Vermont is widely known for protecting the environment, managing growth and development, and preserving historic downtowns. A summary of smart growth policies and laws demonstrates this commitment. Indeed, the state has taken bold action in banning billboards, adopting Act 250 and Act 200, and establishing the Vermont Downtown Program. Smart Growth Vermont was a leader in developing and strengthening this successful program.
We were also a leader in working for the enactment of Act 183, the state’s growth center law. Act 183 was enacted in response to the growing concern that scattered, unplanned development threatens the fabric of our communities. Building on the Downtown Program, which was created with the support of Smart Growth Vermont, the new Growth Centers Program levels the playing field, making it easier and more predictable for developers to build in and around our downtowns and villages. It encourages communities, through financial and regulatory incentives, to plan for compact, mixed-use growth centers.
Vermont has rested on its environmental laurels for far too long. State government continues to make decisions that undermine the statutory planning and development goals and smart growth principles adopted to sustain these initiatives. To harness the innovation and creativity that will shape the state’s future in the coming years, Vermont needs strong, committed leadership.
Smart Growth Vermont has established a record of achievement and reputation for balanced research and creative solutions. We have built on that record by documenting how state policy decisions affect land use, working to ensure that major development projects do not undermine local economies and communities, and continuing to assist the Legislature in developing good public policy on such issues as growth centers, farmland protection, and coordination of state agencies on matters related to major development projects.
2010 LEGISLATIVE ACTIVITY
With tough budgetary times and a gubernatorial election on the horizon, it could be a challenging session. Nevertheless, Smart Growth Vermont and our legislative partner, Preservation Trust of Vermont will be tracking and working on the following issues:
- Economic stimulus through an increase in historic tax credits for designated downtowns and village centers. There is a waiting list for tax credits for projects that are ready for renovations and restoration utilizes more labor than a new development – creating local jobs! To watch – the Governor’s budget.
- Updates to the Growth Center Program to ensure that planning tools are in place to create compact areas for new development that supports our downtowns and creates transportation and housing options. The bill to watch is S-64.
- Protecting the current use program from damaging cuts and working to support creative funding solutions that ensures our farmers and foresters have options for working their lands. The Vermont Land Trust is one of the organizations taking the lead on this issue.
- Eliminating strip development along our roadways. The bill to watch S-99.
2008 LEGISLATIVE SESSION – ISSUES OVERVIEW
Smart Growth Vermont has worked with our legislative partners to support legislation to:
- Further strengthen the Downtown and Village Center Program through expanded tax incentives;
- Support the Growth Center Program through additional incentives, including those intended to create new housing opportunities;
- Ensure that housing legislation reinforces Vermont’s traditional settlement patterns, and that efforts to reduce regulatory oversight in smart growth locations are balanced with appropriate protection in rural areas; and
- Support increased funding for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Fund to its full statutory formula, and revise the property transfer tax to reduce the amount paid by Vermonters purchasing affordable homes and off-setting that lost revenue through an increase in the transfer fee charged to purchasers of expensive vacation homes.
- The Vermont Smart Growth Collaborative used its 2007 State of Vermont Smart Growth Progress Report to educate lawmakers about the state’s progress in implementing its own smart growth policies on housing, conservation, transportation and land use and development regulation. The Report’s most troubling finding was that the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources is consistently ignoring its own wastewater funding rule. Adopted in 2002, this rule was intended to prevent state revolving loan fund dollars from supporting construction of wastewater facilities serving sprawl locations. We will work with Collaborative members to address some of the concerns raised in the report to ensure that state spending reinforces the long-standing state goals of promoting smart growth and discouraging sprawl.