Charles Simpson | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Charles Simpson 
Member since Dec 2, 2015


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Re: “Ghost-Town Center: The Dying Days of Burlington's Downtown Mall

"[Attorney Franco] argued that the plans do not include enough parking to accommodate the increased occupancy." This fact requires some thought. The existing public garage will be demolished and new parking created above the ground floor, but only to accommodate residents and office tenants in the new spaces to be constructed. Even this is only possible by using valet parking to "stack" cars as much as three deep. The result is that Church Street and mall retail merchants will not be able to offer their clients any of the new parking. Sure, we need electric buses and walkers and bikers while be able to access Church Street but adequate parking remains the lifeblood of a retail/restaurant district. BTC will sharply reduce this component of city "livability". In this sense, Church Street merchants should be worried, very worried.

11 likes, 8 dislikes
Posted by Charles Simpson on 06/03/2017 at 4:37 PM

Re: “Not So Fast: Opposition to Appeal Burlington Town Center Permit

What should have happened when this out-sized development proposal was presented was for the Planning Commission and the DRB act to preserve the public interest. That includes preserving adequate parking--virtually all parking will go to tenants--lake views and the skyine--roof structures could bring the effective height so these buildings above 180 ft.--and true "street vitality". The current BTC plan has blank walls on the east side of the new St. Paul street and little or no consideration of the east wall of Macy's. As a result, Macy's may well close. This faulty design was approved even though the public is expected to pay for these two streets. Thankfully the IZ provisions dating from the Bernie years will keep some housing units below-market, the 80 unit college dorm doesn't move us toward "affordable housing." The smaller footprint for "increment financing"--phase two is now off the table--puts the public at greater risk in the case of a default since paying the banks comes first.
All in all, with Council having locked the city into a "pre-development agreement" a year ago and DRB approving the altered design this month. the City has mismanaged the review process and failed to defend the public interest in appropriately-scaled development while ignoring the city's empty storefronts and surface parking marring the downtown core. We need new city leadership.

5 likes, 3 dislikes
Posted by Charles Simpson on 03/16/2017 at 3:11 PM

Re: “After 27 Years, Burlington Will Examine Affordable Housing Policy

It's important to look at what the report assumes and what it excludes from consideration. It assumes that the city should grow at the same rate as the county, even as many jobs have shifted to the wider region. IZ need to be extended to Chittenden County. Yes, Burlington needs more downtown density but that can be achieved in part through incentives to get owners of empty lots, now used for surface parking, to put in mixed use projects. What's omitted is any mention of raising the minimum wage. That alone would be a significant help with housing costs. The point of contention will be about the report's recommendation to raise the threshold at which IZ takes effect from 5 to 10 new units. Since there's little space for large developments left, we need to keep the IZ threshold where it is or we'll end up with a lot of small projects just under the raised IZ threshold.

7 likes, 6 dislikes
Posted by Charles Simpson on 02/04/2017 at 12:28 PM

Re: “‘Unity Campaign’ of Burlington Councilors Backs Ballot Items

Let's look at the school funding/TIF connection. Council Member Shannon is confused. TIF freezes the amount of local property tax money going to the municipality totally until the bond is repaid in perhaps 20 years. It sequesters 75 percent of any increase in property taxes that would otherwise go to education. This "increment" of increased assessed value is from both inflation and new construction. Thus impacts on city services, including schools, will increase while the money to pay for this impact must come from property taxpayers outside the TIF district. At the same time, the Board of Ed. tells us we are overdue in making $65 million in school repairs. Given the overdue street and water pipe repairs, we are running to simply catch up with neglected maintenance, not putting money into new projects such as enhanced waste water treatment and an electric trolley system. And faced with this, the Mayor wants to hand $22 million to a developer to build the streets internal to his project that he needs for office windows, store windows, apartment windows, street access? This is precedent making, sadly. Just say "no".
Given our impending cascade of debt, can a sharp increase in property taxes be far behind?

13 likes, 5 dislikes
Posted by Charles Simpson on 10/12/2016 at 9:58 AM

Re: “Champlain Parkway Reviewed at 'Unexpectedly Civil' Meeting

When politicians and planners make a mistake, they typically resort to two tactics. When they hope to hide a mistake--such as the $300,000-plus that taxpayers will pay for removal of the pile of toxic soil from the Moran Plant area, now dumped in Leddy Park-- officials hope for a low profile. It's just the cost of making Burlington great, they seem to say. When they are heavily invested in a mistake--in this case the Champlain Parkway--they recast the plan as "improved", "not your old Belt Line Connector", line up a claque of supporters (AARP, Local Motion, SEBA, bba), and when public pressure forces an open forum, pretend that the decision has already been made. "The ship is moving; sure there's the iceberg but we can't change direction, so hang on; we're standing by with duct tape."
In any language, the Parkway is a legacy project, built and defined by past mistakes--specifically, the limited-access segment C1 already built. It violates all the current rules of connectivity--truncates Pine and four other local streets, dumps bikers and walkers at Home Ave., far short of shopping centers and housing to the south. It creates two right-angle turns--essentially intestinal blockages--at Lakeside, destroys existing remote parking facilities at Lakeside and on the C! apron, and plays havoc with Eglesby Brook drainage. And those thousands of yards of "contaminated" soil? They'll just go back under the roadbed, VTrans tells us. Just as the Leddy Park dirt pile will go under the bike path. Right.
But isn't that iceberg getting closer?

9 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Charles Simpson on 12/02/2015 at 2:23 PM

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