Rendering of proposed mall from the Cherry Street side
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger wants city voters to have a say on a controversial zoning change that would increase allowable building heights downtown.
He will ask the city council Thursday to approve the change, and to also put the zoning question on the November 8 ballot for voters to decide.
Weinberger is a staunch supporter of the height increase, which would allow
buildings up to 14 stories tall at the site of the proposed $250 million Burlington Town Center redevelopment. The current height limit is about ten stories.
Critics of the height increase, like the Coalition for a Livable City group, say Weinberger rushed the zoning change through the city approval process. The group was in the midst of planning a petition drive to get the zoning change on the ballot so that residents could make the decision.
However, the timing of that petition drive likely would have forced a special election in late December or early January, putting the mall decision in limbo for several more months.
To avoid a delay, Weinberger said bringing the matter to a vote in November, when turnout will be high for the presidential election, makes sense.
He predicts voters will say yes, and in doing so prove once and for all that the mall makeover and height change have broad support. “I think that will bring a certain amount of resolution to the future of the project,” he told Seven Days.
Opponents of the height change weren’t completely surprised by the mayor’s announcement. They knew the Weinberger administration was considering the strategy, but think they’ll prevail at the polls — not the mayor.
“He’s been saying for a long time that we are a vocal minority and that’s just not true. I suppose this petition being brought to a vote will prove that,” said Genese Grill, a Coalition for a Livable City member.
The group planned to start a petition drive if the city council OK’s the zoning change, as expected, during Thursday’s meeting. Now its members will meet to discuss the best strategy, according to Grill.