Burlington, Vermont, City Hall. Credit: Doug Kerr / Creative Commons

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Burlington, Vermont’s City Council this week postponed a final vote on requiring rental property owners to weatherize their buildings to allow time to incorporate feedback from a regional low-income weatherization program.

The program’s director, Dwight DeCoster of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, was concerned the ordinance could lead to a bottleneck of property owners seeking services through his program.

The ordinance, which had unanimous support at its first reading earlier this month, would require weatherization for rental properties using more than 50,000 British thermal units per conditioned square foot for space heating. 

The proposal was expected to be adopted Monday but council members instead voted to delay one month so they could add flexibility for property owners participating in the low-income weatherization program.

DeCoster said in an interview that he met with utility officials and “hammered out some wording that I think will make the ordinance much easier to stand by.”

The regional agency coordinates the state’s Weatherization Assistance Program and other programs for low-income residents in four northwestern Vermont counties. That includes weatherization projects for 250 housing units a year, he said, including apartments, condos, mobile homes and single-family homes.

DeCoster suggested a stipulation in the policy that allows building owners working with him to be considered in compliance with the ordinance while still remaining on the schedule his resources allow for. He also felt the ordinance held property owners to technical standards that are outdated. The changes he’s hoping for would allow it to be a “living ordinance,” he said, “and flex as the energy code or our technical [specifications] change.”

“I hand it to them,” he said of the City Council. “They saw that there was work to be done before they voted.”

Burlington Electric Department, the city electric utility, has been integral in drafting the ordinance. A spokesperson for the utility said in an email that officials from Burlington Electric and the Burlington Department of Permitting and Inspections “sought a one-meeting postponement to allow additional time to further review ordinance details and engage stakeholders.”

The council plans to take up the ordinance at its meeting on April 12.

David Thill

David is a New York-based journalist who has written on health, science and the environment for various outlets, including World Wildlife Fund and the Chicago newspaper Windy City Times. He has reported on topics including the city’s opioid epidemic, bird research at the Field Museum, and LGBT youth in foster care. He covers northern New England for the Energy News Network.