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Neighbors Decry Proposed Champlain College Purchase


Published December 11, 2008 at 3:16 p.m.

Burlington residents spoke out yesterday against Champlain College's plan to purchase the Ethan Allen Club on College Street.

(For background on Champlain's plan, see my story in this week's Seven Days, "Burlington Mayor Challenges Champlain College on Proposed Building Acquisition.")

First, Jennifer Karp Adrian created a Facebook group, "YMCA should purchase the Ethan Allen Club." As of noon Thursday, the group counted 10 members.

It was an ironic gesture, considering her husband, City Councilor Ed Adrian (D-Ward 1), had asked fellow councilors to approve Champlain's purchase at the council's December 8 meeting. Adrian's colleagues voted no, and Champlain later agreed to explain their intentions at a public forum at City Hall.

The forum, which took place last night, drew about 40 people to a packed City Hall conference room.

Champlain reps kicked off the hour-and-a-half forum by explaining that the college is planning to demolish the club and build apartment-style housing for about 280 students. The building could be between 3 and 6 stories tall, they said.

Neighbors who attended the meeting, by and large, were pissed. A few said such a project isn't consistent with Burlington's "livable" city ideals. Others said they are concerned about having college students moving into their neighborhood, no matter how the students are housed. Others said they wish the Greater Burlington YMCA, which had bid on the property, had beaten Champlain.

Just before 8 p.m., Maddy Posig, one of the more combative attendees, recalled Joni Mitchell's famous line, "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot," to express her displeasure. Then City Councilor Joan Shannon (D-Ward 5) defended the project, saying Champlain does a good job managing its properties, and that Champlain would pay more in property taxes than would the Y.

As for the College Street property, Shannon added, "I'd describe it as a parking lot and a building."

The city council will vote on Champlain's plan at its next meeting: Monday, December 15th, at City Hall. Public comment period begins at 7:30 p.m.

*Correction: My story contains two errors. First, local developer Tony Pomerleau placed a bid for the Ethan Allen Club on Champlain College's behalf in 2007, not 2002. Second, Champlain received a purchase and sale agreement from the club in mid November, not October. Thanks to Champlain's David Provost for clarifying. My apologies for the goofs.