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Thanks to our student and faculty partners at the Land Use Institute at the Vermont Law School, communities now have more information on ways to ensure our farmers are protected from nuisance lawsuits. In 1981 the state of Vermont enacted a “right-to-farm” law in response to new residential development that had begun to encroach on existing agricultural lands. Vermont’s right-to-farm statute is an important element of the legal framework protecting the state’s working rural lands and the food, jobs, viewsheds, and other benefits that they provide. Essentially, as long as a farm complies with the law, operates consistently with “good agricultural practices,” is established before surrounding residences or other non-agricultural activities are, and does not “significantly” expand or change its operations after surrounding residences or other activities are established, a court must presume that a residential neighbor’s nuisance claim is invalid.
Planning Commissions are often faced with decision between choosing between two main regulatory structures in order to regulate local land use. The first option is to create a Planning Commission (PC) and a Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) or they may instead create a PC and a Development Review Board (DRB), which subsumes all of the responsibilities of the ZBA and the land use regulation functions of the PC. Each of these two structures has distinct pros and cons.

To learn more about these pros and cons as well as Vermont’s right-to-farm statute, related Vermont Supreme Court Decisions and how communities are utilizing zoning to protect farm activities, check out these new tools in our Toolbox.