Affordability covenant cited as problematic
By Emily Greenberg
For Vermont Digger
South Burlington’s City Council has released the owners of three homes from an affordability covenant that thwarted the properties’ sale to Burlington International Airport as part of its noise mitigation program.
The vote Monday evening was unanimous.
“This is what we needed to do,” council Chair Helen Riehle said at the meeting. “In some ways, we were backed into a corner and didn’t really have a choice but to say yes. I’m very concerned with the loss of affordable housing in our community.”
The special meeting to vote on the covenant was announced last week after the council passed a resolution calling for an end to the airport’s home acquisition programs. The buyouts have resulted in the demolition of more than 100 South Burlington homes since 2009.
For the three Lily Lane homeowners to sell under the affordability covenant, the maximum purchase price allowed was about $290,500, and a stipulation of the sale required the homes remain in residential use.
The homeowners had already reached agreements to sell to the airport when Councilor Meaghan Emery, the author of the resolution, told the residents at last week’s meeting that their contracts were illegal.
The Lily Lane residents hired Burlington lawyer A.J. LaRosa, from the firm Murphy Sullivan Kronk, to represent them in regard to the pending removal of the covenant. LaRosa and the residents declined to comment.
The three Lily Lane properties are included in a round of buyouts announced last fall and funded by a $14.5 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration. The grant pays for the purchase of 40 homes surrounding the airport and is based on a noise impact study from 2015. The 40 homes all fall in a 73.3-decibel noise area.
However, some councilors believe the 2015 map to be outdated already because it doesn’t take into account the noise expected from military F-35 planes expected to be stationed at the airport beginning in 2019, or the decrease in military plane noise since the Vermont National Guard deployed overseas in December.
The recently passed resolution calls for a new noise impact study, a halt to the home acquisition programs, and a city role in future noise mitigation planning. Although the airport is in South Burlington, it is owned and operated by Burlington.
“I think the resolution is poorly written and inaccurate in many ways,” said Gene Richards, the aviation director at the airport. “We want to purchase as few homes as possible and find an alternate program.”
Continued noise mitigation programs are needed for nearly 900 homes, which lie within a 65-decibel noise level area, the threshold for the previous round of buyouts based on the 2006 noise impact maps.
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