Burlington, VT, Code of Ordinances

Updated September 2021

By: Burlington, VT

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Table of Contents

Accessory Dwelling Units

The city's comprehensive development ordinance permits one internal, attached, or detached accessory dwelling unit (ADU) by right on any lot with an owner-occupied single-family dwelling (§5.4.5(a)). Use-specific standards address maximum occupancy, wastewater capacity, maximum unit size, setbacks and coverage, parking, deed restrictions, development scenarios that trigger a discretionary use review, and discontinuance.

Active Transportation

The city’s comprehensive development ordinance requires long-term bicycle parking by specific use (Table 8.2.5-1), according to various standards, including square footage of primary use and dwelling units (§8.2.8).

Downtown Revitalization

The city's comprehensive development ordinance includes a Downtown Mixed Use Core Overlay district to facilitate pedestrian-oriented mixed-use redevelopment (Appendix A §4.5.8). It addresses dimensional and design standards, procedures for minor deviations, signage, awnings and canopies, and green buildings and stormwater management.

Environmentally Sensitive Areas

The city’s comprehensive development ordinance features a natural resource protection overlay district that is meant to protect sensitive areas. It describes four subparts of the overlay district: a riparian and littoral conservation zone, a wetland conservation buffer, a natural areas zone, and a special flood hazard area (§4.5.4). Each subarea includes permitted, prohibited, and conditional uses. Some subareas contain additional sections such as additional application requirements, criteria for review, and approval conditions.

Food Systems | Food Trucks

The city’s code of ordinances contains regulations pertaining to peddlers in motor vehicles which address licensing, prohibited and regulated locations, and appearance, refuse, and size limitations(§23.01 et seq).

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

The city’s code of ordinances encourages the use of green infrastructure, best management practices (BMPs), and low-impact development (LID) as alternatives to meeting stormwater treatment standards. It lists several tactics and practices including green roofs, alternative detention practices, water reuse, and pervious and porous pavements and pavers (§26-157). The code of ordinances states that these approaches can be used to address the stormwater treatment standards and treatment practice design criteria (§26-156).

Group Housing

The city's comprehensive development ordinance defines group homes and offers a "functional family" definition that addresses the disabled (§13.1.2). Group homes are permitted by right in all residential districts and most other districts in the city (Appendix A, Use Table). The city also defines "community house" as a group living situation for those not protected under the federal fair housing act (§13.1.2). This is a conditional use in all residential districts, subject to standards that address density and impose a distance requirement of 500 feet for houses with 7–12 beds, 1,000 feet for houses with 13–20 beds, and 1,500 feet for houses with more than 21 beds (§5.4.4).

Housing Supply Planning

The city's code of ordinances encourages increasing housing supply and affordable options for all by enacting inclusionary housing. The city’s Inclusionary Housing webpage provides additional information and resources. The code permits accessory dwelling units as another housing option for residents. 

Inclusionary Housing

The city’s code of ordinances addresses inclusionary housing (Article 9, Part 1). The ordinance applies to developments of five or more residential units in a single structure or 10 or more units in an adaptive reuse or residential conversion project. It requires a base of 15% affordable units, with more units required if higher median income percentages are used. The code establishes a 99-year affordability requirement.

The code of ordinances provides standards for calculating rents and selling prices and marketing requirements. Density bonuses and other development allowances are provided. Off-site construction of units is allowed subject to conditions. General standards for inclusionary projects address bedroom mix ratios, allowable differences in affordable units, and completion timelines.

The city’s Inclusionary Housing webpage provides additional information and resources, including an evaluation of the city’s inclusionary policy, maximum rent limits, and inclusionary zoning unit inventories.

Solar Energy

The city's code of ordinances includes in its site plan review standards that site plans should support the use of renewable energy resources including direct sunlight and buildings should maximize solar exposure where appropriate (§6.2.2.e).

In its section on architectural design standards, the code encourages the use of solar panels and other "green" roof technologies, as well as taking advantage of solar access where available to provide opportunities for the use of active and passive solar energy (§6.3.2.a.2).

Tactical Urbanism

The city’s code of ordinances authorizes the public works director to initiate parking or transportation pilot programs in public rights-of-way (§20-3(c)). Pilot programs require neighborhood, police, fire, and public works commission notification as well as temporary signage. The maximum time period for a pilot program is 30 days.

Urban Agriculture | Food Systems

The city’s comprehensive development ordinance addresses urban agriculture. It exempts accepted agricultural practices, as well as urban agriculture structures — cold frames, hoop houses, rooftop agricultural uses and structures, onsite produce sales of up to $1,000 — from zoning permits (§3.1.2.c.7, 13).

Community gardens are provided a waiver from the city’s parks impact fee in an amount equivalent to the cost of garden installation; conditions are listed (§3.3.3.d).

The parking requirement for community gardens is 1 space per 10 plots in neighborhood and shared use districts, none in downtown districts (Table 8.1.8-1).

Community gardens are permitted by right in nearly all districts (Appendix A, Use Table).

The comprehensive development ordinance defines a number of urban agriculture–related terms, including farm structure, cold frame, community garden, farming, hoop house, and urban agriculture (§13.1.2).

Zoning Reform and Code Writing

The city adopted a new Comprehensive Development Ordinance in 2008 (Appendix A). It includes a mix of use-based and form-based zoning standards. It defines and regulates uses based on broad categories, with select specific use types, and includes use-specific standards to minimize reliance on discretionary use permits. It uses tables to organize use permissions and dimensional standards.

Its purpose statements address promoting public health, safety and welfare; implementing the local comprehensive plan; protecting agricultural, forest, and other environmentally significant lands; facilitating good urban and civic design; encouraging appropriate architectural design and the conservation of historic resources; encouraging the conservation and use of renewable energy resources; supporting a rich cultural environment and the arts; encouraging economic growth and vitality; and creating a model city for people (§A-1.1.2).

Burlington, VT

2010 Population: 42,417

2010 Population Density: 4,115.76/square mile