City Planning

BTV Neighborhood Code Proposed Changes

Burlington City Council will hold a public hearing to discuss recommendations from the Committee during its meeting on February 26th before it considers adopting the Neighborhood Code. The proposed BTV Neighborhood Code was presented to the Burlington City Council on January 29th, following a four-month review process by a Joint Committee of the Planning Commission and the City Council’s Ordinance Committee. 
Want to learn more about the Neighborhood Code? More information about the proposed amendment is available online, including a video series outlining the proposal.

 

The Joint Committee held 8 meetings between Oct 4 and December 19 to review the proposed Neighborhood Code and made modifications to several recommendations originally presented by staff. Over the course of these meetings, the Joint Committee’s work has focused on the major recommendations related to the Neighborhood Code purpose, and a number of standards to ensure these recommendations can be implemented. Going forward, the Neighborhood Code will be reviewed in two parts, with Part 1 anticipated to be referred to the City Council for consideration early in 2024. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Neighborhood Code Part 1 

Part 1 includes substantive changes to Article 4 and Appendix A of the city’s zoning code. Together, these changes evolve the residential zoning district standards, allowable uses, and district boundaries. In the future, Part 2 will cover many of the technical details and related standards that the Committee has not yet discussed, such as rules for Cottage Courts, residential development bonuses, and Planned Unit Development standards. Changes included in Part 1 of the Neighborhood Code are described below:  

Dimensional Standards: Lot Size, Lot Cover, and Setbacks 

These standards contribute to overall neighborhood development patterns—how buildings relate to each other and the street. They can also have a major influence on how large a lot is needed to create a home, and how much of that lot can be used for buildings. There are proposed changes to existing residential district standards (in RL, RM and RH) as well as a proposed new residential zone (the RC), including:  

Lot Size: RL districts are the only zoning districts in the city that require a minimum lot size as a prerequisite for development. Larger minimum lot sizes can limit opportunities for creation of new, individual lots for new homes, or prevent “fee simple” ownership of land under a duplex or townhouse unit. The Committee recommended removing minimum lot size requirements for RL zones.  

Lot Coverage: In some areas, lot coverage limits could preclude even modest additions or expansions to existing buildings, let alone to create new homes – particularly in neighborhoods where zoning has become more restrictive since its structures were originally built. The Committee recommends modestly increasing the lot coverage limits for RL and RM zones, and allowing a high lot coverage limit in the new RC zone. 

Setbacks: Setbacks, particularly rear, can limit the use of deeper lots to accommodate more homes within areas that are already developed and/or for creating new individual lots for new homes. The Committee recommends standardizing the rear setback to 15ft in RM, RH, and RC zone and 20ft in the RL zone. While the code retains average front setback rules, the Committee recommended setting an upper limit of no more than 25ft front setback. In the proposed RC zone, the front setback would require at least a 5ft setback but allow no more than a 20ft setback.  

Regulate Building Scale instead of “Density” 

Regulating the massing of buildings overall and enabling a maximum number of units in buildings will allow “density” to vary lot-by-lot. At the same time, the overall intensity of development, in terms of building scale, will become more predictable. The Committee has discussed how many units should be allowed within buildings meeting proposed size limits and the number of allowable stories for buildings.  

Units per building: The Committee agreed to allow for multiple free-standing buildings on lots, which is currently prohibited in residential zones. In this proposal, RL and RM districts allow a maximum of 2 buildings on each lot. In RL, each building may have a maximum of 4 units; in the RM district, one building may have up to 6 units while the other may have up to 4 units. There is no limit on the number of units in buildings in RH or RC.  

Building Height: The proposal allows a maximum of 3 stories in the RL and RM zones, similar to today’s zoning, and 4 stories for the RH and RC zones.  

Changes to Existing Residential Districts

The Committee discussed and modified the proposed changes to existing residential zoning district boundaries and the new Residential Corridor district. These changes will ultimately allow up to 4 or 6 units per building citywide, with differences between RL and RM districts focused more on the allowable lot cover and number of units per building. Walkable core areas in RH and the new Corridor zones will allow more flexibility in terms of housing type choice.  

Proposed changes to the residential boundaries include: 

  • Streamline existing zoning districts by combining Waterfront Low Density with the RL zone and Waterfront Medium Density with RM zone. 
  • Rezone some areas to more closely align with what is on the ground, particularly related to lot coverage, in order to overcome remaining barriers to facilitating more housing types. This primarily includes changing some RL zoned areas to RM (see map for proposed changes).  
  • Create the Residential Corridor zone, which would allow greater flexibility for housing types and intensity along major streets identified in planBTV. These thoroughfares include portions of North Avenue, St. Paul Street, and Colchester Avenue where RL zoning applies today. 
  • Eliminate the RL-Larger Lot Overlay zone and the RH Density Bonus Overlay zone, which applied to certain neighborhoods or small areas of the RL and RH zones. 

Neighborhood Commercial Uses

While not originally part of the Neighborhood Code scope, the Committee heard many comments supporting more flexibility for neighborhood-serving business uses in residential areas. Today, the zoning allows uses like cafes and small retail in all residential districts, when the businesses are located in a historic building or one that was previously used for a commercial purpose. There are some allowances for home-based businesses as well.  

A range of commercial uses are proposed to be allowed in the new RC district, such as cafes, bars, laundromats, small groceries, small retail, etc. Unlike businesses in the RL, RM, and RH zones, these commercial uses can be located within a new building as well as an historic one.  

Reference Documents 

The documents provide additional context and information related to the BTV Neighborhood Code. Looking for more information about the Joint Committee Process, including past presentation materials, agendas, and recordings? Click Here.


Questions or Comments about the Neighborhood Code?

To submit comments or feedback to the Committee, please email Office of City Planning staff, members of the Planning Commission, or members of the City Council Ordinance Committee. You can sign up for email updates or submit comments and questions to staff using the online form below:

Click Here to Submit Questions or Comments


About the Neighborhood Code

More information about the intent behind the BTV Neighborhood Code

Joint Committee Process & Opportunities for Feedback

More Information about the Neighborhood Code

Watch the video series about the proposal and read responses to frequently asked questions


Do you have questions about this project? Contact Sarah Morgan at smorgan@burlingtonvt.gov
BTV Neighborhood Code is supported by a Bylaw Modernization Grant from the VT Dept of Housing & Community Development, and in collaboration with and in-kind support from AARP-Vermont's Livable Communities program.