Act 250

In the late 1960’s, there was significant unregulated second home development around ski areas in the southern Vermont. Vermonters became concerned about impacts to the environment and on their communities. Act 250 was enacted in 1970 to address these concerns. The law regulates certain kinds of developments at the state level, in addition to any existing local review, in order to protect and conserve the lands and environment of the state and to ensure they will be devoted to uses not detrimental to the public. It is intended to safeguard our farms and forests from sprawl, protect our natural resources, and help our towns balance growth with the costs of development. Importantly, it is a process that includes citizen participation.

After 50 years and many requests to update and amend Act 250, the House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife Committee is considering draft legislation based upon a report written by a commission that was tasked with planning for the next 50 years of the law. Testimony on this draft legislation revealed that in 22 rural towns, between 2002 and 2016, there were 20,000 lots carved from Vermont’s forests and farmland, each on less than five acres. Today, less than one percent of rural development falls under Act 250 jurisdiction. Most developments today are on divisions of land with development of only 2.5- 3.5 lots, well below Act 250's jurisdictional threshold of six or ten lots.

Vermont is one of the cleanest, most environmentally pristine states in our country. Our environment, and the jobs it creates, is an asset worth protecting. As it deliberates on draft Act 250 legislation, the House is considering changes to law so that location would trigger Act 250 jurisdiction where important farmland, forestland, and critical resources are located in order to prevent their fragmentation. Act 250 would thus be applicable to smaller scale development, preventing “death by a thousand cuts” to critical Vermont resource areas such as forests, wildlife corridors, and prime farmland. The Committee is also considering enhanced designations for designated centers that achieve the relevant goals of Act 250 locally, goals intended to safeguard our farms and forests from sprawl, protect our natural resources, and help our towns to balance growth with the costs of development.