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Vermont House Backs Act 250 Bill, But Governor Now Opposed

House chamber seats and desks on a red and yellow carpet.
Elodie Reed
VPR File
After a lengthy debate Thursday, the Vermont House has advanced changes to Act 250, the state's land development review law.

The Vermont House has advanced changes to Vermont's 50-year-old land use law, adding protections for upper elevations and controlling development around interstate exits.

The changes to Act 250 came after lengthy debate Thursday evening. Lawmakers first defeated an attempt to send the bill back to a committee for more work with a 93-43 vote.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Amy Sheldon said the bill updates the law to reflect today's challenges, such as climate change and forest fragmentation.

"H. 926 strikes a balance between increasing project review to protect important resources while releasing certain areas from Act 250 review where we want to encourage development and where jurisdiction no longer applies,” she said.

The bill exempts from Act 250 projects in designated downtowns and growth centers.

More from VPR: Poll Shows Voters Support Downtown Development In Midst Of Controversial Act 250 Overhaul [Feb. 18]

Gov. Phil Scott said he's concerned about the expansion of Act 250 review to land above 2,000 feet. He said that encompasses about 500,000 more acres in Vermont.

“So think about this: You have a camp or a home that you’ve had for decades, and all of a sudden this provision comes into place, and if you want to re-do your driveway, you want to re-do your home, you want to do whatever, you’re going to have to get an Act 250 permit to do it,” he said.

The administration was originally on board with a broader Act 250 overhaul after negotiating over the summer with the Vermont Natural Resources Council, a statewide environmental group.

More from VPR: Lawmakers Cut Controversial Part Of Act 250 Bill, Citizen Panels To Still Review Projects [Feb. 25]

That proposal would have changed how projects are reviewed and appealed. Instead of nine, citizen-based district commissions that would evaluate developments, the bill expanded the state’s Natural Resources Board for that review, and would have sent permit appeals directly to the Supreme Court.

Those proposals were cut when the bill went to the House Ways and Means Committee for a funding mechanism.

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