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Mayor Miro Weinberger

February 28, 2021

Neighbors – I’m writing to share updates on Covid-19 case growth in Burlington, our settlement agreement with the developers of CityPlace Burlington, and other City milestones this week. I also to invite you to join me for my weekly coffee to talk about these topics or anything else. 

Case growth rising in Burlington – consider getting tested 

As cases of Covid-19 are rising in Burlington, we need to make a final push to hold case growth down. One important way to do that is to get tested for Covid-19. Getting tested for Covid-19 allows you to know if you have the virus so that you can protect yourself, your loved ones, and your neighbors. This week, Vermont Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine and Winooski Mayor Kristine Lott joined my weekly Covid-19 briefing to ask Burlington and Winooski residents to please consider getting tested if you have attended any small gatherings or traveled, or if you are experiencing any symptoms (even mild ones). 

The good news is that the Department of Health and the City have worked together to create strong testing infrastructure in our area. Right now, Covid-19 testing is free, accessible, and not being fully utilized. As of Wednesday, there were over 6,000 open testing appointments at Department of Health test sites in Burlington and Winooski. Learn more about Covid-19 testing locations in our area: https://www.burlingtonvt.gov/covid-19/testing

Two other important pandemic updates: First, vaccine registration will open up to Vermonters 65 and older this Monday, March 1. Please make sure that your friends and family have the information that they need to register to receive this lifesaving vaccine. Second, this week UVM announced that during this period of rising case growth, they will move from once-weekly to twice-weekly testing for all students, on top of other changes. UVM has made huge efforts to limit the spread of Covid-19, and I’m appreciative that with these actions, the University is making good on its commitment to the City to increase those efforts even more if needed. 

City Council approves CityPlace Burlington settlement agreement 

This week, the City Council approved the settlement agreement that I negotiated with the developers of CityPlace Burlington. This agreement achieves a great deal for Burlington residents. It means that, in just a few months, the City will get back the land for streets and sidewalks that we gave up in the 1960s, and it creates new guarantees that our lost streets will get rebuilt. It recoups lost property taxes, renews the developer’s commitments to affordable housing and renewable energy, and includes an Amended and Restated Development Agreement that will continue to protect taxpayers from construction and development risk going forward. And it means that the developer can move forward to build this transformational project for our downtown. 

Importantly, this settlement also shows that the City’s original Development Agreement worked. When we negotiated that original agreement in 2017, we knew that large complex projects are uncertain, and we worked to protect taxpayers from risks. As a result of that Development Agreement, when this project hit delays, the City started receiving payments that now amount to $500,000. And when the managing partner of the previous development team, Brookfield, tried to renege on their promises, we sued – and thanks to the Development Agreement, that lawsuit resulted in this milestone settlement agreement. 

From November to February, I personally led the City’s negotiations with the new CityPlace development team – Don Sinex and new local partners Dave Farrington, Scott Ireland, and Al Senecal. Throughout the process, I was appreciative that this new development team was collaborative and ready to move this project forward. In addition to all of the public benefits and protections in our settlement, the agreement also clears the way for the developer to move forward with advancing this project in our downtown. I am hopeful that this agreement will create the foundation to restore public infrastructure, homes, jobs, and shops in this part of our city. Learn more about the agreement. 

Other City milestones: Improving the Airport, making progress on child care access, releasing FY2020 Annual Report 

This week has been full of other City milestones, too. On Monday, I was joined by Senator Patrick Leahy to announce a $14.5 million federal grant that will enable us to expand and improve our Airport. And on Thursday, we released a progress report on our Early Learning Initiative, which finds that the initiative has helped increase the number of high-quality infant and toddler child care spaces in Burlington by 38 percent since it started in 2017. Both of these achievements are examples of how, even as City government is continuing to respond to the pandemic, we also are working to ensure that we will be a stronger, healthier, and more equitable community on the other side of it. 

Lastly, this upcoming Tuesday is Town Meeting Day! If you haven’t already, you can return your ballot to one of the City’s four ballot drop boxes or vote at your polling place on Tuesday from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. You also can read through the City’s Annual Report – which we release every year on Town Meeting Day – for a treasure trove of information on Burlington. 

Talk to you soon, 

Miro