NewNorthEnder.com - Burlington VT - Ward 4 and Ward 7

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Ward 4

70 Appletree Point Lane Meeting

The meeting on Monday, February 18th at the St. Mark's Church activity center was the first one I attended. I meant to attend the one before it, but I had a conflicting meeting that I thought took precedence early in my campaign. The meeting was contentious right from the start. Some of the crowd was clearly against the development, while others seemed at least willing to hear from the development compnay, Infill Woodbury Partners, LLC & Infill Development Services, LLC. Their representative, to his credit, managed to keep his cool under very heavy fire, though he was visibly agitated and at times condesending in his tone. I didn't envy him or his task for the night one bit.

One thing he mentioned repeatedly was that Infill was voluntarily presenting their proposal to the neighborhood, and that they were presenting the entire plan at once, rather than doing it a little at a time for the benefit of the neighborhood. It is true that they are not required to present their plans in such a way to the public at this point in the process. From a public relations (and most likely a permitting) point of view, it is probably a good idea to be open about such a large project. Anything else would be like trying to sneak a bull into a china shop. Because the meeting went as badly as it did (from both sides), I doubt that Infill, or other developers who were paying attention, would be likely or willing to be as open about their projects in the future. Hopefully, this is not the case, but if it is, I think requiring developers to have some sort of open forum for the public to address their concerns about a project going into their neighborhood would be a good move.

The meetings should be more structured than the one on Monday. There had been a few meetings before this one, but I don't think I was the only one there who hadn't been to any of the prvious meetings. A short overview of the entire project, before taking questions would have been helpful. Another critical aspect of the meeting was the scope of the information being presented. There were many questions about the operations of the facility. If Infill had made it clear from the begining that the operators had not been decided upon at this stage, it would have saved everybody time and frustration. Maybe a handout that briefly explained what questions can be answered (and what cannot) along with something like a table of contents, to go along with the slide show would be helpful in the future. This will give everybody a clear understanding of what's being presented so they can offer input on only the aspects of the project that have been established so far, or are in the process of being established.

In the past, NPAs have been involved with the early stages of development review. Hopefully this can be brought back to life. Right now, when the public does get a chance to offer their input, many feel it is too far along in the process to do anything about it, and either give up or enter into the public meetings with a chip on their shoulder (and rightfully so). If developers and the city give residents a chance to be heard early on in the process, tensions will be more likely to be eased, and developers will have a clearer picture of what neighborhoods will accept and what they will not.
 


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