Comprehensive Act 250 Bill Passes House Committee

The House Natural Resources, Fish, and Wildlife Committee added to the Act 250 bill, S.234, before it was passed out of Committee. Key provisions included in this expansive bill are:

Municipal Zoning

  • Allows Neighborhood Development Areas (NDAs) to include flood hazard areas if they are suitable for infill development as defined under Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) rules. If the NDA does include flood hazard areas, the local bylaws must contain provisions consistent with ANR’s model Flood Hazard and River Corridor bylaws.
  • Strikes the requirement that NDAs have either a municipal sewer or an approved community or alternative wastewater system.
  • Requires a density of four residential units of any kind within NDA zoning districts.
  • Provides that no municipal land use permit for a site plan or conditional use shall expire in less than two years.
  • Creates the Municipal Bylaw Modernization Grant Program to provide towns with funding to modernize their bylaws to increase housing density and opportunity.
  • Prohibits towns from requiring more than one parking space per bedroom for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).

Act 250

  • Raises the number of Priority Housing Projects that can be exempt from Act 250 in small towns from 25 to 50 units.
  • Amends the exemption section of Act 250, simplifying the exemption for Priority Housing Projects so that no permit or permit amendment is needed, including for permits on existing projects that will include Priority Housing Projects.
  • Requires towns to respond to requests from Act 250 applicants within 90 days or the application shall be deemed to have no unreasonable burden.
  • Language from the previously House passed H.492 to change the Act 250 governance structure.

Forest Blocks

  • Adds new criterion to Act 250-8C which requires applicants to not cause undue adverse impacts to forest blocks, connecting habitats, and rare and irreplaceable natural areas.
  • Requires ANR to map forest blocks and connecting habitat and to establish procedures for updating maps.

Removed from the bill is the Senate’s Road Rule language, which Administration officials have opposed, along with proposals on forest fragmentation and Act 250 governance, while also  advocating for full Act 250 exemptions for housing in state designated areas. It’s increasingly difficult to see how these modest gains in creating new Priority Housing Projects coupled with the expanding overall jurisdiction of Act 250 will lead to progress on the housing shortage crisis for middle income earners.