Mayor’s Office

City of Burlington Advances Act 250 Permit Amendment Proposal Seeking to Foster Public's Use and Control of Waterfront Park

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 19, 2012
Contact:  Mike Kanarick
                  802.735.7962

City of Burlington Advances Act 250 Permit Amendment Proposal Seeking to Foster Public’s Use and Control of Waterfront Park

Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger today highlighted the City of Burlington’s efforts to enhance the public’s use and control of Waterfront Park through amendments to its Act 250 permit filed by the City’s Parks and Recreation Department.  The City’s efforts to protect public event opportunities at Waterfront Park continued yesterday morning when the City appeared at a prehearing conference before the District 4 Environmental Commission of the Vermont Natural Resources Board.  The District Commission heard requests for “party status” from residents who live near Waterfront Park, as well as from several organizations that sponsor events at Waterfront Park.   

“I take very seriously the importance of defending the public’s use of Waterfront Park against those who would seek to impose greater limitations on the people’s most important park,” said Weinberger.  “Our amendment is about who should decide the details about when and how Waterfront Park is used.  My position is that the people of Burlington should decide who uses the park, as well as when and how they use it – the City is seeking to return control to the people of Burlington.”  (Please see attached side-by-side listing of the current and proposed permit language.)

“Burlington's waterfront is the people's waterfront, the people's front yard,” said Bryan Aubin, Ward 4 City Councilor and member of the City Council Parks, Arts, and Culture Committee.  “It is important that the people of Burlington have the right to control the opportunities of this great space for the betterment of all residents.  This amendment will allow the City to do just that.”

Other Waterfront Park stakeholders, including the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center, Local Motion, and RunVermont, are supporting the Act 250 permit amendment.
“Ensuring the vibrancy and active use of the Burlington waterfront and Lake Champlain is a high priority,” said Kate Neubauer, Executive Director of the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center.  “For over 18 years, the City of Burlington has been a key partner of the Community Sailing Center.  We look forward to continuing our work with the City, local organizations, and our community members to improve the access and enjoyment of this signature resource.”

“We Burlington residents have invested significant time and money over the last two decades to make the waterfront the front porch of our community,” said Chapin Spencer, Executive Director of Local Motion.  “It’s become a wonderful place where we can all come together to celebrate, recreate, and access Lake Champlain.  As Local Motion and many others continue to partner with the City to make the waterfront even better, it makes sense to have our City, not Montpelier, control the future of our most prized area.”  

“RunVermont is eager to participate with our City partners, including City Hall, Burlington businesses, and Burlington residents, in an updated process that will recognize the changing conditions and demands on one of the City’s most prized assets, Waterfront Park,” said Peter Delaney, Executive Director of RunVermont.  “The revitalization of a process that was developed almost two decades ago is long overdue and should reflect the concerns of today, as well as project the demands into the future.  We look forward to a collaborative process that will allow everyone involved to create a vibrant, active environment to be enjoyed by all.”   

Both Spencer and Delaney attended Tuesday’s preconference hearing on behalf of Local Motion and RunVermont, respectively.

The idea of amending the Waterfront Park Act 250 permit has deep roots. 
In April 2000, the Burlington City Council authorized the Parks and Recreation Department to seek an amendment to the Act 250 permit removing conditions that “unduly restrict the use of Waterfront Park for public events.”  (Please see attached Resolution Relating to Exception from Rules for Waterfront Park, adopted by City Council on April 24, 2000.)

“Our goal is to clean up and modernize an old permit, to bring control back to the people of Burlington,” said Jesse Bridges, Director of the Burlington Department of Parks and Recreation. 

The outdated conditions contained in the existing Act 250 permit stem from the Parks and Recreation Commission having adopted them in 1993.  Under Act 250, these antiquated conditions may only be modified by the Act 250 District Commission. 

“Circumstances and opportunities have changed since our original permit was approved,” continued Bridges.  “Waterfront Park has become an incredibly successful venue for all types of events – from athletic competitions and concerts to activities for our children and non-profit fundraising events.  There’s been something for everyone in our community, and the people of Burlington are looking more and more for these types of events and activities that bring our community together.  The City intends to continue to regulate events at Waterfront Park to ensure safety and the neighborhoods’ quality of life, but the City seeks to have those regulatory decisions reside with the people of Burlington.”

Through its permit amendment application, the City of Burlington seeks to enhance local control of Waterfront Park by putting decision-making approval of when and how the park is used in the hands of the City instead of the District Environmental Commission appointed by the governor.  To read Burlington’s application, please visit: http://www.anr.state.vt.us/ANR/ACT250/Act250.aspx and enter 4C0863-4.

The City will continue to maintain an active Waterfront Advisory Event Selection Committee made up of neighbors, event producers, business owners, and City staff including Fire and Police.  The committee serves as the backbone for public engagement and oversight on waterfront park events.  

“We are a service-oriented department that relies on feedback and communication from the public to move forward,” added Bridges. “In partnership with the Advisory Event Selection Committee, the Burlington Parks and Recreation Department is seeking to responsibly manage our own park.  This active and engaged group provides the infrastructure to hear and respond to issues, as well as to gauge support and needs for upcoming events.  As a representative group of citizens, it will serve as our able partner in managing the park into the future.”

The City of Burlington’s Waterfront Park management structure and public input opportunities are as follows:

  • Waterfront Park is managed by the City of Burlington Parks and Recreation Department with oversight by the Parks and Recreation Commission.
  • The Mayor of Burlington appoints the Director of the Parks and Recreation Department, and the appointment is confirmed by the City Council.
  • The City Council appoints five Parks and Recreation Commissioners, who hear from the public and advise the Department on all Parks and Recreation matters including the use and management of Waterfront Park.  The Commission meets on the third Tuesday of every month at the Parks and Recreation offices at 645 Pine Street. Meetings begin at 5:00 PM with a public forum held at 5:30 PM.  Any City resident is eligible to seek a Commission appointment.
  • The Waterfront Advisory Event Selection Committee is assembled by the Parks Department with oversight provided by the Parks Commission with representation from various constituent groups, including the adjoining neighbors.  The committee advises the department and City on issues related to waterfront events, reviewing both the upcoming and past season’s schedules.  They currently meet twice per year with public forum opportunities at all meetings.

“I welcome and encourage anyone interested in how Waterfront Park is used and managed to take advantage of the opportunities for public input and involvement at the local level,” added Weinberger.  “Upon approval of the City’s amendment application, I will seek City Council action establishing guidelines for the membership and protocols of the Waterfront Advisory Event Selection Committee.”

Please see attached documents:

  • Side-by-side listing of the current and proposed permit language
  • Resolution Relating to Exception from Rules for Waterfront Park, adopted by City Council on April 24, 2000

 

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Press Release Date: 
12/19/2012
City Department: 
Mayor's Office