Smart Growth Policies and Laws

Growth Centers Program (2006 and 2010)

Enacted as an expansion of the Downtown Program, this law created a process for municipalities to seek state designation of locally planned growth centers.  Planned growth centers must be planned in accordance with smart growth principles. Incentives include different jurisdictional standards, and favorable primary agricultural soils mitigation requirements, under Act 250, and priority for various state funding programs. Clarifications to the Program were passed in 2010.

Vermont Downtown Program (1998,  2002, 2006, 2009 and 2010)

The Vermont Downtown Program was first established as an affiliate of the National Main Street to provide technical assistance and training to communities and help them develop skills and strategies for their downtown revitalization efforts. Legislation passed in 2002 gave further boost to downtown development by offering additional financial incentives, permit incentives and other opportunities for downtown development. In addition, a village center program and a new town center program were added. Today, there are 23 designated downtowns and 96 designated villages. Tax credits to help landowners restore and upgrade historic buildings in designated downtowns and village centers were streamlined – and expanded – and now provide $1.7 million each year, with a one-time $100,000 bump in 2010 from stimulus funds. For a list of 2010 projects awarded credits, click here.

ANR Smart Growth Sewer Rule (2002)

After nearly two years of work with 50 stakeholders, the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) adopted a rule on the priority system for state funding of sewage treatment projects. Under the rule, state funding may only be used for sewer expansions that serve designated growth centers (as defined in the rule). Exceptions are made for immediate health problems and industrial parks with acceptable controls on sewer hook-ups.

Executive Order #01-07 of Governor Dean: Interstate Interchanges (2001)

This executive order required state agencies and departments to “foster the conservation of land in and around interstate interchanges” and to ensure that the “historic settlement pattern of compact villages and urban centers surrounded by rural countryside is maintained.” The order also requires individual state agencies, including the Agency of Transportation and Agency of Natural Resources, to take specific actions, such as access management measures and limits on sewer and water line extensions.

Development Cabinet Law (2000)

This legislature established “a permanent and formal mechanism to assure collaboration and consultation among state agencies and departments, in order to support and encourage Vermont’s economic development, while at the same time conservation and promoting Vermont’s traditional settlement patterns, its working and rural landscape, its strong communities, and its healthy environment…”  Through the development cabinet, policies and procedures, including measurable benchmarks, are to be established by state agencies in order to insure that the law’s goals are met, including to “encourage development in, and work to revitalize, land and buildings in existing urban and village centers…”

Act 200 (1988)

With the passage of Vermont’s Growth Management Act (Act 200), all state agencies were required to develop plans that comply with a clearly defined land use and development goals (and with approved local and regional plans).  All measures that implement state agency plans are required to be consistent with those goals.  In addition, the act requires the adoption of regional plans and sets forth requirements for municipalities that choose to adopt local plans.

Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (1987)

VHCB was established to provide grants and loans to qualified non profits, municipalities and state agencies for affordable housing, land conservation and historic preservation. Since the Board was established over 95,000 acres of farmland and 235,000 acres of forestland and natural areas have been permanently protected and 6,700 units of perpetually-affordable housing have been provided.

Executive Order #15 of Governor Madeleine Kunin: State Buildings (1985). 

Governor Kunin confirmed Vermont’s commitment to preserving its historic resources with an executive order requiring the Department of State Buildings to give priority to locating state government activity in historic and other existing buildings. It also requires the Department to coordinate its efforts with local officials and the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation.

Act 250 (1970)

Act 250 was adopted  to “regulate and control the utilization and usages of lands and the environment to insure that, hereafter, the only usages which will be permitted are not unduly detrimental to the environment, will promote the general welfare through orderly growth and development and are suitable to the demands and needs of the people of this state…”