A rendering of CityPlace Burlington on Cherry Street
The redesigned CityPlace Burlington project won unanimous approval from the city’s Development Review Board this week, but a group of opponents is already planning to appeal the permit.
Burlington-based attorney John Franco is representing four residents — Steve Goodkind, Michael Long, Lynn Martin and Barbara McGrew — in the pending appeal. He says the 422 parking spaces planned for the project aren’t enough to support 426 residential units, let alone vehicles from shoppers and downtown workers.
“I call it the ‘more cows than people’ problem,” Franco said, referring to the saying that Vermont’s bovines outnumber its humans. “That’s why we’re appealing. This will be a disaster for the downtown.”
Once the developers have the permit in hand, Franco said, he’ll file an appeal in Vermont Environmental Court.
The news comes as CityPlace developers last week finally settled a legal challenge brought by the city last fall. They aim to start construction late this summer or early fall, but the appeal could derail those plans, said Dave Farrington, one of the project partners.
“We have four people that are basically controlling the destiny of 45,000 people that want to see this thing built,” he said.
Franco’s clients sued the developers over the original, 14-story project in 2017. That suit resulted in a settlement that Franco says called for 967 parking spaces to be built. He says that agreement is still enforceable but that his clients would agree to “an equitable adjustment in the number of parking spaces” since CityPlace has since been scaled back to two 10-story buildings.
City zoning has changed since 2017, too. The regulations don’t require any new parking for projects proposed in the so-called “Mixed Use Multimodal Parking District,” which includes the CityPlace property. Instead of setting parking minimums, the new ordinance enforces parking maximums. The 422 planned spaces are 45 short of the total allowed under the new rules.
“We’re providing as much [parking] as we can within the footprint of the project right now, by code, and he’s not happy,” Farrington said of Franco.
Franco argues that the DRB should have reviewed the project by the older parking standards, not the new rule, but the city disagrees. In a memo to DRB members, assistant city attorney Kimberlee Sturtevant wrote that applications for projects that have changed substantially are “reviewed under current regulations.”
Farrington hopes the court will agree — and quickly.
"If one thing stops, everything stops, and it messes up the whole schedule," he said.
"That's what gets me the most," Farrington continued. "This one guy is throwing a cog in, and I don't know why he's doing it."