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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Vermont Land Use Planning (1-VT-a)

In Vermont, land use planning is a cooperative process between the State, the municipalities and regional planning commissions, which requires citizen participation at all levels of the planning process. 24 V.S.A. §4302(a).


Land Use Planning Process

1-VT-a.1— Review Statewide Land Use Plan

A developer should review the statewide land use plan to ensure compliance with the state land use plan. In Vermont, the statewide planning goals call for sustainable development in a “manner which will encourage the development of renewable resources.” 24 V.S.A. §4302(a). It is the intent of the State that “municipalities, regional planning commissions, and State agencies engage in a continuing planning process that will further the goals:

  • To establish a coordinated, comprehensive planning process and policy framework to guide decisions by municipalities, regional plan commissions, and State agencies;
  • To encourage and assist municipalities to work creatively together to develop and implement planning;
  • To maintain and improve the quality of air, water, wildlife, and land resources; and
  • To encourage the efficient use of energy and the development of renewable energy resources."

24 V.S.A. §4302(b)(1),(4); 24 V.S.A. §4302(c)(6),(7).

Statewide land use permitting takes place through the Act 250 and Certificate of Public Good (CPG) processes. Act 250 is Vermont’s land use law and development law. The law provides a public, quasi-judicial process for reviewing and managing the environmental, social and fiscal consequences of major development in Vermont through the issuance of land use permits. Act 250 does not apply to energy transmission and generation development. The CPG process is a site-specific environmental, economic, and social impact planning process for energy transmission and generation development in Vermont. Both Act 250 and the CPG processes require conformance with the duly adopted municipal plan. 10 V.S.A. § 6086(a)(10).

For more information on regarding the CPG review process for energy generation and transmission projects, see: Certificate of Public Good Process:
7-VT-c

1-VT-a.2 — Review Municipal and Regional Land Use Plan

Local regulation is enabled by the Vermont Planning and Development Act. 24 V.S.A. §4302(a). The municipal plan is the principal policy document that guides many municipal government decisions. The municipal plan is the foundation for local land use regulation, natural conservation strategies, and energy programs. A municipal plan must include “an energy plan, including an analysis of energy resources, needs, scarcities, costs and problems within the municipality, a statement of policy on the conservation of energy, including programs, such as thermal integrity standards for buildings, to implement that policy, a statement of policy on the development of renewable energy resources, a statement of policy on patterns and densities of land use likely to result in conservation of energy.” 24 V.S.A. §4382(a)(9). The municipal plan alerts regional and state agencies to community priorities, including local energy policy. Act 250 district commissions consider municipal plans under criterion 10, as does the Vermont Public Service Board in the Certificate of Public Good Process (Section 248) review process. 24 V.S.A. §4401; 30 V.S.A. §248(b)(1)-(2); Vermont Act 250, 10 V.S.A. §§ 6042, 6024.

Regional planning commissions also participate in state-level reviews, such as Act 250 or Section 248 proceedings (the Certificate of Public Good process for electric generation and transmission facilities). 24 V.S.A. §4345a; 30 V.S.A. §248(b)(1)-(2); Vermont Act 250, 10 V.S.A. §§6001-6108. In such proceedings, in which the provisions of a regional plan are relevant to the determination of any issue in those proceedings:

  • The provisions of the regional plan are given effect to the extent that they are not in conflict with the provisions of an adopted municipal plan; and
  • To the extent that such a conflict exists, the regional plan is given effect if it is demonstrated that the project under consideration in the proceedings would have a substantial regional impact.

24 V.S.A. §4348(h).

1-VT-a.3 to 1-VT-a.4 — Does the Project Require a Proposal to Amend, Adopt, or Appeal a Regional or Municipal Plan?

A developer may propose a municipal land use plan or an amendment to an existing municipal land use plan to the municipal planning commission. In addition, a developer may influence a municipal or regional land use plan through informal working sessions held by the regional and municipal planning commissions.

Regional Land Use Plans

A regional planning commission has the authority to adopt or amend a regional plan. 24 V.S.A. §4348(a). All regional plans, including all prior amendments, expire every eight (8) years. 24 V.S.A. §4348b. In order to adopt or amend a regional plan, the “regional commission must hold informal working sessions to solicit the participation of local citizens and organizations.” 24 V.S.A. §4348(a). For regional land use planning only, proceed to 1-VT-9.

Municipal Land Use Plans

Any Vermont municipality may develop and implement a municipal plan in accordance with 24 V.S.A. §4381 et seq. All municipal plans, including prior amendments, expire every five (5) years. 24 V.S.A. §4387(a). In order to adopt or amend a municipal plan, the “municipal planning commission must hold informal working sessions to solicit participation of local citizens and organizations.” 24 V.S.A. §4384(a). The municipal planning commission, or any other person, or body may prepare the municipal plan amendment or repeal. 24 V.S.A. §4384(a).

1-VT-a.5 — Submit Amendment to Municipal Planning Commission (If Applicable)

“If any person or body other than a municipal planning commission prepares an amendment to a plan, that person or body must submit the amendment in writing and all supporting documents to the municipal planning commission.” 24 V.S.A. §4384(b). The planning commission may then proceed as if the amendment had been prepared by the commission. 24 V.S.A. §4384(b).

If there is not an amendment to the municipal plan by any person or body, other than the municipal planning commission, proceed to 1-VT-8.

1-VT-a.6 to 1-VT-a.7 — Is the Proposed Amendment Supported by a Petition?

The municipal planning commission must correct any technical deficiency of a proposed amendment, supported by a petition signed by five (5) percent or more of the voters of the municipality. In addition, the municipal planning commission must, without otherwise changing the amendment, promptly write a report on the proposal and proceed with a public hearing in accordance with 24 V.S.A. §4384(c)-(f), as if it had been prepared by the commission. 24 V.S.A. §4384(b).

Otherwise the municipal planning commission may or may not take into consideration any proposed amendment supported by less than (5) percent the voters of the municipality. 24 V.S.A. §4384(b), (f).

1-VT-a.8 — Report of Proposed Amendment

When considering an amendment to a plan-either of its own creation or as submitted by a person or body other than the commission- the municipal planning commission must prepare a written report on the proposal which addresses the extent to which the proposed amendment complies with the planning goals pursuant 24 V.S.A. §4302. Vermont Land Use: Essentials of Local Land Use Planning and Regulation, at 28. In addition, if the “proposed amendment would alter the designation of any land area, the report should cover the points” identified in 24 V.S.A. §4384(c). 24 V.S.A. §4384(c).

1-VT-a.9 to 1-VT-a.11 — Publish Notice of Public Hearing

Both the municipal planning commissions and regional planning commissions must initiate a public notice and comment period as well as hold public hearings on the proposed plan or amendment in accordance with 1 V.S.A. § 312, Right to Attend Meetings of Public Agencies, 24 V.S.A. § 4444, Public Hearing Notice, and 24 V.S.A. §§ 4384, 4348.

Municipal Land Use Plan

The municipal planning commission must “hold at least one public hearing within the municipality after public notice of any proposed plan or amendment.” 24 V.S.A. §4384(d). The municipal planning commission must publish notice of the public hearing, at least thirty (30) days prior to the first hearing. 24 V.S.A. §4384(e).

The notice must, at minimum, include:

  • A copy of the proposed plan or amendment; and
  • A request for general comments and for specific comments with respect to the extent to which the plan or amendment is consistent with the goals established in 24 V.S.A. §4302; and
  • A copy of the written report of the proposed plan or amendment.

24 V.S.A. §4384(e).

The municipal planning commission must “deliver the notice via certified mail, return receipt requested, or with proof of receipt, to each of the following:

  • The chairperson of the municipal planning commission of each abutting municipality, or in the absence of any planning commission in an abutting municipality, to the clerk of that municipality;
  • The executive director of the regional planning commission of the area in which the municipality is located;
  • The Department of Housing and Community Development within the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development; and
  • Business, conservation, low income advocacy, and other community or interest groups or organizations that have [made written requests to the municipality] before the hearing is warned.”

24 V.S.A. §4384(e)(1)-(4).

Any interested party, specified above (24 V.S.A. §4384(e)(1)-(4)) may submit comments on the proposed municipal plan or amendment to the municipal planning commission. 24 V.S.A. §4384(e). In addition, those interested parties, specified above, may appear and provide public comment at any proceeding with respect to the adoption of the proposed plan or amendment. 24 V.S.A. §4384(e).

Regional Land Use Plan

“The regional planning commission will hold two or more public hearings within the region after public notice on any proposed plan or amendment.” 24 V.S.A. §4348(b).

The regional planning commission must publish notice of the public hearing, at least thirty (30) days prior to the first hearing. 24 V.S.A. §4348(b). The notice must, at minimum, include:

  • A copy of the proposed plan or amendment; and
  • A request for general comments and for specific comments with respect to the extent to which the plan or amendment is consistent with the goals established in 24 V.S.A. §4302.

24 V.S.A. §4348(c).

The regional planning commission must deliver the notice via certified mail, return receipt requested, or with proof of receipt, to each of the following:

  • The chair of the legislative body of each municipality within the region;
  • The executive director of each abutting regional planning commission;
  • The Department of Housing and Community Development within the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development; and
  • Business, conservation, low income advocacy, and other community or interest groups or organizations that [have made written requests to the municipality] before the hearing is warned.

24 V.S.A. §4348(c)(1)-(4).

Any interested party, specified above (24 V.S.A. §4348(c)(1)-(4)) may submit comments on the proposed regional plan or amendment to the regional planning commission. 24 V.S.A. §4348(d). In addition, those interested parties, specified above, may appear and provide public comment at any proceeding with respect to the adoption of the proposed plan or amendment. 24 V.S.A. §4348(d).

1-VT-a.12 to 1-VT-a.14 — Is there a Revision to the Proposed Municipal Plan or Amendment?

A municipal planning commission must submit a revision of the proposed plan or amendment and any written report to the legislative body of the municipality. 24 V.S.A. §4384(f). However, the municipal planning commission must promptly submit the revision, with changes only to correct technical deficiencies, to the legislative body of the municipality, together with any recommendation or opinion it considers appropriate, if requested by the legislative body, or if a proposed amendment was supported by a petition signed by five (5) percent of the voters of the municipality. 24 V.S.A. §4384(f).

In addition, the municipal planning commission must file a copy of the proposed plan or amendment, and any written report with the clerk of the municipality, simultaneously with the submission of the revision of the proposed plan or amendment, for public review. 24 V.S.A. §4384(f).

1-VT-a.15 to 1-VT-a.17 — Publish Notice of Legislative Body Public Hearing

The legislative body of the applicable municipality must publish notice of the mandated legislative body public hearing. Once the municipal planning commission has sent the plan or amendment and any written report to the legislative body of the municipality, the legislative body has between thirty (30) and one hundred (100) days to hold at least one public meeting. 24 V.S.A. §4385(a).

A legislative body with a population of 2,500 persons or less must hold at least one public hearing after public notice, on the proposed plan or amendment. 24 V.S.A. §4385(a). A legislative body with a population of more than 2,500 persons must hold two or more legislative body public hearings. 24 V.S.A. §4385(a).

The legislative body must make copies of the proposal and any written report by the municipal planning commission available to the public upon request. 24 V.S.A. §4385(a).

1-VT-a.18 to 1-VT-a.23 — Revise Proposed Municipal Plan or Amendment (If Applicable)

The legislative body must make changes to proposed plan or amendment within fifteen (15) days of the final public hearing. The legislative body must hold additional public hearings regarding any “substantial changes in the concept, meaning or extent of the proposed plan or amendment.” 24 V.S.A. §4385(b). The legislative body must publish notice and conduct the additional public hearings in accordance with 24 V.S.A. §4385(a). 24 V.S.A. §4385(b).

If any part of the proposal is changed, the legislative body must file a copy of the changed proposal with the clerk of the municipality, with any individual or organization requesting a copy in writing, and with the municipal planning commission, at least fifteen (15) days prior to the hearing. 24 V.S.A. §4385(b).

1-VT-a.24 — Report on Consistency of Legislative Goals

The municipal planning commission must submit to the legislative body at or prior to the public hearing a report that analyzes the extent to which the changed proposal, when taken together with the rest of the plan, is consistent with the legislative goals established in 24 V.S.A. §4302. 24 V.S.A. §4385(b).


1-VT-a.25 — Revise Proposed Regional Plan or Amendment (If Applicable)

A regional planning commission must make revisions to a proposed plan or amendment at least thirty (30) days prior to the final public hearing held on the proposed plan or amendment. 24 V.S.A. §4348(e).

1-VT-a.26 to 1-VT-a.28 — Is the Regional Plan or Municipal Plan or Amendment Adopted?

Municipal Land Use Plan

After the public hearing(s), the legislative body may vote by a majority of its members to approve the municipal plan or amendment. The proposed plan or amendment is considered rejected by the municipality if it is not adopted. 24 V.S.A. §4385(c).

Municipal Plans and amendments are effective upon adoption. “The municipal planning commission or legislative municipal body must provide the municipal plan and/or amendments to the municipal plan to the regional planning commission and to the commissioner of housing and community affairs within thirty (30) days of adoption.” 24 V.S.A. §4385(c).

Regional Land Use Plan

The regional commissioners, representing the applicable municipalities, must adopt a regional plan or amendment to the regional plan by sixty (60) percent or more of the voting commissioners. 24 V.S.A. §4348(f). The adoption must also be in accordance with the bylaws of the regional planning commission, and immediately submitted to the legislative bodies of the municipalities that comprise the region. 24 V.S.A. §4348(f).

The regional plan or amendment adopted will automatically take effect within thirty-five (35) days after the date of the adoption, unless the regional planning commission receives certification from the legislative bodies of a majority of the municipalities in the region vetoing the proposed plan or amendment. 24 V.S.A. §4348(f). If the proposed regional plan or amendment is vetoed, the plan or amendment is rejected and void. 24 V.S.A. §4348(f).




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