After almost three hours of discussion and public hearing, Burlington City Council adopted more than two dozen amendments to its zoning ordinance Thursday night. Part of it allows for 14-story structures to built in a certain part of downtown, including the proposed new Town Center.
"If the mall does die, it's going to impact all the businesses downtown, and that's a big part of our tax base," says Councilor Kurt Wright (R- Ward 4). "If that was to be damaged, taxpayers will feel a hit down the road on that."
"If we were being asked to approve a 160-foot mall, the answer would be no," says Councilor David Hartnett, North District. "We're not, we're building a neighborhood."
Developer Don Sinex has proposed a 14-story Town Center project, including housing, medical jobs, and retail space. It has garnered divided opinions since its inception two years ago.
"Making the city more livable, more housing in the downtown core, jobs, prosperity and more talent, growth," says Bruce Wilson, who uses space for his non-profit in the current Town Center. "This is an incredible project and I urge you to support it."
"The proposed height and environmental design of this project serve both form and function that only a high density design can fulfill," says Shireen Hart of Burlington. "Higher density projects means more people supporting businesses, the arts, adding to the local workforce and connecting with local nonprofits."
Arguably the most controversial piece to the new Town Center proposal is its anticipated height of 160 feet. That's up from the currently allowable 105 feet. Councilors Sharon Bushor, Max Tracy, and Selene Colburn voted against the project, mainly because of this. Others agreed.
"The height, the underground parking, the student housing, they're way over the top for anything we've had in Burlington for a long time and anything we want in Burlington," says Steve Goodkind, who formerly ran for Mayor.
"The zoning as it stands now is what the people of Burlington asked for," says another Burlington woman against the proposed project, "It sounds like Mr. Sinex has wonderful programs he wants to promote and I like that, but I don't think it's necessary to go above 105 feet."
Councilor Karen Paul (Ward 6) said Burlington has undergone 22 zoning ordinance changes to make way for current buildings, including ArtsRiot and City Market.
Despite councilors adopting these zoning changes, the future of the Town Center is still. ultimately. up to voters. They will be able to approve, or vote down Council's decision on the November ballot. Also a ballot item, the approval of TIF funds to pay for the proposed Pine Street/St. Paul Street connective corridor.
Copyright 2016 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.