city agency as well.

It’s a pervasive belief of artists that housing was always part of the South End plan.

The yellow areas represent spaces where PlanBTV proposes to incentivize housing development. (Courtesy of the City of Burlington and design firm Goody Clancy.)
The yellow areas represent spaces where PlanBTV proposes to incentivize housing development. Courtesy of the City of Burlington and design firm Goody Clancy

While city leaders stopped short of saying that housing was an original component of the plan, David White, the planning commissioner, said the project started with “my staff and other city staff, along with consultants” looking at what was there already, and trying to see what areas could be enhanced and built out.

Long-range goals of the city helped lead the plans, as did the search for better zoning in the South End while meeting needs for housing in the face of predictable changes.

“There are places where we want (change to happen) and places where we don’t,” White said. “This is a place where we expect development to happen, and we want it to … part of the process is to understand what kind of development will be there, what it is we want, what we like and where it goes and what it does.”

Contrary to artists’ beliefs, housing is desired by some constituencies in the South End.

“You have a lot of suggestions that are counter to each other,” said Joan Shannon, city councilor for Ward 5 in the South End. “It’s not like the community has any consensus about what should happen.”

Audience members listen at ArtsRiot on June 17, as city planners present PlanBTV South End. (Photo by Jess Wisloski)
Audience members listen at ArtsRiot on June 17, as city planners present PlanBTV South End. Photo by Jess Wisloski/VTDigger

“The artists don’t want housing in the arts district. And what I’m hearing from my neighborhood planning assembly is that they do want housing. … So people that live in the South End don’t necessarily agree with the artists,” she said.

Both artists and planners often point to two surveys the city took that polled artists and workers at the big companies in the area on housing needs.

The artist study found that 65 percent don’t consider themselves full-time artists, and only 15 percent of them worked in studio space outside of their homes. While 40 percent said they’d be interested in a work/live scenario,  just 22 percent, or 65 people, could afford more than $800 a month, which is just below fair market rent for a one bedroom apartment, city reports show. (See the documents below).

About 45 percent of the artists already owned homes, fewer on average than the workplace survey found, where 60 percent own homes. Of the workplaces polled, about 34 percent of respondents indicated they would be interested in nearby housing options.

When asked why she thought the artists were resistant, Kraft said she thought part of it had to do with her group’s inexperience in the targeted planning and outreach.

“We certainly made a lot of mistakes in this process, but one mistake we made is that there was a conflict of interest there. In that the artists were also stakeholders. We didn’t really understand that until we got into it. It’s not a terrible thing, it’s part of the process,” she said. She also said the artists were largely unversed in how planning works, and many misunderstood what was shown in renderings to mean what was going to be built, definitively.

“Even though people have been what may be seen as divisive on the South End Alliance, it’s an important voice and it needs to be heard. It’s not our job to advocate … it’s our job to get people out and encourage people to be heard,” she said.

The master plan is expected to ready for recommendation to the Planning and Zoning Commission by November or December, city officials said.

Clarification: Comments attributed to Joan Shannon were clarified Aug. 24.

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  • Charles Winkleman

    $800/month may be ‘just below fair market’ for a one bedroom, but average rates are over $1,000 a month, and that’s not even considering new two bedrooms go for $1900. I can only imagine how much the new housing in the south end would cost.

    On a different note, the plan suggests artists form work coops, shared communal gallery space, and utilize cheap rent through non profits to afford to work in the south end. When it comes to housing, such liberal ideas are thoroughly ignored in exchange for the city hall approved line of more market rate housing. So the artists can work there cheap, but good luck finding that $20/h job to live anywhere near there…

  • This article and Joan Shannon miss an important point. Artists are not against housing in the South End. They are against housing in the Enterprise Zone which makes up a small part of the South End. This differentiation is not made clear in the article. The surveys quoted did not make this distinction, so they make it look like artists want to build housing in the Enterprise Zone. This sloppiness leads to such statement as people in the South End disagree with the artists and want housing. It seems to be a challenge to get people to realize that the Enterprise Zone (remember, only part of the South End), is now not zoned to allow housing. Keep it that way. Housing will eventually kill the Enterprise Zone here as it does in other places. Instead of falling into the Mayor’s push to ram in housing everywhere, let’s begin to see what the Enterprise Zone itself (remember, only part of the South End) can do to make Burlington a major contender in innovative and creative industry, a real creative economy. In other words, find ways to make the Enterprise Zone (with its businesses and its artists) do what it does now even better.

    • Joan Shannon

      I am misquoted in this article. I did not say housing would create a buffer. I said there currently is NO buffer between housing and the industrial zone and there are conflicts between the 2 uses today. I also don’t think I referenced “my neighborhood” but rather my Neighborhood Planning Assembly. It is true that the NPA does not agree with the view of the artists.

      • Thank you for letting us know, Joan. The article has been corrected.

      • I have yet to see my Ward 5 City Councilor Chip Mason at any of the public meetings hosted at SEABA, which has recently brought together DPW, Planning and Zoning, some Long Range Planning members, residents and some business owners/artists.
        Neither have I seen my NPA Ward 5 steering committee members come to these important meetings to sound in with their ideas and concerns. Who is supposed to curate the outreach of this process. There needs to be another 12 months of local-control of the public involvement. Our group, the South End Alliance has reached out to 40+ businesses. More folks are talking with us, there is an up-tick in public conversation in the Enterprise Zone. This has been a year of learning how to organize and plan together for our future, we are just beginning to get the message across that this planning is underway, and people need to get involved. DO NOT THROW THE BABY OUT WITH THE BATHWATER. Change the water, and let’s together begin part two of focussing a vision and a plan for the future of the South End and the South End’s Enterprise District. Let’s do this by putting the public outreach and design charrettes and meetings into the hands of our very own Local experts- LOCAL -after the out-of-state consultant hand in it’s best attempt.
        People here know one another and know what the wide and deep concerns are and how to talk to one another.
        How many emails and phone calls have we made to this consultant to talk to? Finally, due to silence and confoundingly different answers from SEVERAL city officials as to the Question of Who is the Steering Committee, The South End Alliance requested our Right to this information by citing the freedom of information request for information .The Question of who and what the steering committee is – as mentioned in the contract with the consultant Goody Clancey- was finally answered two weeks after the request was issued. The Answer: The Long Range Planing Committee. I’ve seen three of these members at a handful of meetings, Harris Roen the most regularly present. Emily Lee and AJ Larosa more recently at SEABA meetings. This involvement of the LRPC with the community here has, in my eyes, only just begun.
        This area is way to important- economically, culturally, and ecologically, to be rushing to any conclusions about our future here.
        The process of our community engaging actively in shaping a plan in concert with our public servants is really just getting underway.

      • Joan, why do you say that your NPA does not agree with the artists? When we visited your NPA to discuss our concerns everyone was very supportive and Carolyn Bates mentioned that Ward 5 had already passed a resolution saying that the enterprise district should be kept zoned industrial years ago. In any case, it doesn’t seem accurate to say that the ward 5 NPA “doesn’t agree with the artists”. What evidence do you have for that? I think we need to revisit the issue with the NPA in early September, when we are scheduled to visit again and see what the people think. Perhaps it is time for a new updated resolution. And also, it is not just artists who do not want the zoning changed. It is residents of ward 5 and other wards in the city, as well as workers and business owners.

      • Hi Joan,

        Thanks for your work in the hood and your thoroughness you bring to impt issues facing the city! Can you pls clarify what you mean by the NPA doesn’t agree with the view of the artists?

        Thanks much,

      • Hi Joan,

        Your work on this issue is appreciated as a leader of the City Council and representative of Ward 5 in which part of the Enterprise District lies. Having met with you a couple of times surrounding this Plan BTV South End, i am wondering if you could speak to what you mean by “the NPA doesn’t agree with the view of the artists?”

        Also, in your mind what do you describe as this view of the artists? I fear there is a continuing misunderstanding.

        To be crystal clear, “the artists” are also joined by manufacturers, small business owners (some of whom are artists), residents. long time South End Arts advocates such as Steve Conant and Mark Waskow among others and youth. What we advocate for is: TO RETAIN THE CURRENT ZONING REGULATIONS in the Enterprise District which CURRENTLY restricts housing.

        The reasoning for this is that this will inevitably push out space for business, innovative businesses and funky, affordable, industrial type art studio spaces to remain and flourish in this part of the city comprising 4 % of the city’s land. Had Zoning been previously modified to allow mixed use housing/retail etc…it is very likely that the current building, the former Filament Factory on the corner of Pine & Howard Sts would have been turned into condos, and the now growing, would have had to leave The Enterprise District, within the South End, to find affordable space to grow into after being in The Maltex Building across the street for a number of years.

        SEA, The South End Alliance, does support needed housing in the areas of The South End outside of the Enterprise District. This area outside of the perimeters of the Enterprise District, is about 75% of The South End itself.

        If “Zoning” ordinances remain the same for the Enterprise District, other zoning changes for mixed use could be explored for geographic areas that a Plan BTV Steering Committee deems suitable for the development of housing, affordable and market rate (which in the South End is not “affordable” at this point according to statistics).

        We are currently in the process of discussions with the Planning Commission to form a said, specific Steering Committee to carry out in-depth analysis, outreach and guidance for the opportunities and challenges facing the growing South End. And again, to be clear, of which the Enterprise District is only 27% of the geographic area.

        I look forward to your reply. Many thanks,

        Maggie Standley
        Owner, Wingspan Studio
        4A Howard St
        Member, South End Alliance
        Resident, Old North End
        Founder, Myrtle St Avant Garden (which saved land from development in a creative partnership with the developer, neighborhood and city to provide open space in the form of a community garden and pocket park in Burlington’s Old North End).

        Thanks much!

  • Amey Radcliffe

    A point of clarity which is often missed is that the artists, residents and businesses that make up and support the South End Alliance are ONLY interested prohibiting housing in one small area in the total South End, the Enterprise District/Zone. It represents just over 1/4 of the total South End. In fact my own piece did not specify the ED yet still got a majority of stop votes. The city has 3/4 of the South End left to develop. The essence of what SEA believes is that the Enterprise District represents the economic engine of our city. While it covers only 4% in area, 20% of the jobs come from this district. SEA believes this small area should be protected and enhanced. The city is at a crossroads here, will it allow industry, artistry and innovation to grow organically into the open lots of the ED or will if fill them with housing, which will change the trajectory of the area. With housing comes substantial rental rate increases and eventually industry will move to more favorable industrial areas outside the city that are more affordable and have room for growth. Current jobs and future jobs will go with them. This is the conversation that has not been sufficiently addressed given the top-down preconceived vision for
    housing in the Enterprise District. The draft plan significantly reduces the area in which housing is prohibited to the Industrial Parkway area. Where is the study that analyzes the longterm effect on our economy of such a change? With a hell-bent approach to development, planners are overlooking many important perspectives and alternatives that greatly impact the future of our city.

    • “In fact my own piece did not specify the ED yet still got a majority of stop votes.”

      I very much appreciate the thought and effort that went into “Red Light, Green Light”, and I love the conversation it stimulated, but I think it’s also incorrect to think of it as a barometer of public opinion.

      I say this because of its intrinsic design: The fact that people could “vote” multiple times, putting as many stickers of any color they wanted anywhere, obviates this wonderful work of art as a tool for accurately collecting community opinion. When we want to collect public opinion, we need a tool that’s not so easily gameable.

      • You have a very good point, but the same can be said (and then some) for the tabulating of public opinion that is allegedly going on in the PlanBTV South End process. There is no way of tracing how the city came to its conclusions about what we want or don’t want. While we at South End Alliance have tabulated the webtool comments (you can see our tabulations on under survey results) the consultants don’t appear to have done so, otherwise they would not have concluded that there are a larger number of people who want housing in the ED than those who don’t, or that we want the Champlain Parkway. We have, from the beginning, been asking for a more transparent, more scientifically-verifiable method of tabulating/translating the voice of the people into this plan (that is supposed to represent our voice). Instead we get fancy pictures and confusing contradictions in a candy-coated plan. Plan BTV Downtown/Waterfront took the much better public input and still twisted it into a message that didn’t represent the will of the people (it said we said we needed to eliminate public review process for development and that we didn’t need any more affordable housing!). At least in Plan BTV Downtown they had a design charrette (3 days long) to give the impression that the public voice was important. In PlanBTV South End the planned design charrette was cancelled and there was little real public input. But don’t get me started! Show us the numbers, please!

  • “Housing” does not fit the needs of anyone–affordable housing does. Planners can explain and provide for affordable housing. Nothing in the plan about it–no identification of numbers and how they will be obtained. All rhetoric, no specifics.

    Transportation “plan” is not a plan since it grabs the Happy Days Parkway design which is unsafe for all who can walk and bike, retains avoidable congestion delay for all, and wastes tens of thousands of gasoline yearly along with associated pollutants.

    “Sham” correctly describes the effort and draft product of planBTV South End.

    Tony Redington Blog: @TonyRVT08

  • John Killacky

    I am not sure why there is such polarization in this discourse. City officials and BCA staff seem to have indeed invited in artist concerns into this iterative planning process. This is the time for public comment, and it seems to be open for multiple concerns and issues to inform the next phase of important planning for the role and place of artists in our community.

    • Amey Radcliffe

      Dear John, I have been thinking about your comment and I believe some of the polarization has come from what has felt like an unwillingness on the part of the planning team to consider options/plans that do not include housing in the Enterprise District. Every proposal and plan that has come from the city or its consultants has included housing in this small area despite the fact that there is considerable concern over this direction. My own experience is that even an in-depth discussion and a projective analysis have been left out of the dialogue. At only 27% of the South End, this tiny area has huge potential to be a cultural and educational center if it does not have to compete with a higher profit use (housing). The entire Arts and Enterprise District should be protected and enhanced. As a member of the arts community, I’m sure you can imagine the creative potential of this area. Here are a few examples: training center for hands-on skills, craft school, performance and practice space facility, industrial history museum, local food production facility, transportation hub, high performance building training school, and so on. This could put Burlington on the map in a new way, and organizations like the Flynn, BCA, Yestermorrow, Vermont Studio School, and others could add their voices to what could be an amazing collaboration.

  • Deborah Loring

    As a Ward 5 resident, I have to agree with the artists, and the 66% of the workers in the South End — I do not support or see the need for residential re-zoning in the Enterprise Zone. While attempts were made at directly involving artists (whatever the intent and outcome of that was) and businesses, outreach to residents wasn’t particularly vigorous. The meetings were held predominantly during working hours, when we were working.

    It does seem like there was a pre-planned intent to re-zone for residential housing in an area that has done very well as an Enterprise Zoning, and is unique and vibrant mix of arts, business, and residential. Why do we need to re-engineer that? If it’s not broke….

    Living in Burlington these days, it feels like we are cramming more and more housing into smaller spaces, and we do not have the infrastructure to support it. Our beaches close due to sewage spills into the lake, and I’m not sure if anyone has noticed, but the sewage lines are backing up into our homes in the South End. We notice it when we pay the bills to have them cleared.

    I would like to see those things fixed, and a lot more attention paid to environmental buffer zones between development and the lake, which is a natural resource that we often can’t enjoy because of blue green algae, sewage spills, and often poor water quality. The town is rapidly changing into a tourist zone, a Disney version of a City, if you will, with little effort to preserve open spaces and affordable neighborhoods.

    Putting housing onto the Enterprise Zone appears to me to be about one thing – making money for private enterprise. The “housing crisis” here is not a given. There may be an affordable housing crisis, but just because you keep repeating “housing crisis”, it just doesn’t make it true that there actually is one.

    And while I am guilty of not going to the NPA meetings, I will make sure to write to them on the issue. Many residents, like myself, are busy working and volunteering in our spare time, so while there are forums out there; we can’t always attend. Perhaps re-zoning this area should be approved by ballot rather than by a process which is a bit vague and appears slightly engineered?

  • Thea Lewis

    I’m no policy wonk, but my understanding of the term, “Enterprise Zone” is that the first priority is job growth; in this case to support and compliment a thriving arts district. However, history shows that you have to build housing to support those jobs. When the Queen City Cotton Company was built at the turn of the 20th Century, the owners created a whole neighborhood, the Lakeside neighborhood, to support the influx of workers, since the housing market in Burlington was already strained by the lumber industry. My concern with adding housing to any mix would be the scope and affordability. I am proud of the SEABA district and love our proximity to it. I am hoping for the sake of my artist friends and Burlington’s future that it will be carefully cultivated, but I do think housing will eventually need to play a part. Better to get it right at the beginning, than shoe-horn it in later. Thanks, everyone for the input. Let’s keep the dialogue going.

  • Amey Radcliffe

    At the risk of over-commenting : ) your post, Thea, inspired another one. I have been thinking about the areas just outside the Enterprise District that would allow for housing opportunities for workers. Some are CEDO ideas I heard, plus a few of my own: Near Kerry’s quick stop, behind Champlain School, In the vicinity of the tanks on Flynn Ave, the corner of Flynn and Pine, along the built section of the Champlain Parkway, another story or addition to Jackson Terrace and next to Kmart. These areas are already zoned as residential and could be an excellent start to additional housing in the South End without risk to the Enterprise District. Fortunately the ED is rather small so many areas throughout the rest of the SE are bike/walk distance. Kmart of course, is in South Burlington and apparently would take some creativity and partnerships to pull off, but with the proximity to Burton, Edlund, Rhino and others, it seems a very worthwhile pursuit for our city’s creative planners. Lastly one more thought on housing. The housing I propose outside the ED must include a majority of BELOW market rate rentals if its going to any use at all for working people in the ED and Burlington as a whole. That should be part of the plan.

    • Charlie Messing

      Thank you for your input: Amey, Genese, Joan, Tony, Ibnar and the rest, including VT Digger. I thank everyone involved in enabling this dialogue. One person asked why anyone would want to put up housing in the Enterprise District. Someone else asked why there is such polarization on the issue. Folks, it’s the money. Our mayor is a real estate person. Many people can make lots of money by pushing this plan through; it’s a big opportunity.
      I have a copy of the glossy spiral-bound $20 book detailing the plan. If you cite a page number, I can tell you what’s wrong with the reasoning on that page. There is no reason (other than making money) to build housing in the Enterprise District. There is every reason to build it elsewhere. Obviously there is More money to be made by avoiding our objections, and lining Pine St. with condos. I would like the Planning Committee and the City to consider how easy the process will become if they give up on changing the zoning of the Enterprise District.
      The plan uses the word “underutilized” to describe property containing Nature – like the tree-lined blocks of Pine St. and the Barge Canal as is. I have seen the waterfront part of the Plan, and I don’t like that either, because it takes our open space and replaces it with Housing Project development. Who enjoys living in a housing project, even if they can afford thousands for rent? If you look into the subject, you’ll find that the surrounding properties also increase in value – taxes go up, and so do rents.
      Form-Based-Zoning? Form follows function, and there’s a good reason for that. This is a beautiful, livable city because of the way it Is. What they want to do will take it in the opposite direction, just so more people can say “I live in Burlington.” There has been a housing shortage in Burlington for over 60 years. If you build more highways, more people will drive – if you build more housing, people will come, and yet more people will not be able to fit. The New North End was a solution to this. Putting affordable housing at the Blodgett site could work. Construction in the Enterprise District, and increased traffic, wouldn’t.
      Does the mayor drive on Pine during rush hour? I suggest he do so. On the other hand, let the Consultants do so. This is a bad plan, so we find fault with it. That fault is not our fault, and it’s not the City’s fault, it is just plain faulty. Several excellent books detail the flaws in this process of City Planning. By all means, let us find a way to build housing (especially for the middle class and the homeless), but let us build it where it will do no harm.

  • john jacobs

    For those of us spending $1500/month to live in the un-maintained trash rentals that line Burlington, there is absolutely a reason to support new residential construction everywhere and anywhere near downtown.

    Try finding a 3bd/2ba in town that isn’t a heap of junk for under $400k. You won’t. Despite having a significant income and great credit, my only option for staying in Burlington is continuing to rent a dump.

    For people like Deb Loring, who bought a 4bd/2ba for $133k 15 years ago and who’s property has near tripled in value, I can see how the prospect of new housing that will chip away at Burlingtons artificially high property values would be something they would be against, because as others have said, it’s all about the money.

    • John,

      The South End is highly desirable for living , as well as working. There is indeed a need for more housing. However, to be sure it’s clear, there is room to do this outside of the Enterprise District, which comprises about a 1/4 of the South End.

      There is an ongoing misunderstanding of the issue, and I hope the message to maintain zoning in the ED is not misinterpreted to mean no housing in the South End.

      There are a number of houses for sale in other parts of the city under $400,000, however the South End, i don’t believe contains them.

      I agree it is all about the money, so let’s spend ours, i.e.- the city’s conscientiously, in spending $500,000 to do this planning process and get all the facts out there to work together toward viable, long-term solutions. Thanks!

    • Deb Loring

      On the contrary, changing the enterprise zone to include residential properties would increase my property value. I am fully opposed to something that actually would make me money. Because my opinions are guided by actual principles. I couldn’t afford to live in this neighborhood at today’s property prices; and I don’t want to live in an area in which I ultimately will not be able to afford even the property taxes. If the enterprise zoning change goes through, my wealth increases, but the neighborhood I could finally afford to buy in, after a lifetime of hard work, will just be further gentrified; and I will be further alienated by it.

  • Amey Radcliffe

    John, your comment puts light on the need for below market rate housing which I believe is the true problem in Burlington. The kind of housing most often built will not solve that issue, in the Enterprise District or anywhere else. Right now we have housing that is built with approximately 15% affordable (i.e.: subsidy level) and the rest market rate and above. This leaves out the “middle” (above subsidy level and below market rate). Burlington’s problem is not the lack of housing in general, but lack of below market rate housing. Secondly, you raise a good point about building conditions. With greater enforcement of housing standards and more aggressive penalties for violations, we could see an increase in the stock of decent housing at reasonable rents. Lastly, let’s keep in mind that the Enterprise District is where many good paying jobs exist. If this area shrinks, so do the kind of jobs that help people afford the apartments they desire. If this area becomes predominantly housing and mixed use, we are going to see the good paying jobs leave in favor of retail and maintenance jobs that pay less. Every detail impacts several others.

  • Rita Markley

    I am confused by this article and can’t quite identify the news angle.
    The City of Burlington undertook a planning process for the South End where there are a number of mixed uses: art spaces, commercial offices, housing, and retail.
    It seems inevitable that tensions would surface once a draft was released, especially given the challenge of trying to balance so many competing needs.
    Although I am a longtime housing advocate, I share the concerns of artists who, rightly, fear the loss of affordable studio space if the industrial corridor is changed to allow residential development. From this article, it sounds like the BCA won a significant grant to pay artists to help engage the community in the planning process. Isn’t it predictable that stakeholders would hold different, even conflicting, visions for their neighborhood? I am baffled why there is conflict about the chance for artists to help inspire input in the process. The story doesn’t make this clear.
    The Planning Office and their consultants sifted through a broad range of data and community feedback from many different constituencies. Some of that input was likely prompted by artists who were hired to create pieces to inspire input from the neighborhood. Why isn’t that a good thing?
    Would those perspectives have been considered otherwise?
    I am unable to follow what is fueling the tension other than confusion about roles and expectations on the input generated by artists. This is a draft, not the final plan.
    The ongoing housing crisis in Burlington has prompted a number of concerns and debates citywide about development. I think most neighborhoods are wrestling with questions of how do address that housing shortage while retaining the character of our communities.
    This story seems to disproportionately focus on BCA and artists rather than the broader dynamics underlying the challenge of balancing the complex and competing needs in our community.

  • Charles Simpson

    Thea Lewis mentions Queen City Cotton and so brings to mind the history of planned industrial towns in New England. They were in many respects a disaster. “Workforce housing” was indeed proximate to the “works” themselves and residents were carefully selected to meet the “workforce” needs of the owners. No union radicals; no non-employees; no old or sick of useless. Usually the bosses controlled the mayor and the police indirectly or directly where the factory town was unincorporated and private. As a “machine”, the textile factory town functioned smoothly, delivering profits so long as slaves and sharecroppers continued to deliver the raw materials at super-low prices and impoverished immigrants–including their children–were available and desperate. Social justice aside, this model ultimately failed because as a totally integrated machine, it supported only one market product and had no capacity for diverse production, new and competing entrepreneurs, or upward mobility for residents. It died within its own shell as technology, tastes, and competition moved on.

    What’s the lesson of all this for South End planning? We need not a utopian scheme specifying details like the most appropriate sites for housing as Plan BTVSo.End would have it, but a framework within which innovation and creativity can happen horizontally. Democratically. Manufacturing-only zoning does just this. It holds at bay the pernicious residential real estate industry as well as city officials who ideologically believe that America is in a post-industrial age where financial manipulation and imported gadgets are the royal road to wealth. Keep–no, expand–the EZ.