Wednesday, August 29, 2007

In front of the Planning Commission

Last night, at the Planning Commission meeting, Dan Bradley from the Public Works Department did a low-key presentation to the commission. From the commission's agenda:

Dan Bradley from the Department of Public Works will provide information to the Commission regarding the site selection process for a Downtown Transit Center and discuss the preferred site at 59 Pearl Street.

The bold emphasis in that last paragraph is mine. The St. Paul St.location was not discussed at all. Some of the commissioners had questions, but they did not seem to be aware that this was more than a couple of stories. The architectural drawing was not in their packets.

I spoke briefly at the beginning of the meeting, during the public comments section. I stated that I was a neighbor, and that the residents around this preferred site were very very concerned - noise, pollution, safety etc. I also stated that there is a petition that will be presented to both the City Council and the Planning Commission at a future date.

That petition was created by a resident of Champlain Apartments and can be found by residents there or at the Radio Deli for folks to read and sign if they want.

A couple of interesting things from this meeting.

Mr. Bradley gave the impression that the state is really aboard with this project, and that there's just a few things to iron out about the ownership of the property. "There's some confusion on the ownership," he said briefly after stating how a Building and Services official is the one who proposed this as a great site in the first place.

From my research it is not Building and Services that owns this building and that there are many things that need to be discussed with the Department of Labor about the legalities here. I have the impression that the city has had only minimal communication with the Dept of Labor so far, but that a meeting is set up soon. I wonder why it's gotten this far without really talking with the people who actually own the building?

Another thing is that the commissioners really did not get the impact of this being a multi-story (six or more) building with a parking garage underneath. Mr. Bradley did state that a one level parking structure could be created by using a right of way from the state in the somewhat tiny drive from Cherry St next to the Dept of Probation and Parole.

Lastly, the impression from the meeting last night is that the offices on top of the transit center (bus depot) would be filled by displaced state workers - maybe even CCV. That's the first I heard of that. Every other meeting had this as being some "future partnership" of still to be determined origin. The potential of a CCV partnership was brought up by a Planning Commission member, not Dan Bradley.

Now I'm all for trying to keep CCV in Burlington - I teach there. I do not, however, want bad development promoted by dangling the possibility of keeping CCV in town. Interestly, this happened at the end of the meeting too, where there was an update on why the affordable housing has not been built behind the brick block - er the Westlake development. The developer is going to ask to have the loft building - which has not been built yet - be all commercial and office instead of the affordable housing. (They would put the affordable housing elsewhere or pay in lieu of fees). One possibility that was mentioned might go there is CCV. I don't think it's really in CCV's philosophy to go to a location that pushed out affordable housing - that which would be used by many of the students and staff. I have no idea where CCV stands on this officially, but I'd love to find out.

Lastly, and this is related to Westlake again, the developer is unable to provide a 10 million dollar bond for the city to guarantee that the Loft project will be built. They say they can't afford the bond. (Oh yeah, and there's really nine stories to that building instead of the eight they proposed. Something about that top story really being the roofline....)

Overall, an interesting meeting. Be sure to educate yourself and make your own decisions on this project.

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