Conserving our open space and natural areas

red rocks julien cascade gelee compoteIn order to pass along South Burlington (and the planet) to our children and grandchildren, we must plan wisely and conserve our natural resources. The protection of our wetlands, forests, and ecosystems will work to keep our lake a safe source for our drinking water, support food production by protecting our pollinators, and ensure public health since thriving ecosystems reduce the threat of parasites. Nothing can prevent flooding like a natural wetland! And nothing is more restorative to us as a species than the great outdoors.

Open Space and Natural Area Enhancement Plan: I also believe that we need to manage our natural areas. I therefore supported the 2016 ballot item to use ½ cent for the improvement of the City’s parks and nature areas (Red Rocks, Wheeler, and Underwood) over a period of ten years. There are four more years to go, and we are implementing management plans for Red Rocks and Wheeler. We have a vision and initial strategies for Underwood that still need our attention. So far, work has focused on removing invasive species from the parks, repairing trails, erecting signs, and preventing erosion. Each year, the cent for open space conservation for active (playing fields) and passive recreation (parks and natural areas) accrues reserve funds of roughly $310,000 per year. This will increase to over $400,000 due to the reappraisal. The ½ cent Open Space and Natural Area Enhancement Plan has directed between $130,000-150,000 per year toward conservation management and the upkeep of our natural areas, a much needed step.

The heavy usage of S.B.’s athletic fields: The Recreation and Parks Department staff put together a needs list, which was presented to the Council in 2015. They are now finalizing a plan for a new recreation center, including basketball courts, a turf field, walking/running paths, movement center, and more! The design is available on the City’s website, and the Council intends to pursue these plans in the coming years.


Recommendation that all residents be within 1/4 mile of and have easy, safe access to a park: I am a huge proponent of pocket parks and green space, neighborhood gardens, playgrounds and nature areas for passive recreation.

City-wide Conservation Efforts

The Planning Commission has finalized its draft land development regulations which will:

  • Protect our natural resources, ecosystems, wetlands, forests, and wildlife corridors by specifying where natural resource protections are required, including buffers
  • Promote dense development with housing (minimum of 4 units per acre) of various types and styles, including accessory apartments, cottages, duplexes, town houses, and condos
  • Provide for affordable units through inclusionary zoning and smaller lots sizes
  • Ensure green space for shared use in new neighborhoods (called Traditional Neighborhood Design)
  • Balance conservation and development on parcels where natural resources cover more than 50% of the land area by calling for a 70-30 split for conservation and development
  • Maintain the development potential of the southeast quadrant (of at least 1600 new homes)

There is more to come! The Planning Commission is continuing its work by focusing on infill regulations. Also, thanks to the work of the Interim Zoning Open Space Committee, the Council has received a report identifying twenty candidate parcels for conservation throughout the city in order to prioritize the use of our Open Space Fund, dependent on voter approval of course! More work will need to be done to determine how city planners can continue to meet the goals as outlined in South Burlington’s Comprehensive Plan: affordable & community strong; walkable; green & clean; and opportunity-oriented.

Here is where my opponent and I differ: As a wildlife biologist once told me, I want for South Burlington to remain a bobcat and fisher kind of town and not a place just for squirrels, raccoons, and skunks. For this reason, the 70-30 split on the Conservation PUDs is essential in order for more habitat areas to be available to our wildlife, which require space, shrublands, in addition to forests and streams, and hidden habitats. A 50-50 split as my opponent is proposing will not preserve our current wildlife species. My opponent also wishes to remove the requirement of Conservation of PUDs in specific areas, which would have a devastating effect on our wildlife and ecosystems.

automne Wheeler feuilles
Wheeler Park Conservation: I supported having Wheeler Park conserved through a third party in perpetuity, and the agreement was finalized this past year.