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City council approves zoning for $100M project off Anthony Road

Burlington’s city council has approved a rezoning request that clears the way for an out-of-state developer to invest nearly $100 million into a light industrial project off of Anthony Road.

During a regularly-scheduled meeting on Tuesday, the council voted 5-to-0 in favor of this “limited use” rezoning request, which New Jersey-based Vision Real Estate Partners had filed in order to develop a 142.57 site beyond Anthony Court – a short, dead-end tributary to Anthony Road.

Ryan Fraser, an executive with Vision, told the council that he and his colleagues have big hopes for this project, although he didn’t specify the precise nature of the facility they plan to develop.

Ryan Fraser

“We are an owner/operator/developer of commercial real estate products,” Fraser explained during a public hearing before Tuesday’s decision. “We’ve executed projects for some of the largest companies in the world: Bayer Healthcare, MetLife, Barclay’s just to name a few…At the end of day, the goal is to deliver really good quality projects for our tenants, our partners, and the host municipalities in which we work.”

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Fraser added that his firm expects to invest “close to $100 million” into its project along Anthony Court.

In theory, the “limited use” designation that Vision received from the city allows the company to develop 35 of the 50-plus uses that the city permits in a light industrial district. These projects include such disparate possibilities as a broadcasting studio, a government office, a business incubator, a kennel or veterinary clinic, a microbrewery, a laundry service, a warehouse, and a light manufacturing plant.

As wide-ranging as these options may seem, they were actually pared down from an even lengthier list of 45 items which Vision had original proposed in its limited-use rezoning request.

Paul Koonts, a local attorney in Vision’s employ, conceded that this inventory of uses had initially raised some concerns for the city’s planning and zoning commission. Its sheer breadth also unnerved residents along nearby Keck Road – a dead-end street that runs parallel to Anthony Court.

Paul Koonts

Koonts recalled that many of these anxious homeowners shared their misgivings with the city’s planning commission when its members first considered Vision’s request in September. The commission, for its part, chose not to render an immediate verdict on the rezoning request so that the company’s representatives could hold a community meeting with these reluctant neighbors in mid October.

“We had something like 45 people show up,” Koonts recalled when he addressed the city council on Tuesday. “Through that process we we’re able to identify what are those key uses that [the neighbors] would rather not see on the property, and we reduced it from 45 to 35 [uses].

“I think the limited-use process is ideal for this type of development,” the company’s attorney continued. “There’s going to be multiple buildings with a lot of square footage and unknown end users…And we can take out those things that the community would be most concerned about and still leave flexibility for the developer when they don’t have an identified end user in place.”

On October 24, the city’s planning commission voted 7-to-0 to recommend Vision’s amended proposal to Burlington’s city council, after none of the neighbors ventured any additional complaints about the company’s plans. There was, likewise, nary a peep from the public when the company’s request came before the council on Tuesday – a fact that Burlington’s mayor Jim Butler attributed to Vision’s earlier efforts to win over the neighbors.

“We want to say how much we appreciate the time you spent with the property owners out there,” he declared after that evening’s 5-to-0 decision. “It’s always comforting to know that much effort went into a project.”

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