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Developers seek to postpone hearing on controversial rezoning request


An attorney for two local developers has asked Burlington’s city council to postpone an upcoming public hearing on a contentious rezoning request for high-density housing on the city’s northern outskirts.

Ryan Moffitt of the Vernon Law Firm ultimately sought this delay on April 5 – less than 24 hours after the city council voted to hear this controversial proposal on April 18, despite the thumbs down it received from Burlington’s planning and zoning commission in March.

Attorney Ryan Moffitt during recent Burlington planning board meeting.

In an email to Burlington’s planning manager Conrad Olmedo, Moffitt seemed to suggest that his clients would use this postponement to tweak their rezoning request.

“The applicant would like to push the council hearing off by 60 days,” the attorney states in his electronic missive. “I will update you as to any changes to the request.”

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The brainchild of developers Ray Covington and James Kirkpatrick, the current version of this rezoning request would allow a relatively dense subdivision to go up on some 68 acres of land which presently sit vacant along Lakeside Avenue – just beyond the bounds of Burlington’s municipal limits.

Framed as a “limited use” request for high-density residential development, Covington and Kirkpatrick’s proposal doesn’t specify exactly what sort of subdivision the two developers have in mind for this property. Instead, it rules out some the more objectionable uses, including multi-family residences, that the city normally allows in a high density residential district, while leaving another 34 potential options for the developers to choose from.

This modestly curtailed proposal went over well with the city’s planning department – as Jamie Lawson, the city’s planning director, recalled during a city council work session last week.

“Staff did make a recommendation for this rezoning,” Lawson said at the time, “as it would be consistently inconsistent with our future land use designation.”

Covington and Kirkpatrick were less successful, however, with the city’s planning commission, which happens to count Kirkpatrick as one of its senior-most members as well as the current vice chairman of this appointed advisory board.

Due to his involvement in this project, Kirkpatrick withdrew himself from the commission’s discussion about the rezoning request. Meanwhile, the group’s other six members pelted Moffitt and Covington with skeptical inquiries about the proposal – which were later amplified by a number of residents from the nearby Brassfield Meadows subdivision.

In order to assuage the project’s critics, Covington offered a tentative description of the proposed development, which he said will most likely comprise 32 townhouses and 206 single-family homes. Covington added that the single-family homes will probably be marketed at price points between $250,000 and $375,000.

In the end, these assurances failed to impress the planning commission, which voted 5-to-1 not to recommend the request to Burlington’s city council.

The council also seemed to regard this proposal a bit warily when Lawson briefed its members on the planning board’s discussion during a work session last week. Burlington’s mayor Jim Butler even declared that the developer’s 34 proposed options for so-called “limited uses” struck him as “a lot of uses” for this project. He and his colleagues nevertheless agreed to schedule a hearing on the request, which they proceeded to confirm during a regularly-scheduled meeting a day later.

Because the council had already set the process in motion, Olmedo informed Moffitt that he couldn’t personally reschedule the hearing in response to the attorney’s request for a two-month delay. The city’s planning manager nevertheless encouraged Moffitt to make his request directly to the members of the city council.

“You would need to request to the city council at their April 18 meeting that the item be pushed out to their June 20 meeting,” he added in an email reply on April 5. “Staff will also be able to inform [the] city council of your request.”

See earlier coverage of the discussion and decision at the planning board meeting:

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