Our Work

VNRC Succeeds in Securing Protections for Farmland

August 31, 2007

At VNRC’s urging, a key legislative committee recently blocked a state agency proposal that would have weakened protections for some of Vermont’s best farm soils.

On August 29 the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR) told the Natural Resources Board (NRB) to rethink its proposed rule change to Act 250 — Vermont’s important land use and development control law — and work with groups like VNRC to bring a better proposal before the committee.

The pivotal issue before the legislative panel was whether or not the proposed rule, which would have allowed district environmental commissions to waive one of the Act 250 criteria to make it easier to build on primary agricultural soils, was consistent with statute and legislative intent.

Administrative agencies – in this case the Natural Resources Board – promulgate rules that flesh out details of legislation that governs them. Agencies must, by law, develop only rules that reflect what lawmakers intended in their legislation. In this case, LCAR blocked the NRB’s attempt to recast the intent of the law. LCAR prevented a potentially dangerous loophole from being created, a gap that would have opened up too much of Vermont’s invaluable farm lands open to intensive development.

“This is a great win for farmland and environmental protection. The committee saw that these rules were clearly flawed and had strayed from what the Legislature wanted,” said Steve Holmes, VNRC’s Sustainable Communities Program Director. “Thankfully, the group sent the Natural Resources Board back to the drawing board to come up with better rules.”

LCAR voted unanimously to send the rules back, and gave the NRB until October 3rd to see if it could work out a satisfactory proposal with the interested parties. VNRC will continue to work to monitor this important issue and ensure that important protections for Vermont’s agricultural soils remain intact.

For more information, please contact VNRC’s Sustainable Communities Program Director Steve Holmes at 802-223-2328 ext. 120 or sholmes@vnrc.org.