The financial and human cost of the current home buyout program

The financials:

Current annual property tax revenue from the 39 parcels eligible for acquisition listed on the BTV website is $186,985. Should BTV purchase these parcels based on outdated data, the loss in tax revenue would amount to $163,123.54 total. On the City side alone, the annual property tax revenue from them would drop from $90,115 to $23,861.46, assuming that the total tax rate for FY 2018 is projected to be .4946, or a reduction of $66,253.54 per year, which represents a 73.5% loss of revenue for the City. For the State Education Fund, this would equate to a loss of $96,870 per year, or a 100% loss in tax revenue from these properties. Overall, this would be an extraordinary loss for the City.  It is especially grievous to contemplate such a loss knowing that the City has already lost 97 homes and accompanying tax dollars through the previous buyout and that the homes’ eligibility for purchase under the BTV Part 150 program is based on obsolete levels of VTANG operations unlikely ever to re-occur.

For some perspective, $163,000 could cover two new hires in the City, and, in budget discussions, this sum represents just under a 1% tax increase for the rest of the City’s residents.

The human and social cost:

School-age children are likely to reside in these 37 or 39 housing units.  Should these housing units be purchased and demolished, these children’s families are likely to have to move out of South Burlington (due to the scarcity of affordable housing in the City).  State aid for education is based on the number of children attending the City’s public schools.  Thus, the loss of these 37 or 39 housing units would cause this additional loss of revenue to the School District. Additionally, the Chamberlin neighborhood is home to Chamberlin Elementary School whose enrollment numbers have fallen ten percent, from 253 to 229, since 2010. The School’s Principal notes that the lack of affordable housing and the state of the current economy might also explain the increased number of Chamberlin students living in multiple-generation households.

The scarcity of affordable housing is the source of major hardship for the one in three South Burlington households, which spend more than thirty percent of household income on housing. Of these one in three households, thirty-six percent pay more than fifty percent of household income on housing. The housing affordability standard is paying thirty percent less of household income on housing (these data are from the 2013 South Burlington Affordable Housing Task Force Report). The loss of an additional 37 or 39 housing units in the most affordable neighborhood in the City will add to the number of households whose budgets are stressed by the scarcity of affordable housing in the City.

Equally, if not even more adverse, will be the negative effect on the vitality and psyche of the Chamberlin Neighborhood should it experience the loss of an additional 37 or 39 housing units and the families residing there.

Any advantage that might accrue to BTV from acquisition of these homes in the next three to five years is far outweighed by the harm that the City of South Burlington would experience as a result of BTV’s purchase of these homes.

Incentives for local businesses to locate in City Center

“I hear from residents that they want to see more businesses move in, and I wholeheartedly agree with them. The way to encourage this is to support the development of our commercial and industrial areas. How to encourage local businesses to stay in City Center if and when big national anchor stores move in, risking to outprice our local businesses? We can advocate for the creation of tax incentives for local businesses to locate in our City Center and become new creative, perhaps technological-minded entities. Many VT politicians have advocated for Vermont to become a mini Silicon Valley, and why not? So I’m thinking about connectivity and free Wi-Fi, which NYC is putting into place. There are ways for the Council to look at our assets and think about ways to attract businesses to invest here and also to attract them here through the various resources that we might provide such as Wi-Fi AND a skilled and attractive workforce by keeping our schools strong.”

You can watch the entire video of the February 11 Candidate Forum at South Burlington High School at

Small Dog
Pompanoosuc showrooms

A Model (Madison, WI)

A model Noise Abatement Program: My phone meeting notes with MSN Noise Abatement Officer Lowell Wright (January 14, 2016) — I have shared these with the Airport Commission and CNAPC:

At MSN, they started the Part 150 NCP update in 1991 and completed it in 1993. Beginning then, Mr. Wright reached out to residents to establish noise abatement subcommittees. This developed into the noise abatement commission, chaired by the County Board Supervisor of District 12, an affected district. On the commission are two elected officials, two residents, Airport personnel and Air Guard personnel. Lowell also invites neighborhood associations to attend. They meet twice per year in a joint meeting with the Airport’s technical advisory committee, led by Mr. Wright, and whose membership includes someone from Air traffic control, Army Guard staff (they have Black Hawk helicopters like we do), an aircraft owner from their AOPA (flying club), corporate pilots from corporate aviation, and other people in the industry who also live in the community. These individuals bring to the table information regarding procedures and restrictions (visual, weather, visibility, airfield conditions). As it should be, safety trumps. But all complaints (whether due to civilian or military aircraft noise) go to Mr. Wright, who then responds and follows up. He prefers for it to be centralized since that ensures a smoother operation and more resident satisfaction. If the complaint is due to their Air Guard operations, he’ll ask the resident if they wish for someone from the Air Guard to follow up, in which case Mr. Wright forwards the information to their PR office. He requests to be copied on any follow up correspondence from the Guard.

He told me that they do not follow strict bylaws or Robert’s rules because there is a friendly environment, civil and professional. It was “borderline combative” 7 or 8 years ago, he said. And when I asked what made it possible for there to be a friendly atmosphere now, he said “being open and listening to the residents” and treating all complaints equally as seriously. “I don’t single out the outliers (because that only agitates the public), and I like to throw all complaints into the one bucket.” “That builds trust.” Also, the “65 DNL contour is entirely on Airport property.” When the Noise Abatement Commission makes recommendations, the status of their recommendations becomes an agenda item on following agendas. The Airport also publishes an E-Newsletter, Air Currents:

Here is what they have accomplished regarding noise abatement:
– a hush house for the military aircraft
– a blast wall for air carrier ramp
– a new runway
– land acquisition
– approach and departure procedures
– an Aviation/Navigation, or “Avigation” easement to the north of the Airfield, which few people took advantage of due to the high property values; yet, they’ve been successful so far in keeping new subdivisions from developing north of the Airfield.

Part of Mr. Wright’s job is also to educate elected officials, pilots of transient aircraft, tower personnel, the FBO, and Guard, explaining why something has to be done in a certain way or what residents’ concerns are and how they might be addressed. Mr. Wright is truly a model for what can be done in terms of making for good neighborly relations.

This is not his only job. He said he wears many hats: noise abatement, environmental/stormwater, wildlife management, and in general Airport operations. The first three take on average 2 days/week, or 1/3 of his time each, with highs and lows for each depending on the season. Noise abatement tends to be more a part of his job in the wintertime. However, noise is not a full-time requirement, according to him. (I asked him about staffing questions).

In my opinion, his leadership and the Noise Abatement Program at MSN (Dane County Regional Airport: are really an excellent model for us here due to the similar size, the proximity of residential properties, the Air Guard, Black Hawk helicopters, etc.

Here is another page from the website, Noise FAQs, which is really helpful for residents:

Meaghan Emery
South Burlington City Councilor

Register to Vote, Get Involved

PrintAre you registered to vote in South Burlington? You can double-check and, if needed, register on-line on the Secretary of State’s website: Click here.

Get involved:

If you’d like to participate in my campaign, you could do any or all of the following:

– write personal testimonials for the Other Paper, the Free Press, or Front Porch Forum
– go door-to-door for leaflet drops
– stand at the polls on March 1
– send a donation of any amount (please click on Donate at the top of the page)

I am also eager to hear from residents who have questions for me, suggestions and/or concerns.

Leave me a note on this home page or contact me by email or phone. I would be happy to speak with you.

Phone: 802-264-9636

Running for City Council

Meaghan Emery

Meaghan Emery

After three terms on City Council (2008-2010, 2010-2012, 2014-2016), I am eager to return to see projects through to fruition: City Center development, including Dumont Park, a new Library/municipal complex, and public-private projects; Chamberlin Neighborhood planning; open space and natural area management planning and visioning (for Red Rocks, Wheeler, and Underwood respectively); and continued mixed-use transportation corridor studies and improvements.

My announcement appears on p.8 in the January 21, 2016 edition of The Other Paper.

Please take a look at my Platform to see my list of priorities and guiding principles–they have stayed the same since I first ran for the Council in 2008.

You can learn more about me and see a list of my initiatives and accomplishments under Bio. I delve more deeply into my guiding principles and view of the City’s social priorities under Affordability.

I have had the honor of serving you for six years, and I look forward to continuing in this role. Thank you for your support.


Winter storms

Did you know that SB residents can retrieve 5 gallons of salt from the Public Works Department per storm event?

To report an issue to our Department of Public Works, please go to their webpage and click on the green box “Report an Issue”:


Another option for reporting road work that needs to be done:
Call SBPW at (802) 658-7961
Hours: Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Office: 104 Landfill Rd.

The Department of Public Works maintains South Burlington’s streets (including signs, lighting, and traffic lights), parks and recreation paths, stormwater system, and gravity sewer lines. They also maintain many city and school district vehicles.

What is TIF?

South Burlington’s City Center was approved as a TIF district by the State in 2013. This special tax district designation will allow taxes collected on City Center properties to be redirected toward the continued development of City Center–a self-perpetuating funding mechanism that has had great success elsewhere in the State and in the nation.
The VT Agency of Commerce & Community Development has a very useful website for those interested: