Our individual neighborhoods already have strong place-based identities, and I think most of us have a strong sense of belonging because of the social fabric of our neighborhoods. Hundreds of residents have already participated in dozens of visioning workshops for our City Center, which is coming to life before our eyes, and participated on task forces to enhance our parks/nature areas (some of our best kept secrets), identify the most important natural assets to our green infrastructure, review our Transfer of Development Rights program, and expand our biking and walking trails. This combined vision is already at work in the Comprehensive Plan, which we are now implementing through amended land development regulations — all a statement of our shared identity. Finally, our schools have always been a source of pride for this community and given us a solid identity base.
How would you improve livability in the City?
I’d like to see more and safer bike lanes and pedestrian crosswalks. I’d like for our parks to be enhanced and more of our river corridors and forest blocks in our remaining open space to be conserved. The Council has committed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and we also mindful of the warnings of our Fire Chief and Director of Public Works that unlimited growth risks putting the development/demand of City services balance into jeopardy. Therefore, as Councilor I will keep an eye on this balance. Our natural areas are part of the livability balance between growth and affordability, and, in my view, they should remain natural, beautiful, well-kept, and explorable areas for us and future generations.
Regarding economics, this is key to livability. Please check out my tab on affordability. We need to find a good balance in our growth so that tax rates remain affordable; and we need to protect and enhance our affordable housing as well as build more, particularly in our City Center and along our thoroughfares, near public transportation, services, and amenities.
City Center likewise should be a place for everyone: a place to do business, live, dine, play, or sit and daydream. The focus is on pedestrian usage, with a mix of building types and green space. Our new LDRs provide that residential development there will be accessible to different income levels so that families, working or retired individuals, and couples can settle here. With this in mind, we are fortunate that the public’s now realized vision included a new Community Library, Senior Center, and Municipal Office building close by, along with City Center Park. It would be lovely for the Friends of the Library to sponsor concerts, both indoor and outdoor, which would bring a unique municipal space with some cache to our City. The new Senior/Community and Cultural Center will allow us to provide richer programming for our children, teens, and young and older adults.
How could resident participation in local governance be improved or enhanced?
Regarding public participation, during my time on the Charter Review Committee, 2007-2008, the committee reformed the City’s Charter to include Neighborhood Civic Forums, a local governance structure I proposed to more directly involve citizens in the City Council’s decision-making processes. I think that this type of forum has already realized its potential to bring neighbors together to work collaboratively with city officials on finding a solution to an identified problem.
Regarding meeting protocol and processes, the Council has an established record of giving time to residents and other interested parties who attend our meetings either to address something on our agenda or another topic.
Our citizen committees are at the heart of our municipal planning. We are fortunate to have so many volunteers actively at work to help us achieve our planning goals and make South Burlington the best it can be.