The college now says it has leased the building to the Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS).
Last Spring, Champlain was publicly defending plans to purchase the building and replace it with apartments for 200 college students. A few months after purchasing the Eagles Club, the college made headlines while arranging to purchase the Ethan Allen Club on College Street. Both purchases are part of Champlain's plan to build new downtown housing for 600 students. That's about a quarter of the college's total student population.
Now the former Eagles Club, at 194 St. Paul Street, will become a "boarding house" with up to 40 beds, according to Mary O'Neil, an administrator with the planning and zoning department.
Does that mean it'll be a homeless shelter? And why did Champlain decide to lease the space to COTS? It's hard to say, because Champlain and COTS aren't talking to the press yet.
O'Neil at planning and zoning offered some information. She told Seven Days that her office approved a zoning permit request on January 9. The resulting permit, which was picked up on January 27, grants a "change of use" from "membership club" to "boarding house."
Burlington city ordinance states that a "boarding house" is a place where "rooms are let to individuals for compensation for a period of time greater than thirty days, and where meals may be regularly served in a common dining area." It also notes that "apartment houses" and "dormitories" are not boarding houses.
According to O'Neil, most zoning permits expire in two years, but the Eagles Club permit doesn't have an expiration date. "My understanding is that it's a temporary change of use," she explained. "However, it does not say 'temporary' in the permit."
So is Champlain planning to lease the space for more than two years? Michel George, the college's associate vice president for capital planning and auxiliary services, declined to discuss specifics of the COTS lease agreement. "We have leased the space to COTS," he said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon. "[COTS] will be releasing their own statement next week."
Rita Markley, executive director of COTS, did not return multiple phone and email requests for an interview. According to figures she provided Seven Days in September, COTS turned away 42 families this summer, compared with 25 families in the summer of 2007.