Jeff Davis: Suddenly the city took 45 acres of developable land without compensation


This comment is from Jeff Davis, a developer involved in a dispute with the South Burlington city government.

Thanks to Vermont Digger for allowing me to respond to John Bossange’s comment about me.

I’m not surprised that John Bossange wrote the March 23 comment that he did. He’s a well-known activist, and South Burlington is just his latest place in Chittenden County to complain about development. Admittedly, his article about me was offensive. It’s his style; however, it is not mine. I will stick to the facts.

John seems to think we took legal action to influence the election in South Burlington. He is wrong. We believe that the South Burlington City Council broke the law with the zoning actions it took. There are statutory timelines that parties must follow for filing appeals and objections. We followed the deadlines necessary to challenge the decision of the city and that has nothing to do with the election.

We bought the 112 acre Hill Farm 20 years ago. We bought it because it was zoned for significant growth and was adjacent to I-89 and the long-considered Swift Street expansion road. We were encouraged by city officials in South Burlington to plan a major development there. In fact, the city and the regional planning commission have designated the land as part of a growth pole.

They did it because the utilities, roads and infrastructure are there and they also did it because smart growth would indicate dense development to protect against sprawl in the outer parts of the city. It was good smart growth planning by the city. The current city council has ignored all of this.

In 2015, we presented the city with an informal plan to develop our plot. They liked what they saw. This was a mixed-use development and city officials encouraged us to delay our plans so they could re-zoning to allow for mixed-use development (commercial, residential, etc.).

In 2017, they suddenly moved to interim zoning, which essentially blocked all development for two years. In 2020, they extended that for another year. Then in 2021, they abruptly changed direction. They refused to tell us about mixed-use development and made it clear that they intended to take 45 acres (nearly half of our land) and designate it as non-developable.

That’s right. With their action, they took 45 acres of our developable land without compensation.

They designate this land as a housing block. Imagine that. The 45 acres are bounded by a major sports center and hundreds of homes to the west, hundreds of homes to the south, a major state highway (Highway 116) and major industrial development to the east and I-89 to the east. north. To make matters worse, the city’s own consultant who developed the habitat maps admittedly never set foot on the property.

Let’s be clear here. These are not habitat blocks. It’s about stopping development.

We have spent millions of dollars over the past 20 years to acquire the land, pay municipal taxes and develop development plans. Suddenly the city decided to take 45 acres of our land away from us without any compensation. We have asked them in writing and in oral evidence to compromise and create an acceptable buffer zone to protect our Dorset Park neighbors to the west. But the city council refused to compromise. They have left us with no choice but to sue federally for what we believe is an unlawful taking of our property under the US and Vermont constitutions.

We remain willing to compromise, provide a significant buffer for our neighbors and develop a smart growth project on our property. We hope the South Burlington City Council will be flexible and work with us to make this happen.

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Tags: developable land, growth center, Jeff Davis, Smart Growth, South Burlington


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