Mayor’s Office

Revise Requirements for Creation of Parking

Policy Reform Goal

The goals of this reform are to reduce a significant factor in the cost to construct, maintain, and lease housing units, therefore increasing the affordability of those housing units; allow more space within new development to be used for creating housing units; recognize the context-sensitive nature of parking and driving behaviors; and support a more robust system of transportation choices that enables the city to meet its Net Zero Energy goals.

Proposed Reform

In order to achieve these goals, the following zoning and impact fee reforms are proposed:

  • No longer mandate a specific number of new parking spaces that must be created for developments within certain areas of the city and for certain types of projects, including:
    • Developments located within the downtown, neighborhood mixed-use, and neighborhood activity center zoning districts;
    • Developments located within the first 200 ft. of a property with frontage along a major thoroughfare which connects mixed-use areas of the city and is served by a high-frequency transit route, including North Avenue, Riverside Avenue, Colchester Avenue, Main Street, Pine Street, and Shelburne Road/St. Paul Street.; and
    • Projects that create permanently affordable housing or involve the adaptive reuse of a listed historic building.
  • Enable greater sharing of private parking that has already been built, so that it can be used more efficiently through repurposing, sharing with other users, or being made available for public use.
  • Maintain a limit on the maximum number of parking spaces that can be built as part of a new development to reduce the oversupply of unused parking spaces, and modernize standards for the size and layout of parking spaces and lots for more efficient design.
  • Evaluate how the current Traffic Impact Fee could be used to support the expansion and increased use of alternative modes of transportation (including but not limited to transit, biking, and walking).

Review More Info & Share your Thoughts

Use these quick links to review the proposed reform, find an upcoming meeting, and to share your input on this proposal. Make sure to review the additional information about this proposal below. 

Framing the Burlington Context

  • Burlington did not begin requiring parking for new development through zoning until the 1970s; up until 1986, developments within the downtown core were exempt from requirements to build a prescribed number of spaces.
  • In 2008, three parking districts were established in the zoning ordinance to ensure that the required number of parking spaces was based on the geographic context of the development.
  • As part of the planBTV: Downtown & Waterfront Plan, a comprehensive evaluation of parking use was conducted which illuminated that 40% of parking in existing private parking lots and garages was vacant most of the time. It is estimated that if these existing parking spaces were utilized more fully, they could support an additional 700+ housing units and 350,000 sq.ft. of commercial space without building any new parking.
  • Since 2013, BBA has been working with the City to implement a downtown parking management program to better utilize existing parking resources, and make private parking resources available for public parking needs. In 2019, BBA found that despite the loss of about 500 parking spaces at CityPlace, there are still hundreds of unused parking spaces available to the public even at peak times.
  • A single on-site parking space adds 15-20% to the cost of a typical residential unit (~$200-$300/mo.) and can cost between $20,000-50,000 to build.
  • About 39% of all Burlington workers don’t drive to work; about 15% of all households city-wide, and 25% of households in neighborhoods closest to the downtown, don’t have a car. This is the equivalent of almost 2,400 households and about 20% of all renters.

FAQs about this Policy

What has this looked like in other communities that have eliminated their parking minimums?

  • Hundreds of communities across the country (and world) have successfully removed these now largely discredited requirements in the last decade, while hundreds more never had them to begin with. Examples include: Buffalo, Ithaca, New York, and Rochester NY; Hartford, Norwich and Stonington CT; Manchester and Dover NH; Bath and Belfast ME, among many others. These communities have taken a range of approaches, from no longer requiring a certain amount of parking in new developments city-wide, to exempting projects in certain locations from new parking requirements.
  • Communities that have measured results have found that developments continued to build 40-60% of the parking spaces that the city would have otherwise required.
  • A recent study by the City of Portland, OR found that without a requirement to build new parking spaces, a 32-unit building consisting of permanently affordable and working- and middle-class condominiums was the most profitable form of development in medium density areas of the city. Alternatively, if parking were required, the most profitable form of development on the same lot would be just 10 townhomes, where each unit would cost greater than 2.5 times the price of a unit the condo building.  This analysis illuminated that requiring parking would lead to the creation of fewer, and significantly more expensive, housing units.


What are the anticipated positive impacts of this policy change?

  • It is important to emphasize that this proposal does not mandate the elimination of existing parking spaces. It simply takes the city out of the business of mandating that a certain number of parking spaces have to be created.
  • Development happens slowly over time, and as such, any impacts associated with this change will happen over many years as new developments are created.
  • Enabling a project to determine its specific parking needs means that parking spaces will be built in areas of the city and for types of projects where they are needed most, while potentially reducing the number of new spaces built in places, like downtown, where robust alternatives exist, thereby helping facilitate increased use and investment in these systems.
  • It is anticipated that this flexibility will reduce a significant barrier that makes the creation of new housing (and any new development) infeasible and/or expensive. This is particularly important for projects creating permanently affordable housing, where the cost of parking is an even larger burden/barrier.


What are the anticipated negative impacts of this change, particularly on the demand for public spaces and the “spillover parking” impacts in nearby neighborhoods?

  • The parts of the city where it is proposed that new parking is no longer mandated, are those that have a much lower demand for parking due to a mix of uses, because they are easily reached on foot or by bike, and because they have direct access to one of the city’s high frequency public transit routes.
  • In some of these locations, there is also a supply of existing parking that is actively managed to ensure that spaces are being used as efficiently as possible, and where underutilized, could be re-purposed to support the parking needs of new developments.
  • The City’s Residential Parking Program allows residents to request that on-street parking be prioritized for residents of the street through a permit process, which offers route to manage parking on streets close to these mixed-use areas.


Why doesn’t this proposal include a payment-in-lieu option, which would require the payment of a fee in place of building required parking spaces?

  • A major goal of this proposal is to remove a significant barrier to the creation of housing and its affordability. If the cost were set appropriately, a payment-in-lieu option may help to reduce this barrier somewhat; however, it is still an unnecessary cost associated with parking that is ultimately not needed. Further, if the payment amount is set too high, it is unlikely to be utilized and would provide no benefit at all.