Archives

Strengthening Act 250


Enacted in 1970, Act 250 is Vermont’s landmark land use law, regulating development by reviewing larger scale projects for their potential impacts on the surrounding area. VNRC has been committed to the key goals of Act 250 since before it was even created: safeguarding our farms and forests from sprawl, protecting our natural resources, and helping our towns balance growth with community health and safety.

No sooner had VNRC worked to pass Act 250, than critics began to blame it for a drop in non-residential construction. Dispelling confusion and ill will about Vermont’s new environmental laws became our first major public education campaign. VNRC established the Environmental Planning and Information Center (EPIC) to help implement Act 250 and stimulate public participation in preparation of the Land Use and Development Plan.

EPIC conducted a public opinion survey to determine interest in and awareness of environmental laws in Vermont as well as countless meetings with select-board members, legislators, and community leaders. It also produced PSAs, public television programs, several studies and conferences, and VNRC’s famous slideshow, “So Goes Vermont,” which paints a powerful portrait of Vermonters and how they use their land.

In 1992, VNRC issued a report arguing that Act 250 was still a positive economic force in Vermont, which its detractors had long denied. The year later, we produced Made In Vermont: The Dividends of Act 250. In the video, a diverse range of business people, including Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s, former VT Development Secretary Elbert Moulton, and banker Zoe Erdman, present their views on Act 250’s importance to Vermont’s economy. In addition, citizens who have protected their homes and businesses through Act 250 speak about the importance of public participation.

In the 21st century, Act 250 remains as important as ever — even more so as our climate changes, and Vermont’s population continues to shift — and VNRC remains dedicated to keeping the law healthy and responsive to Vermonters’ needs. In 2018, VNRC advised the Vermont legislature’s Commission on Act 250: The Next 50 Years.

In 2018 VNRC published Core Recommendations to Strengthen the Environment, Communities, and the Act 250 Process, which addresses ways to usher Vermont’s landmark law into the next half-century. Find it here.

In 2019, VNRC worked with the Vermont Legislature to advance a proposal for modernizing Act 250, which passed the Legislature but was vetoed by Governor Phil Scott.

In 2022, VNRC filed a brief with the Vermont Supreme Court to hear new arguments in the “Snowstone” case and reconsider their initial decision, which would have weakened Act 250. In a rare reversal, the court changed their ruling to uphold Act 250 as it has been applied for over 50 years.

In 2024, The Vermont Legislature overrode a gubernatorial veto to pass H.687, a historic update to Act 250 that addresses Vermont’s need for affordable housing while maintaining our critical natural resources. The bill creates a new tiered system that determines which development projects are subject to Act 250 based on a project’s location and the length of new road required, encouraging significant housing to be built in well-planned areas in communities of all sizes throughout Vermont. The bill simultaneously addresses critical natural resource protection by reducing the fragmentation of our intact forests, wildlife habitat areas and headwaters. It also professionalizes the Board that oversees the Act 250 program to provide resources to make Act 250 more efficient and effective.

The passage of H.687 was the result of a decade of thoughtful research, advocacy, and collaboration and renews the state’s commitment to sustainably planned development and natural resources protection. We continue working hard to ensure that Vermont’s “law of the land” is equipped to serve future generations.

Stay up to date with Act 250 news here. 

Our Victories

Honey bee closeup on sunflower

Protecting Pollinators from Harmful Pesticides

Solar Panel on flooded field

Improving Flood Resilience

VCV's Executive Director, Lauren Hierl, speaks at the launch of the Make Big Oil Pay campaign in Burlington

Making Big Oil Pay

Solar panels and sun reflection under dramatic sky

Committing to 100% Renewable Energy by 2035

Girl drinking water

Removing Lead Fixtures from Schools

State house in fall with people on lawn

Furthering Environmental Justice

Advancing the Global Warming Solutions Act

Removing Derelict Dams

Fighting PFAS and Toxic Contamination

Protecting the Land and Views at Exit 4

Guiding Municipalities to Implement Act 171

Forming and Supporting Energy Committees

Protecting the LaPlatte River Marsh Wetlands

Ensuring Clean Streams at Jay Peak

Promoting Statewide Dam Safety

Preserving Downtown Bennington

Convening the Forest Roundtable

Creating Statewide Precedent on Biomass Electricity

Protecting Black Bear Habitat at Parker’s Gore

Securing Clean Water Funding

Maintaining Current Use

Banning Billboards

Declaring Groundwater a Public Trust