Smart Growth in Action: Current Use in Vermont
Vermont’s current economic climate has raised alarm in the Legislature, leaving all state funded programs vulnerable for cuts– including Current Use. Legislators are looking to raise income or cut expenses for the program to the tune of $1.6 million. Unless carefully considered, the impact of this deep a cut could threaten the state’s most valuable resource, our working landscape.
Enacted in 1978, Current Use is designed to protect owners of agricultural and forest lands from the threat of high taxes by assessing their property for its “use“ rather than for its fair market or, development value. Today, about 1.5 million acres of working farm and forest lands are enrolled in the program.
For more than 20 years, this policy has strengthened the economic feasibility of family farms and other agricultural businesses, as well as actively managed forest lands, that are crucial to Vermont’s economy and environment. For example, Don Pouliot of Pouliot Farm in Westford has successfully maintained a 500 acre dairy operation during the current economic downturn, due in part to Current Use. Pouliot’s farm resides along highway 128, just south of the village of Westford, an area that would otherwise be at risk for development. Pouliot points out that if this active farm became a development, costs to Westford will rise because with development comes road maintenance, sewer expansion, and other infrastructure expenses.
Current Use has also allowed property owners who are interested in conserving and managing forest lands to maintain diversity and health. Bill Burgin purchased 650 acres of forest land near Killington, in a remote natural area, and because of Current Use, he has been able to maintain the property for its ecological value. Burgin and his family purchased the land because they wanted to preserve the natural quality for the sake of wildlife and for people to enjoy.
Current Use policy will be heavily examined during the upcoming Legislative session, and Smart Growth Vermont will play an active role in ensuring its protection, along with organizations like the Vermont Land Trust, who has taken the lead on this issue. Please show your support for this important policy by sending comments to your state legislators.