Act 250 Bill Passes House With Poison Pill

S.234, a proposal to change Act 250 to allow for more housing, was amended by the House with a significant change in governance which the Governor opposes, jeopardizing it’s passage. While many of the permitting provisions in S.234 promote smart growth development, they do not go far enough to create the transformational impact on Vermont’s housing crisis that is needed right now.

Unfortunately, the House chose to add language from the Act 250 governance bill, H.492, rather than let S.234 bill stand on its own merits as a largely housing permitting bill. The proposed change to the Act 250 governance structure would establish an environmental board in which appeals to Act 250 decisions would be decided by the newly established board rather than the environmental court.

The proposed new governance structure has caused significant concern in communities and with leaders across Vermont. Mayors, town managers, developers, housing advocates, and community leaders voiced their concerns of the impact this change could have to make critical housing development harder in written testimony. By creating multiple paths for appeals to follow, one for ARN and one for Act 250, costs and complexity associated with development will increase.

With the addition of the governance language, barriers to development may increase rather than be alleviated through this legislation. The Senate has not reviewed the concerns raised by these letters in any committee and it is hard to see how adequate time can be given to working through this additional language as the session comes to close. The Governor is all but certain to veto the bill if that language is included in the final bill.