Agreement Reached for Former Burlington College Property | Off Message

Agreement Reached for Former Burlington College Property


Former Burlington College property - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Former Burlington College property
They have a deal — if the city signs off on zoning changes. Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger announced Thursday that his administration, developer Eric Farrell, Champlain Housing Trust and the Vermont Land Trust have agreed how to divvy up the former Burlington College property. 

Farrell in February purchased the 27-acre property from Burlington College, which was deeply in debt after buying it from Burlington's Catholic diocese.

Following an outcry from people upset at the prospect of losing a large tract of open lakefront land to development, Farrell agreed to hash out a deal to preserve some of the land. The four parties involved unveiled an unofficial plan in August.

Under the new development agreement, the city gets Texaco Beach, the bluffs overlooking Lake Champlain, a path through the woods and a large field — for $2 million. The city will co-own the 12 acres with the Vermont Land Trust.

Farrell is expecting the money in cash by February. Burlington will pay $500,000 from its conservation fund; the Vermont Land Trust will borrow the rest to pay up front. Depending on how much money the Land Trust raises from grants and donations to pay back the loan, Burlington may pitch in another $500,000 from the conservation fund.

The Burlington City Council, whose approval is needed, is scheduled to discuss the agreement on December 21.

The agreement sets aside 15 acres for housing.

Champlain Housing Trust will purchase an undetermined amount of land from Farrell for $1.6 million and will build 160 affordable units for seniors and families. That will be used to meet the city's inclusionary housing requirements for the entire development. 

On the remaining land, Farrell plans to construct 410 market-rate apartments. The agreement leaves open the possibility of adding more workforce housing, for a maximum of 770 units on the parcel. (Farrell also has plans to convert the former orphanage building, currently owned by Burlington College, into housing.)

The deal hinges on several zoning changes. Among them: reducing the parking requirements and allowing higher buildings closer to North Avenue. If those changes aren't approved — or if the Development Review Board rules that the project doesn't meet inclusionary zoning requirements — Farrell can purchase the public space back from the city for the original sale price, plus interest. 

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