University Mall files appeal to South Burlington City Council
The South Burlington City Council failed to follow state law and its own interim bylaw when it considered University Mall's application, the mall’s ownership alleges in a recent legal filing. The filing outlines several points of order which owners allege the City Council wrongfully denied their application.
The owners of University Mall at 155 Dorset Street, Finard Properties, LLC, had proposed to incorporate the 205 Dorset Street parcel into the existing University Mall shopping center by replacing an existing outdated house, long ago converted to commercial use, with a new 6,000-square foot commercial building that would be more fully integrated into the commercial district of South Burlington.
University Mall's plan, as submitted to the City, would have resulted in a host of improvements to the area including a reduction in impervious area (paving), an increase in landscape area, upgrades to circulation, and a site plan more consistent with the designated commercial corridor of South Burlington.
The South Burlington City Council did not review University Mall's application as required under state law. Instead, the City Council denied the application pursuant to its conclusion "that the proposed project will or could be contrary to the amendments to the Land Development Regulations that the City adopts." In other words, the City Council did not deny the application based on current law, current ordinances, current regulations, or even the Interim Zoning Bylaw passed in February 2012; instead, the Council denied the application based on amendments that have not yet been written, much less passed and implemented. The application was denied because it might be contrary to amendments that might be written and might be introduced and might be voted on and might be passed.
The City Council failed to follow state law and its own interim bylaw when it considered University Mall's application. We believe that what the City Council did was, primarily, contrary to the law and, secondarily, contrary to public policy, and we are willing to let the court decide, so we have filed a notice of appeal and a lawsuit alleging, among other things:
1. The actions of the South Burlington City Council were beyond the Council's statutory authority. (Count II of the complaint)
2. The actions of the South Burlington City Council violated the constitutional right to due process and equal protection under the law. (Count IV of the complaint)
3. The decision of the South Burlington City Council was arbitrary and capricious. (Count V of the complaint)
The Interim Zoning Bylaw and the manner in which the City Council enforces it raise constitutional issues. All landowners should expect to follow specific rules and regulations, and there should be a fair process to clarify and enforce these rules. The City Council has created an environment where there is no clear process and there are no clear rules. The City Council's application of Interim Zoning has a dangerous impact on the economic development of this area at a time when our economy is still recovering from the worst recession in half a century.