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Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Burlington Council Fails to Override Short-Term Rental Veto, Approves 'Shelter Pod' Plan

Posted By on Tue, Mar 22, 2022 at 1:49 AM

  • Luke Eastman
Burlington city councilors fell one vote short on Monday in their attempt to override a mayoral veto of new regulations for short-term rentals.

It originally appeared that councilors had the needed two-thirds majority to defeat Mayor Miro Weinberger's veto, as eight of 12 councilors voted last month in favor of the regulations. But Councilor Karen Paul (D-Ward 6) flipped at Monday night's meeting, which stretched into early Tuesday, and cast the decisive vote to sustain the veto.

"I don't believe this ordinance is the way for Burlington to go," Paul said. "I think that we can do better."

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Monday, March 21, 2022

Dieng Wins Burlington Council Race as Judge Rejects Ballot Challenge

Posted By on Mon, Mar 21, 2022 at 6:06 PM

Councilor Ali Dieng (I-Ward 7) - FILE: COURTNEY LAMDIN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Courtney Lamdin ©️ Seven Days
  • Councilor Ali Dieng (I-Ward 7)
A state judge on Monday affirmed Ali Dieng as winner of the Ward 7 Burlington City Council race, rejecting a claim by Democratic challenger Aleczander Stith that city election officials didn’t properly handle several invalid ballots.

The ruling appears to settle the contest, which incumbent Dieng, a political independent, won by two votes. Stith said he does not intend to pursue any further appeals.

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Longtime COTS Leader Rita Markley Announces Upcoming Retirement

Posted By on Mon, Mar 21, 2022 at 4:15 PM

COTS executive director Rita Markley, right, with Ron Redmond - COURTESY OF BECKY HOLT/COTS
  • Courtesy of Becky Holt/COTS
  • COTS executive director Rita Markley, right, with Ron Redmond
Rita Markley,  a longtime leader in the effort to end homelessness in Vermont, will retire from the Committee on Temporary Shelter this fall after three decades of service.

The Burlington nonprofit announced Markley's retirement in a press release Monday that praised her as a lifelong advocate against inequality.

“When I first walked through the doors of COTS 30 years ago as a volunteer, I had no idea that this organization would become the greatest love of my life, besides my family,” Markley said in the release.

Markley has served as COTS' executive director since 1996. She's credited with helping shape the nonprofit into a national leader in homelessness advocacy and programming.

Among her achievements is the restoration of the COTS headquarters on 95 North Avenue in Burlington from a run-down building into an activity hub that now hosts a housing resource center and the Daystation, where people can connect with various social services.

She also spearheaded several statewide initiatives, including the Coalition to End Homelessness, and has overseen the completion of more than 50 affordable housing units. Another 16 apartments for families are expected to come online next year.

“Rita is an intrepid leader who has inspired thousands of others to take action to end homelessness,” said Tom Stretton, who chairs the nonprofit's board of directors, in the announcement. “It is no exaggeration to say that through her work, both directly and indirectly, Rita has touched millions of lives over the past three decades."

Stretton and the rest of the nonprofit's board will lead the search for Markley's replacement. The outgoing leader expressed gratitude for her colleagues and said she believes the organization has "never been stronger."

"I am thrilled to see what the next generation of leadership will achieve," Markley said. 

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Friday, March 18, 2022

Weinberger Vetoes Burlington's Short-Term Rental Regulations

Posted By on Fri, Mar 18, 2022 at 2:23 PM

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger - FILE: LUKE AWTRY
  • File: Luke Awtry
  • Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger
Updated on March 21, 2022.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger has vetoed an ordinance intended to curb the number of short-term rentals in the city.

The measure, which city councilors approved last month by an 8-4 vote, was the result of a two-year debate over how to regulate properties rented out on sites such as Airbnb. The new rules would prevent property owners from running a short-term rental anywhere but in their permanent residence, with few exceptions. Proponents said the regs would free up long-term housing, which is sorely needed in a city with a meager vacancy rate of less than 2 percent.
Weinberger, however, said on Friday that the ordinance would be a barrier to creating new homes, "deepening the very problem that the STR restrictions seek to address."

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Friday, March 11, 2022

Burlington City Council Candidate Appeals Election Results in Court

Posted By on Fri, Mar 11, 2022 at 1:59 PM

Aleczander Stith (far right) on Town Meeting Day - FILE: LUKE AWTRY
  • File: Luke Awtry
  • Aleczander Stith (far right) on Town Meeting Day
Burlington City Council candidate Aleczander Stith is taking the Ward 7 election results to court, contending that the city may have violated election law by failing to contact voters who cast defective ballots.

Stith, a Democrat, asked for a recount after losing the Town Meeting Day election to incumbent Councilor Ali Dieng, an independent, by just two votes. The recount, held at city hall on Monday, confirmed Dieng’s 795 to 793 victory. Stith filed his appeal in Chittenden Superior Court on Friday.

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Thursday, March 10, 2022

Former Burlington YMCA Building Still Vacant, Now in Foreclosure

Posted By on Thu, Mar 10, 2022 at 1:19 PM

The former home of the Greater Burlington YMCA - COREY GRENIER ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Corey Grenier ©️ Seven Days
  • The former home of the Greater Burlington YMCA
Four years after it was sold to a Florida hotel developer, the former home of the Greater Burlington YMCA is vacant, attracting graffiti and in foreclosure.

Burlington city officials have now stepped in to press the owner, who stopped making payments on the mortgage last fall, to take action.

The developer, a Palm Beach investment firm called Hospitality Funding, bought 266 College Street for $3 million in 2018 with the goal of turning it into a 142-room hotel. But the company stopped communicating with the city during the pandemic, according to Brian Pine, a former city councilor who is director of the city's Community and Economic Development Office.

With housing in very short supply, prospective buyers have been contacting the city about the building, said Pine, who sees the long-running vacancy as a lost opportunity.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Three Managers to Resign From Burlington's Racial Equity Office

Posted By on Wed, Mar 9, 2022 at 2:45 PM

L to R: Marielle Matthews, Skyler Nash and Nyla Ruiz - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • L to R: Marielle Matthews, Skyler Nash and Nyla Ruiz
Updated at 5:47 p.m.

Three of four managers in Burlington's Office of Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging are resigning. The news comes less than a month after the city said the department's leader, Tyeastia Green, was leaving her post.

Skyler Nash, Nyla Ruiz and Marielle Matthews will all leave within the next month or so, Green confirmed to Seven Days on Wednesday afternoon. The department's fourth manager, Belan Antensaye, has not resigned.

Nash, a public policy manager, was one of Green's first hires. His last day is March 10, the same as Green. Nash wouldn't say whether his exit is in solidarity with his boss, who reportedly felt unsupported during her two years on the job.

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Monday, March 7, 2022

Recount Confirms Dieng Will Keep Seat on Burlington City Council

Posted By on Mon, Mar 7, 2022 at 8:45 PM

Councilor Ali Dieng (I-Ward 7) - COURTNEY LAMDIN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Courtney Lamdin ©️ Seven Days
  • Councilor Ali Dieng (I-Ward 7)
Incumbent Ali Dieng (I-Ward 7) will retain his seat on the Burlington City Council after a recount at City Hall on Monday confirmed his two-vote win over challenger Alec Stith, a Democrat.

The daylong process ended with the same vote count as on Town Meeting Day: Dieng with 795 votes, Stith with 793 and Olivia Taylor, a Progressive-endorsed independent, with 89.

As soon as the election was certified, Dieng clapped and threw up two “V” signs for victory. Stith rushed over and shook his opponent’s hand.

“I’m highly confident about the election system we have in Burlington,” Dieng told a scrum of reporters after the vote, adding that he felt encouraged even with such a narrow margin.

“I’m a proud city councilor,” he said. “I’m someone who’s really loved in the New North End.”

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Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Burlington Voters Approve Bonds, Reject Tax Rate Increase

Posted By on Tue, Mar 1, 2022 at 9:07 PM

Poll workers at Ward 7 in Burlington on Tuesday - LUKE AWTRY
  • Luke Awtry
  • Poll workers at Ward 7 in Burlington on Tuesday
Updated at 10:10 p.m.

On Tuesday, Burlington voters approved a $98.2 million new school budget and a pair of $20-million-plus bonds that will allow the city to revamp Main Street and complete a long list of municipal projects.

But voters narrowly struck down a 4-cent municipal tax rate increase by just 300 votes, dealing a blow to city officials who viewed the proposal as a prudent attempt to close a looming budget deficit. Department heads will now likely need to scour their budgets for cuts in the coming weeks.

The mixed verdict suggests that some residents are feeling the pain in the aftermath of a controversial reappraisal process that raised property taxes on most homeowners. It also portends a tough fight ahead over the school district's pursuit of a new high school; just hours before the polls closed, officials revealed that it could cost upwards of $200 million.

"The senior citizens need some help," said Ward 7 voter Judie Blanchard, who has lived in the neighborhood for 38 years and voted against every ballot item, including the tax increase. "We can't afford all these increases."

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New Burlington High School Could Cost $207 Million, District Says

Posted By on Tue, Mar 1, 2022 at 8:17 PM

Burlington High School's Institute Road campus - FILE: COURTNEY LAMDIN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Courtney Lamdin ©️ Seven Days
  • Burlington High School's Institute Road campus
Updated at 9:46 p.m.

The Burlington School District said on Tuesday that a new high school and technical center could come with a price tag of somewhere between $161 million and $207 million.

That estimate doesn't include an additional $26 million to $29 million the district would need to demolish the current buildings on the Institute Road campus and safely remove contaminated soils and building materials.

The district released the estimate on the afternoon of Town Meeting Day, as Burlingtonians voted on a potential tax hike and a capital bond for new city spending. Also on the ballot was the $98.2 million school budget, which represented a 13.1 percent increase in per-pupil spending over last year. But the district said it would likely amount to a reduction for taxpayers because of a surplus in the state education fund.

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