The Vermont Statutes Online
§ 2793c. Designation of growth centers
(a)(1) Definition. As used in this section, "growth center" means an area of land that:
(A) is within or adjoining a downtown, village center, or new town center designated under this chapter; and
(B) has clearly defined boundaries that can accommodate a majority of commercial, residential, and industrial growth anticipated by the municipality or municipalities over a 20-year period.
(2) Development and redevelopment within any growth center shall support Vermont's traditional land use pattern of compact centers separated by rural lands and shall meet the requirements set forth in subsection (b) of this section.
(b) Requirements. To achieve the purposes and goals set forth in section 4302 of this title and conform to smart growth principles, a growth center shall meet each of the following requirements:
(1) Size. The size of the growth center shall be sufficient to accommodate a majority of the projected development within each applicant municipality over a 20-year planning period, and:
(A) shall be no larger than the area necessary to accommodate:
(i) 150 percent of the projected dwelling units in the municipality over the period; and
(ii) no more than 100 percent of the projected commercial and industrial development in the municipality;
(B) shall not encompass an excessive area of land that would involve the unnecessary extension of infrastructure to service low-density development or automobile-dependent strip development; and
(C) may include undevelopable land and land planned for green space or open space, as well as areas designed for infill and redevelopment.
(2) Location. The area of land proposed for the growth center shall be located within or shall adjoin a designated downtown, village center, or new town center. If the growth center is to be adjoining, then the applicant shall demonstrate that an existing designated downtown, village center, or new town center located within each applicant municipality reasonably cannot accommodate the growth proposed to occur in the growth center.
(3) Uses. The growth center shall support and reinforce any existing designated downtown, village center, or new town center located in the municipality or adjacent municipality by accommodating concentrated residential neighborhoods and a mix and scale of commercial, civic, and industrial uses that are consistent with the anticipated demand for those uses within the municipality and region. The growth center shall incorporate a mix of uses that typically includes or is planned to include the following: retail, office, services, and other commercial, civic, recreational, industrial, and residential uses, including affordable housing and new residential neighborhoods, within a densely developed, compact area.
(4) Density, design, and form. The municipality shall adopt municipal plan policies and implementing bylaws and ordinances applicable to the growth center that conform with design guidelines developed by the Department pursuant to subdivision (d)(3) of this section, and that:
(A) Allow net residential densities within the growth center greater than or equal to four single-family detached dwelling units per acre, exclusive of accessory dwelling units, or no fewer than the average existing density of the surrounding neighborhood, whichever is greater.
(B) Ensure that all investments contribute to a built environment that enhances the existing and planned character and supports pedestrian use.
(C) Ensure sufficient density, building heights, and building coverage or sufficient floor area ratio. A municipality may use bylaws that regulate adequately the physical form and scale of development to demonstrate compliance with this requirement.
(D) Minimize the required lot sizes, setbacks, and parking and street widths.
(E) Organize the proposed growth center development around one or more central places or focal points that will establish community identity and promote social interaction, such as prominent buildings of civic, cultural, or spiritual significance or a village green, common, or square.
(F) Prohibit linear, automobile-dependent strip development along heavily traveled roads within and extending outside the growth center.
(5) Capital budget. The applicant has adopted, in accordance with section 4430 of this title, a capital budget and program that includes existing and planned wastewater treatment, water, stormwater, and transportation infrastructure; public spaces; other infrastructure necessary to support growth center development; and a reference map.
(6) General infrastructure. The existing and planned infrastructure shall be adequate to implement the growth center and meet the municipality's 20-year growth needs. The municipality shall have adopted policies on the extension of water and wastewater lines that include a defined service area and allocation plan to support the growth center.
(7) Public spaces. The growth center shall incorporate existing or planned public spaces that promote social interaction, such as public parks, civic buildings such as a post office or municipal offices, community gardens, and other formal and informal places to gather.
(8) Transportation. Existing or planned transportation infrastructure serving the growth center shall be adequate to implement growth center development over the 20-year period, and shall conform with "complete streets" principles as described under 19 V.S.A. § 309d; shall establish multi-modal access to the downtown, village center, or new town center; shall incorporate, accommodate, and support the use of public transit systems; and shall encompass a circulation system that is conducive to pedestrian and other nonvehicular traffic. The applicable municipal plans and bylaws shall include provisions that will result in street connectivity and aim to create a comprehensive, integrated, connected network for all modes.
(9) Natural resources within growth centers. The growth center shall avoid or minimize the inclusion of important natural resources and identified flood hazard and fluvial erosion hazard areas. If an applicant includes an important natural resource or flood hazard or fluvial erosion hazard area within a proposed growth center, the applicant shall identify the resource or area, explain why the resource or area was included, describe any anticipated disturbance to the resource or area, and describe how the municipality's land use bylaws will avoid or minimize impacts to the resource or area. If impacts to the resource or area are necessary to achieve growth center goals, the applicant shall provide justification for why the disturbance cannot be avoided or minimized.
(10) Natural resources outside growth centers. Municipalities applying for growth center designation shall ensure that the approved local plan, implementing bylaws, and other programs serve to minimize conflicts of development with agricultural and forest industries; minimize the conversion and fragmentation of farmland, forestland, or significant areas of habitat connectivity; and minimize impacts on important natural resources located outside the proposed growth center.
(11) Historic resources. The growth center shall be compatible with and reinforce the character of sites that are listed or eligible for listing on the National or State Register of Historic Places, and other significant cultural and historic resources identified by local or State government in or adjacent to the growth center.
(c) Application for designation of a growth center.
(1) Before submitting a complete application to the Board, the municipal legislative body shall vote to apply for growth center designation according to the procedure established under sections 1972 and 1973 of this title.
(2) The application for designation as a growth center shall:
(A) be based on a 20-year plan for growth that is reflected in the municipal plan of the municipality involved;
(B) include regional and local growth projections and shall identify targets for 20-year growth in various sectors;
(C) include an inventory map and analysis of growth and development potential in the designated downtown, village center, or new town center that connects to the proposed growth center; and
(D) quantify the type and amount of development and land area needed to support the proposed growth center beyond what is available in the designated downtown, village center, or new town center.
(3) Each municipality involved in the application shall have a duly adopted and regionally approved municipal plan that describes the proposed growth center and a planning process that is confirmed in accordance with section 4350 of this title.
(4) Each municipality involved in the application shall have adopted bylaws and regulations under sections 4414, 4418, and 4422 of this title and nonregulatory programs that will support and implement the growth center requirements of subsection (b) of this section.
(5) Each application for designation as a growth center shall include:
(A) A description from the regional planning commission in which each applicant municipality is located of the role of the proposed growth center in the region, and the relationship between the proposed growth center and neighboring communities.
(B) Written confirmation from the applicable regional planning commission that the proposed growth center conforms with the regional plan for the region in which each applicant municipality is located.
(C) A concept plan depicting the character of the streets and public spaces within the growth center, and depicting the size and placement of buildings envisioned in the municipal plan.
(D) One or more maps that accurately delineate the boundaries of the growth center, and an official map, if one is adopted, of the growth center. The map or maps shall identify:
(i) growth center boundaries in relation to the associated designated downtown, village center, or new town center;
(ii) important natural resources, identified flood hazard and fluvial erosion hazard areas, National Register Historic Districts, National or State Register Historic Sites, and other significant cultural and natural resources identified by local or State government within the municipality;
(iii) existing slopes of 20 percent or greater; and
(iv) existing and planned public facilities, including public buildings, public spaces, wastewater and water services, roads, sidewalks, paths, transit centers, parking areas, parks, and schools within the growth center boundaries.
(d) Designation process.
(1) Preliminary application and meeting process.
(A) Before submitting an application pursuant to subsection (c) of this section, a municipality shall submit a preliminary application to the Department consisting of a draft growth center map and a brief explanation of the planning and implementation policies the municipality plans to enact prior to submitting an application under subsection (c) of this section. These planning and implementation policies will be used to guide development within the growth center and preserve the rural character of the surrounding area.
(B) The Department shall solicit comments on the preliminary application from State agencies and regional planning commissions. The Department shall evaluate the preliminary application for compliance with the requirements of subsection (b) of this section, identify potential issues related to the growth center boundary and implementation tools, and make recommendations to address those issues through adjustment of the growth center boundaries and revised or alternative implementation plans.
(C) The Department shall schedule and conduct a preapplication meeting with the applicant.
(2) Regional planning commission technical planning assistance. Regional planning commissions, pursuant to section 4345a of this title, are uniquely positioned to assist municipalities with growth center planning. To this end, at the request of a municipality contemplating growth center designation, the regional planning commission shall provide technical assistance in support of that designation.
(A) Technical support shall include:
(i) preparing population, housing, and employment growth projections for a period of not less than 20 years;
(ii) mapping, including identification of development capacity, land use, existing and planned infrastructure and service areas, important natural resources and historic resources, and physical constraints to development and associated features; and
(iii) analysis of whether the geographic area of proposed growth centers will accommodate a majority of the projected growth over a 20-year period.
(B) These projections and analyses may be prepared on a municipal or regional basis.
(3) Planning manual. The Commissioner of Housing and Community Development or designee shall ensure that the planning manual prepared under section 4304 of this title provides guidelines for municipalities and regional planning commissions planning for growth center designation. The manual shall identify State resources available to assist municipalities and shall include a checklist indicating the issues that should be addressed by the municipality in planning for growth center designation.
(A) The manual shall address in appropriate detail:
(i) methodologies for conducting growth projections and analyses;
(ii) the methodology for determining the appropriate size and location of a growth center boundary;
(iii) the methodology for calculating residential density in a growth center; and
(iv) the methodology for determining the adequacy of infrastructure needed to support anticipated growth within a growth center.
(B) The planning manual shall address defining appropriate boundaries that are not unduly expansive; enacting plan policies and implementation bylaws that accommodate reasonable densities, compact settlement patterns, and an appropriate mix of uses within growth centers; planning for infrastructure, transportation facilities, and open space; avoiding or mitigating impacts to important natural resources and historic resources; and strategies for maintaining the rural character and working landscape outside growth center boundaries.
(4) Assistance by Department. The Commissioner of Housing and Community Development or designee shall provide ongoing assistance to the State Board to review applications for growth center designation, including coordinating review by State agencies on matters of agency interest and evaluating applications and associated plan policies and implementation measures for conformance with this section.
(5) Planning grants. The Vermont Municipal Planning Grant Program, pursuant to subdivision 4306(b)(2) of this title, shall make funding for activities associated with growth center planning a priority, and the Vermont Community Development Program shall make funding for activities associated with growth center planning a priority under the planning grant program.
(6) Designation decision. Within 90 days of the receipt of a completed application, after providing notice as required in the case of a proposed municipal plan or amendment to each person listed under subsection 4384(e) of this title and to the executive director of each adjacent regional planning commission, and after providing an opportunity for the public to be heard, the State Board formally shall designate a growth center if the State Board finds, in a written decision, that the growth center proposal meets the requirements of subsection (b) of this section. An application that complies with all of the requirements of subsection (b) of this section other than the size requirement set forth in subdivision (b)(1) may be approved by the State Board if the applicant presents compelling justification for deviating from the size requirement and provided that at least two-thirds but no fewer than seven of the members of the State Board present vote in favor of the application.
(7) Conditions of designation. The Board, as a condition of growth center designation, may require certain regulatory changes prior to the effective date of designation. In addition, the growth center designation may be modified, suspended, or revoked if the applicant fails to achieve the required regulatory changes within a specified period of time. As an option, municipalities applying for growth center designation may make certain regulatory changes effective and contingent upon formal designation.
(8) Request for reconsideration. Within 21 days of a growth center designation under subdivision (1) of this subsection, a person or entity that submitted written or oral comments to the State Board during its consideration of the application for the designated growth center may request that the State Board reconsider the designation. Any such request for reconsideration shall identify each specific finding of the State Board for which reconsideration is requested and state the reasons why each such finding should be reconsidered. The filing of such a request shall stay the effectiveness of the designation until the State Board renders its decision on the request. On receipt of such a request, the State Board shall promptly notify the applicant municipality of the request if that municipality is not the requestor. The State Board shall convene at the earliest feasible date to consider the request and shall render its decision on the request within 90 days of the date on which the request was filed.
(e) Length of Designation.
(1) Except as otherwise provided in this section, growth center designation shall extend for 20 years. The State Board shall review a growth center designation no less frequently than every five years, after providing notice as required in the case of a proposed municipal plan or amendment under subsection 4384(e) of this title, and after providing an opportunity for the public to be heard. For each applicant, the State Board may adjust the schedule of review under this subsection so as to coincide with the review of the related and underlying designation of a downtown, village center, or new town center.
(2) The five-year review shall include, at a minimum, an updated five-year capital plan that funds infrastructure improvements necessary to implement growth center development, updated development projections, a summary of growth within and outside the growth center to date, and any changes to the municipal plan, bylaws, or maps since the original growth center application or any previous review.
(3) If, at the time of the review, the State Board determines that the growth center no longer meets the standards for designation in effect at the time the growth center initially was designated, the State Board may:
(A) require corrective action;
(B) provide technical assistance through the coordinated assistance program; or
(C) remove the growth center's designation, with that removal not affecting any of the growth center's previously awarded benefits.
(4) At any time, a municipality shall be able to apply to the State Board for amendment of a designated growth center or any related conditions or other matters, according to the procedures that apply in the case of an original application.
(f) Review by the Natural Resources Board and issuance of Act 250 findings of fact and conclusions of law. Subsequent to growth center designation by the State Board, an applicant municipality may submit a request for findings of fact and conclusions of law under specific criteria of 10 V.S.A. § 6086(a) to the Natural Resources Board for consideration in accordance with the following:
(1) In requesting findings of fact, the applicant municipality shall specify any criteria for which findings and conclusions are requested and the nature and scope of the findings that are being requested.
(2) The Natural Resources Board shall notify all landowners of land located within the proposed growth center, entities that would be accorded party status before a District Commission under 10 V.S.A. § 6085(c)(1)(C) and (D), and all owners of land adjoining the proposed growth center of a hearing on the issue. The Natural Resources Board may fashion alternate and more efficient means of providing adequate notice to persons potentially affected under this subdivision. Persons notified may appear at the hearing and be heard, as may any other person who has a particularized interest protected by 10 V.S.A. chapter 151 that may be affected by the decision.
(3) The Natural Resources Board shall review the request in accordance with and shall issue findings of fact and conclusions of law under the applicable criteria of 10 V.S.A. § 6086(a) which are deemed to have been satisfied by the applicant's submissions during the formal designation process, any additional submissions, as well as associated municipal plan policies, programs, and bylaws. Findings and conclusions of law shall be effective for a period of five years, unless otherwise provided. The Natural Resources Board, before issuing its findings and conclusions, may require specific changes in the proposal, or regulatory changes by the municipality, as a condition for certain findings and conclusions. These findings and conclusions shall be subject to appeal to the Environmental Division pursuant to 10 V.S.A. chapter 220 within 30 days of issuance.
(4) During the period of time in which a growth center designation remains in effect, any findings and conclusions issued by the Natural Resources Board or any final adjudication of those findings and conclusions shall be applicable to any subsequent application for approval by a District Commission under 10 V.S.A. chapter 151 and shall be binding upon the District Commission and the persons provided notice in the Natural Resources Board proceeding, according to the rules of the Natural Resources Board, provided the proposed development project is located within the designated growth center.
(5) In any application to a District Commission under 10 V.S.A. chapter 151 for approval of a proposed development or subdivision to be located within the designated growth center, the District Commission shall review de novo any relevant criteria of 10 V.S.A. § 6086(a) that are not subject to findings of fact and conclusions of law issued by the Natural Resources Board pursuant to this section.
(6) The decision of the State Board pursuant to this section shall not be binding as to the criteria of 10 V.S.A. § 6086(a) in any proceeding before the Natural Resources Board or a District Commission.
(g) Review by District Commission. In addition to its other powers, in making its determinations under 10 V.S.A. § 6086, a District Commission may consider important resources within a proposed growth center that have been identified in the designation process and the anticipated impacts on those resources, and may require that reasonable mitigation be provided as an alternative to permit denial.
(h) Concurrent designation. A municipality may seek designation of a growth center concurrently with the designation of a downtown pursuant to section 2793 of this title, the designation of a village center pursuant to section 2793a of this title, or the designation of a new town center pursuant to section 2793b of this title.
(i) Benefits from designation. A growth center designated by the State Board pursuant to this section is eligible for the following development incentives and benefits:
(1) Financial incentives.
(A) A municipality may use tax increment financing for infrastructure and improvements in its designated growth center pursuant to the provisions of Title 32 and this title. A designated growth center under this section shall be presumed to have met any locational criteria established in Vermont statutes for tax increment financing. The State Board may consider project criteria established under those statutes and, as appropriate, may make recommendations as to whether any of those project criteria have been met.
(B) Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA) incentives shall be provided to designated growth centers.
(2) State assistance and funding for growth centers.
(A) It is the intention of the General Assembly to give the highest priority to facilitating development and growth in designated downtowns and village centers whenever feasible. The provisions in this section and elsewhere in law that provide and establish priorities for State assistance and funding for designated growth centers are not intended to take precedence over any other provisions of law that provide State assistance and funding for designated downtowns and village centers.
(B) On or before January 15, 2007, the Secretary of Administration, in consultation with the Secretaries of Natural Resources, of Transportation, of Commerce and Community Development, and of Agriculture, Food and Markets, shall report to the General Assembly on the priorities and preferences for State assistance and funding granted in law to downtown centers, village centers, and designated growth centers, and the manner in which such priorities are applied.
(3) State infrastructure and development assistance.
(A) With respect to State grants and other State funding, priority should be given to support infrastructure and other investments in public facilities located inside a designated growth center to consist of the following:
(i) Agency of Natural Resources funding of new, expanded, upgraded, or refurbished wastewater management facilities serving a growth center in accordance with the Agency's rules regarding priority for pollution abatement, pollution prevention, and the protection of public health and water quality.
(ii) Technical and financial assistance for brownfields remediation under the Vermont brownfields initiative.
(iii) Community development block grant (CDBG) program implementation grants.
(iv) Technical, financial, and other benefits made available by statute or rule.
(B) Whenever the Commissioner of Buildings and General Services or other State officials in charge of selecting a site are planning to lease or construct buildings suitable to being located in a designated growth center after determining that the option of utilizing existing space in a downtown development district pursuant to subdivision 2794(a)(12) of this title or within a designated village center pursuant to subdivision 2793a(c)(5) of this title or within a designated new town center pursuant to subdivision 2793b(c)(2) of this title is not feasible, the option of locating in a designated growth center shall be given thorough investigation and priority in consultation with the legislative body of the municipality.
(4) State investments. The State shall:
(A) Expand the scope of the downtown transportation fund, as funds are available, to include access to downtowns with the first priority being projects located in designated downtowns, the second priority being projects located in designated village centers, and the third priority being projects located in designated growth centers.
(B) Extend priority consideration for transportation enhancement improvements located within or serving designated downtowns, village centers, and growth centers.
(C) Grant to projects located within designated growth centers priority consideration for State housing renovation and affordable housing construction assistance programs.
(5) Regulatory incentives.
(A) Master plan permit application. At any time while designation of a growth center is in effect, any person or persons who exercise ownership or control over an area encompassing all or part of the designated growth center or any municipality within which a growth center has been formally designated may apply for a master plan permit for that area or any portion of that area to the District Commission pursuant to the rules of the Natural Resources Board. Municipalities making an application under this subdivision are not required to exercise ownership of or control over the affected property. The District Commission shall be bound by any conclusions or findings of the Natural Resources Board, or any final adjudication of those findings and conclusions, pursuant to subsection (f) of this section but shall consider de novo any of the criteria of 10 V.S.A. § 6086(a) that were not subject to the final issuance of findings and conclusions by the Natural Resources Board pursuant to that subsection. In approving a master permit, the District Commission may set forth specific conditions that an applicant for an individual project permit will be required to meet.
(B) Individual project permits within a designated growth center. The District Commission shall review individual Act 250 permit applications in accordance with the specific findings of fact and conclusions of law issued by the Natural Resources Board under this section, if any, and in accordance with the conditions, findings, and conclusions of any applicable master plan permit. Any person proposing a development or subdivision within a designated growth center where no master plan permit is in effect shall be required to file an application with the District Environmental Commission for review under the criteria of 10 V.S.A. § 6086(a). (Added 2005, No. 183 (Adj. Sess.), § 4; amended 2009, No. 136 (Adj. Sess.), § 3; 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 236; 2013, No. 11, § 25; 2013, No. 146 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. May 27, 2014.)