Facts are in short supply these days, so we were disappointed to read Montpelier City Manager Bill Fraser’s commentary published April 17 where he said his intention was to “clarified the facts” surrounding the controversy over the proposed municipal parking garage.
One fact Mr. Fraser neglected to mention is that even he has recognized in writing elsewhere that the process to put the bond item on the November ballot was quick. Citizens had basically 2 1/2 months to try to understand the implications of approving a $10.5 million bond that would indebt the city for 30 years.
Fraser argued that this debt would be paid for by revenue from the garage, but he also should have made clear that if the revenue fails to materialize, Montpelier taxpayers are responsible for paying back the debt.
The appeal case, which is now in the Environmental Division of the Vermont Superior Court, rests on several questions about whether the city’s zoning regulations were followed:
1. Was conditional use approval required for a nonconforming use project? If so, no conditional use application was submitted to the DRB or subject to public notice.
2. Does the project satisfy conditional use standards under the zoning ordinance regarding location, size, height, building bulk, yards, courts, setbacks, density of buildings, off-street parking, loading facilities, traffic, noise, lighting, landscaping and screening?
3. Does the project comply with the zoning ordinance requiring 30 feet of street frontage, setbacks and a number of other considerations?
4. Does the project comply with ordinances that deal with pedestrian access, alternative transportation, street trees, parking lot landscaping and screening?
Mr. Fraser seems confident that city followed its own zoning regulations. We are convinced it did not. And we are convinced that the failings are not technicalities — they go to the heart of what the zoning process was supposed to address. The appeal to the Superior Court gives us the chance, finally, to address them.
The appellant group has been meeting in good faith with the city and the hotel developers. We are trying to find a resolution that addresses our concerns. Those concerns are that the best interests of this community have not been served or protected.
Rebecca Davison, John Russell, Chuck Daghlian, Andrea Stander are appellants in the municipal parking garage appeal.