April 17, 2008
Neighborhood Planning Assembly
Facilitators: Marga Kempner W4 and Jon Flint W4;
Note-taker, Senada Sekocevic W7.
Residents present: 39. 19 Ward 4; 17 Ward 7, 1; 3 Other.
Meeting was called to order at 7:06 pm. Marga reviewed the Ground Rules, Agenda and March Minutes.
Report from Recruiters Committee: Lea Terhune, W4 SC, encouraged residents to volunteer for the NPA Steering Committee, which meets on the first Thursday of each month to plan NPA meetings. They rotate facilitative leadership, time-keeping and note-taking at meetings. Requirements are an active interest in communication between city government and neighborhoods, and a willingness to keep your ear to the ground and know what your neighbors’ interests and concerns are. Community based planning begins at the NPA.
Officials present: Mark Larson W7, Paul Decelles W7, Russ Ellis W4, Bob Herendeen W4, Bernie O’Rourke W4, and Steering Committee (SC) members Jon Flint, W4, Marga Kempner W4, Senada Sekocevic W7, Mary Chaffee W4, Lea Terhune W4, Mike Beganyi W7, and Alan Sousie W7.
Mark L. presented budget issues that the legislature is dealing with. Mary C. asked why this has apparently taken legislators by surprise? Mark said tax collections are down, like gas tax, because people are conserving and watching their budget. Lea T. asked about the Thayer School property in our NAC, and Mark said it is in the capitol bill for state buildings and grounds to negotiate sale of the property, with the requirement that DMV remain on site. Lea said that would work ok, as long as the rest of the building can be used for housing and asked that the state prioritize perpetually affordable housing for that site. Mark said he would keep close watch on this. Mike B. asked about the Instant Runoff Vote bill, and Mark said the Governor would probably veto it. Jim Flint, W7, asked about the plan to close the correctional center in Windsor, and Mark said the women would be moved to St. Albans, men would go to a new work camp or out of state.
Paul and Russ, City Council. Paul reported that 2 wks ago was CC reorganization, when newly-elected councilors joined the Council. He said the Council unanimously agreed on a plan to make elections go more smoothly in the future. CC also passed an Open Government resolution and the Mayor will be adding 3 more public members, randomly selected. Paul will be Chair of the Charter Change committee, and will serve on Parks/Arts/Culture Committee, and Public Safety Committee. Russ reported that Champlain College is going to build student housing downtown on the Eagle’s property, and will provide “in-lieu of affordable housing” funds which can go toward building affordable housing in Brown’s Court. Regarding Westlake, Russ said that the hotel owners now claim they have the right to build on the Loft building site since the developer of that site withdrew from the deal. CC was waiting for the Development Review Board to make a decision about accepting the $400,000 in-lieu payment for not building affordable housing in the Loft Bldg, but CEDO asked to open up the bids immediately to all developers in order to have a wide open process. CC voted to let CEDO go ahead with this. Lea T. thanked Paul, Russ, Craig and Kurt for putting party politics aside and working together in the best interests of our neighborhoods.
Alex Messinger, W4, accompanied by two very well-behaved children, told us about the Low Carbon Diet, a program in which every household calculates it’s CO2 emissions – it’s carbon footprint – and by making changes in the household energy use, reduces it’s footprint! It’s a family project, and a neighborhood social opportunity, and households form ‘Eco-Teams.’ They meet 3-4 times over a two-month period to chart progress toward the group’s goal of reducing non-renewable energy use. We’ll be hearing more about this effort!
Marianne Ward, Ward 7, expressed concern about increasing electric bills, rising fuel and food prices, school bond issue last year and now there’s talk about a city bond issue to fix the roads. At the Finance Committee 4/14, there was some discussion about other available funds - $500,000 from UVM, for example, but Andy Montroll seemed to be the only one really searching for other resources. Marianne thought Russ, the Mayor and Steve Goodkind seem to favor a road bond, but what she found most disturbing was that Jonathan Leopold introduced the idea of declaring the roads an emergency and raising taxes without putting the questions of road repair on the ballot at all! Marianne is adamantly opposed and she hopes the city will look for other sources of funds. Paul said Council has asked for a status report. Russ said that he also is looking for other resources.
Alan Sousie, W7 SC, was on the Mayor’s task force on finances last year, and has been reappointed. He agrees that we are in serious financial trouble as a City, and, realistically the easiest way is to tax but we have to cut spending.
Spencer Welton, W4: Spencer and his wife Mara own Half-Pint Farm in the Intervale. The Farmers’ Market at Ethan Allen Park starts June 12th, Thursdays, 3-6:30. It’s a food market that features baked goods, some sweets like maple syrup, honey, fruits, and veggies veggies veggies! There are some prepared foods, like salads; they are looking for a meat vendor; and sometimes they have crafts. Vendors pay a market fees, $150 for the summer. 8 vendors have been involved, with 5 set up most Thursdays. This season vendors will include Adams Berry Farm; Troika Farm (mixed vegetables); Plum Hill Farm (yellow, red and purple plums, peaches, cherries, pears, as well as tomatoes, peppers); Pitchfork Farm (eggplants, multi-color peppers), Half-pint Farm (onions, lettuce, tomatoes, cukes, peppers, tomatoes, radishes); Sarajevo, (Nermina Bobraca’s baklava); Gus Buchanan’s honey; and hopefully Boyden Family Winery. Prices are competitive, the food is fresh, and a farm market has a low carbon footprint because the food is locally grown and transported short distances. Spencer and Mara are local, too – they live on Tracy Drive!
Steve McIntyre, W7, asked if there is a city-wide association of Farmers Markets? Spencer said there is a coalition and they work together -- they are meeting tonight and Mara is there, but NNE is a separate market, independent.
Bob Herendeen, W4, asked if a vendor could come a few times, not the whole summer? Spencer said yes, there is a reduced trial fee. Parks&Rec restricts them to 5 vendors.
Jim Flint, W4 asked if numbers of people shopping at the market has increased? Spencer said yes, but parking is limited at the Park.
People asked about and suggested alternate locations –like the Elks Club, North Avenue Alliance Church, and the Ethan Allen Shopping Center. Spencer said he would follow-up and report back to us.
Tom Moreau, W7, Director, Chittenden Solid Waste District. Tom is also on the board of the Intervale Center that is connected with the Intervale Composting operation. CSWD started the composting operation as an alternative to putting food and organic waste into the landfills. CSWD made some loans to the composting business, and has always been repaid in full. The State is the third partner. The compost operation started as a demo project, and became a valuable community business. They need permits, including an Act 250 permit and that’s where the problem is now. The permit is renewed every 5 years, and this year Agency of Natural Resources had some concerns about run-off in the river and flooding of Tommy Thompson gardens. But the biggest problem was that the Dept. of Historic Preservation declared the site significant (Abenaki village) and put it on the National Historic Register. The Intervale Center can’t afford the permit process, and has asked CSWD to take over the project which they will do but they need a transition period to find a new site. Two potential solutions are: Sen. Lyons has a bill that would exempt the compost center (which has an Act 78 permit) from Act 250 and give then 2 years to transition. CSWD is looking for a new location. Dan Goosen, W4, manages the compost operation, and he urged people to get their compost next week when there is a $10 discount. Lea T., asked if compost could be transported by rail, and Tom said no.Everyone thanked Tom, and others who are working to save this valuable resource in our community.
Ita Meno, Center for Community and Neighborhoods, announced Green Up Day 2008. It will be the first Saturday in May (MAY 3). It was started to build a community project around something the community was already doing – clean-up. It was a chance for garbage picker-uppers to meet each other and have a party. The first year there were 300 people involved. Next year, 500. Last year, there were 5 sites and 900 people in matching t-shirts. NNE sites include North Ave, and the Caverns. Mary asked if rubber gloves are provided, and Ita said yes. NNE site leaders are needed.
Mike B. announced Way to Go Week, May 5-9, when people will bike, walk, take the bus, roller blade etc to go to work or shop or play, instead of using a car. There are different challenges – check the website http://www.waytogovt.org/ . There are prizes, like coupons for restaurants. The goal is to reduce 500,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions in one week! Want to reduce potholes and road maintenance costs? – get out of your car. Every dollar spent on CCTA goes into the local economy. Telecommute when you can – eat in your own kitchen, go to work in your pj’s! If you’re complaining about roads and paying taxes – get out of your car!
Jim F. announced that people can get in shape for Green Up Day by helping clean out the children’s garden at Ethan Allen Homestead, Friday or Saturday between 9 and 3, with a picnic lunch at the shelter.
Bob H. announced that a group will be drumming for the marathon on the overlook near Starr Farm. Contact Bob 862-5017 for more info. Lea T. asked if people need to have a drum? No. Experience? No. Just leave your ego behind.
Alan S. announced that there is a Flea Market at the Heineberg Center on Sundays. Tables are $10.
Jim F. announced that tonight is a historic night for the NPAs in Burlington – the FIRST time youth members have planned and facilitated an NPA meeting in Burlington. Everyone applauded Marga and Jon for a job well done.
Meeting was adjourned.