The Vermont Supreme Court ruled Friday that the city can continue to hold year-round events at Waterfront Park, concluding a long-running legal battle between a lakefront resident and Mayor Miro Weinberger's administration.
In November of 2012, Weinberger sought permission to amend the city's Act 250 permit, which had last been revised in 1994. He wanted to loosen restrictions on when and how often events could occur at Waterfront Park, and to give the city greater control over the park. It's the only municipal park subject to Act 250 regulations. The grassy expanse along Lake Champlain plays host to concerts, food and beverage festivals, regattas, road races and more.
The mayor proposed doing away with a condition that said the park could host events only for a maximum of 27 days between May 27 to September 15, no more than 22 of which could involve amplified music and no more than 18 of which could fall on the weekend. Weinberger also wanted to relax sound restrictions, in part by extending the cutoff time for amplified music to 11 p.m.
At the time, neighbors protested that the noise and traffic was already intolerable.
When the Act 250 commission approved the administration's request, Alison Lockwood, a resident of a brick townhouse next to the park, appealed the decision — first to the Environmental Division of the Superior Court, and then to the Vermont Supreme Court.
Both courts essentially concluded that Burlington's waterfront has changed significantly since 1994 and, given the increased development and activity, the city was entitled to pursue changes to its original permit.
Weinberger called Monday's decision an important victory for the city. "For nearly four years, at my direction, the city has fought to protect and expand the public’s right to enjoy Waterfront Park throughout the year in response to private attempts to dramatically curtail its use," he said in a press release.
The city has been operating under the amended permit, allowing events such as the Vermont City Marathon, Oktoberfest and the Penguin Plunge to take place at Waterfront Park during the litigation.
According to Weinberger, increased activity hasn't led to more complaints from neighbors. Crediting parks director Jesse Bridges with addressing residents' concerns, he said, "The relationship with the great majority of the neighbors is at a high point."
Lockwood, contacted via her attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.