I am running for re-election for the 2-year seat on the City Council because I believe that my policy decisions represent thoughtful leadership for long-term sustainability: (1) economic development: housing policy is workforce policy; and (2) conservation of critical and irreplaceable natural infrastructure: our wetlands, forests, rivers, brooks, and lake, which will help ward off and withstand extreme storms and other disruptions to our way of life brought on by climate change. Both economic development and conservation are essential to affordability and our future prosperity as a community. This balance also makes our city stand out in Vermont as the most forward-looking and innovative, which has meant that we attract the brightest lights in municipal planning and public works/stormwater.
As your representative and the Council Vice-Chair, I have signed on to both the Vermont Paris Climate Pledge and the Building Homes Together Campaign 2.0. When I knock on doors to speak with residents about my vision — which has been the same for over a decade, since 2008 when I first ran for the 2-year seat — I tell them that I am a strong proponent of maintaining natural areas that have been identified over decades as essential assets that will protect us from the worst of climate change; and that I am equally firm on ensuring that the people who work in South Burlington can live in South Burlington. That is my unfailing pledge to you.
Over my tenure, South Burlington has remained the most affordable of all municipalities in Chittenden County, and our development of affordable housing continues to outstrip Burlington, Essex, Williston, Winooski, and all the towns around us. We have also sought to use smart-growth planning tools that promote the construction of more densely built neighborhoods so that our natural habitats and wildlife corridors are protected.
Can we do better? We most certainly can, and I have been keen on approving plans supporting the development of perpetually affordable and environmentally responsible housing, including rental but especially owner-occupied, since building home equity is a clear benefit for first-time home buyers. I am likewise keen on passing the newly amended Land Development Regulations (LDRs) because they are a marked improvement in smart-growth planning rules, identifying which lands are buildable and which lands are to be conserved in a way that is clear, balanced, and sustainable. With them, multiple types of housing, including perpetually affordable housing, will be built in large developments, and buffers (transition zones) between housing developments of different densities and between housing and a natural habitat will be put in place.
Now, I will be clear with you. This is the ultimate challenge that we must face in our lifetimes. In our region, with both the pandemic and increasing number of storms and wildfires due to climate change, Vermont has become highly sought-after for people with the means to relocate. We have seen the result for first-time home buyers. Anecdotally, I recently heard that there were only five listed homes in our County with a market value below $369,000 (the median price for homes in the entire State of Vermont). We are in an affordable housing crisis. In response, I believe that the construction of perpetually affordable housing is the most important of our housing goals. Fortunately, with the federal economic stimulus funds that have become available, the Governor has pledged $250 million for housing, including new construction, renovation and weatherization of existing housing, and the redevelopment of city centers.
In order to reach this goal, we must build and redevelop responsibly — that is, energy-efficient homes that do not encroach on our conservation zones. These zones must be protected so that they may protect us. The new LDR amendments strictly prohibit development on all our wetlands and wetland buffers, which was not the case before. They establish habitat blocks, which sustain wildlife from insects and birds to larger mammals like bobcats and fisher, ensuring a balanced and thriving ecosystem on which our gardens and area farms, and therefore our lives depend. This is what our children are learning in our public schools. It is up to the adults to show them that these words have meaning, and that we are actively ensuring their future. To learn more, click on one of the tabs at the top of the page or contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org