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Searching 2023-2024 Session

The Vermont Statutes Online

The Vermont Statutes Online does not include the actions of the 2024 session of the General Assembly. We expect them to be updated by November 1st.

NOTE: The Vermont Statutes Online is an unofficial copy of the Vermont Statutes Annotated that is provided as a convenience.

Title 24 : Municipal and County Government

Chapter 117 : Municipal and Regional Planning and Development

Subchapter 001 : General Provisions; Definitions

(Cite as: 24 V.S.A. § 4302)
  • § 4302. Purpose; goals

    (a) General purposes. It is the intent and purpose of this chapter to encourage the appropriate development of all lands in this State by the action of its constituent municipalities and regions, with the aid and assistance of the State, in a manner which will promote the public health, safety against fire, floods, explosions, and other dangers; to promote prosperity, comfort, access to adequate light and air, convenience, efficiency, economy, and general welfare; to enable the mitigation of the burden of property taxes on agricultural, forest, and other open lands; to encourage appropriate architectural design; to encourage the development of renewable resources; to protect residential, agricultural, and other areas from undue concentrations of population and overcrowding of land and buildings, from traffic congestion, from inadequate parking and the invasion of through traffic, and from the loss of peace, quiet, and privacy; to facilitate the growth of villages, towns, and cities and of their communities and neighborhoods so as to create an optimum environment, with good civic design; to encourage development of a rich cultural environment and to foster the arts; and to provide means and methods for the municipalities and regions of this State to plan for the prevention, minimization, and future elimination of such land development problems as may presently exist or which may be foreseen and to implement those plans when and where appropriate. In implementing any regulatory power under this chapter, municipalities shall take care to protect the constitutional right of the people to acquire, possess, and protect property.

    (b) It is also the intent of the Legislature that municipalities, regional planning commissions, and State agencies shall engage in a continuing planning process that will further the following goals:

    (1) To establish a coordinated, comprehensive planning process and policy framework to guide decisions by municipalities, regional planning commissions, and State agencies.

    (2) To encourage citizen participation at all levels of the planning process, and to assure that decisions shall be made at the most local level possible commensurate with their impact.

    (3) To consider the use of resources and the consequences of growth and development for the region and the State, as well as the community in which it takes place.

    (4) To encourage and assist municipalities to work creatively together to develop and implement plans.

    (c) In addition, this chapter shall be used to further the following specific goals:

    (1) To plan development so as to maintain the historic settlement pattern of compact village and urban centers separated by rural countryside.

    (A) Intensive residential development should be encouraged primarily in areas related to community centers, and strip development along highways should be discouraged.

    (B) Economic growth should be encouraged in locally designated growth areas, employed to revitalize existing village and urban centers, or both, and should be encouraged in growth centers designated under chapter 76A of this title.

    (C) Public investments, including the construction or expansion of infrastructure, should reinforce the general character and planned growth patterns of the area.

    (D) Development should be undertaken in accordance with smart growth principles as defined in subdivision 2791(13) of this title.

    (2) To provide a strong and diverse economy that provides satisfying and rewarding job opportunities and that maintains high environmental standards, and to expand economic opportunities in areas with high unemployment or low per capita incomes.

    (3) To broaden access to educational and vocational training opportunities sufficient to ensure the full realization of the abilities of all Vermonters.

    (4) To provide for safe, convenient, economic, and energy efficient transportation systems that respect the integrity of the natural environment, including public transit options and paths for pedestrians and bicyclers.

    (A) Highways, air, rail, and other means of transportation should be mutually supportive, balanced, and integrated.

    (5) To identify, protect, and preserve important natural and historic features of the Vermont landscape, including:

    (A) significant natural and fragile areas;

    (B) outstanding water resources, including lakes, rivers, aquifers, shorelands, and wetlands;

    (C) significant scenic roads, waterways, and views;

    (D) important historic structures, sites, or districts, archaeological sites, and archaeologically sensitive areas.

    (6) To maintain and improve the quality of air, water, wildlife, forests, and other land resources.

    (A) Vermont’s air, water, wildlife, mineral, and land resources should be planned for use and development according to the principles set forth in 10 V.S.A. § 6086(a).

    (B) Vermont’s water quality should be maintained and improved according to the policies and actions developed in the basin plans established by the Secretary of Natural Resources under 10 V.S.A. § 1253.

    (C) Vermont’s forestlands should be managed so as to maintain and improve forest blocks and habitat connectors.

    (7) To make efficient use of energy, provide for the development of renewable energy resources, and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

    (A) General strategies for achieving these goals include increasing the energy efficiency of new and existing buildings; identifying areas suitable for renewable energy generation; encouraging the use and development of renewable or lower emission energy sources for electricity, heat, and transportation; and reducing transportation energy demand and single occupancy vehicle use.

    (B) Specific strategies and recommendations for achieving these goals are identified in the State energy plans prepared under 30 V.S.A. §§ 202 and 202b.

    (8) To maintain and enhance recreational opportunities for Vermont residents and visitors.

    (A) Growth should not significantly diminish the value and availability of outdoor recreational activities.

    (B) Public access to noncommercial outdoor recreational opportunities, such as lakes and hiking trails, should be identified, provided, and protected wherever appropriate.

    (9) To encourage and strengthen agricultural and forest industries.

    (A) Strategies to protect long-term viability of agricultural and forestlands should be encouraged and should include maintaining low overall density.

    (B) The manufacture and marketing of value-added agricultural and forest products should be encouraged.

    (C) The use of locally-grown food products should be encouraged.

    (D) Sound forest and agricultural management practices should be encouraged.

    (E) Public investment should be planned so as to minimize development pressure on agricultural and forest land.

    (10) To provide for the wise and efficient use of Vermont’s natural resources and to facilitate the appropriate extraction of earth resources and the proper restoration and preservation of the aesthetic qualities of the area.

    (11) To ensure the availability of safe and affordable housing for all Vermonters.

    (A) Housing should be encouraged to meet the needs of a diversity of social and income groups in each Vermont community, particularly for those citizens of low and moderate income.

    (B) New and rehabilitated housing should be safe, sanitary, located conveniently to employment and commercial centers, and coordinated with the provision of necessary public facilities and utilities.

    (C) Sites for multi-family and manufactured housing should be readily available in locations similar to those generally used for single-family conventional dwellings.

    (D) Accessory apartments within or attached to single-family residences which provide affordable housing in close proximity to cost-effective care and supervision for relatives, elders, or persons who have a disability should be allowed.

    (12) To plan for, finance, and provide an efficient system of public facilities and services to meet future needs.

    (A) Public facilities and services should include fire and police protection, emergency medical services, schools, water supply, and sewage and solid waste disposal.

    (B) The rate of growth should not exceed the ability of the community and the area to provide facilities and services.

    (13) To ensure the availability of safe and affordable child care and to integrate child care issues into the planning process, including child care financing, infrastructure, business assistance for child care providers, and child care work force development.

    (14) To encourage flood resilient communities.

    (A) New development in identified flood hazard, fluvial erosion, and river corridor protection areas should be avoided. If new development is to be built in such areas, it should not exacerbate flooding and fluvial erosion.

    (B) The protection and restoration of floodplains and upland forested areas that attenuate and moderate flooding and fluvial erosion should be encouraged.

    (C) Flood emergency preparedness and response planning should be encouraged.

    (d) All plans and regulations prepared under the authority of this chapter shall be based upon surveys of existing conditions and probable future trends, and shall be made in the light of present and future growth and requirements, and with reasonable consideration, for the landowner, to topography, to needs and trends of the municipality, the region and the State, to the character of each area and to its peculiar suitability for particular uses in relationship to surrounding areas, and with a view to conserving the value of buildings.

    (e) Use of goals.

    (1) The goals established in this section shall be employed, as provided under this chapter, to carry out the general purposes established in this section.

    (2) After July 1, 1989, none of the following shall be prepared or adopted, unless consistent with the goals established in this section:

    (A) all plans prepared by regional planning commissions, and all plans required of State agencies under 3 V.S.A. § 4020;

    (B) measures implementing State agency plans.

    (f) Standard of review.

    (1) As used in this chapter, “consistent with the goals” requires substantial progress toward attainment of the goals established in this section, unless the planning body determines that a particular goal is not relevant or attainable. If such a determination is made, the planning body shall identify the goal in the plan and describe the situation, explain why the goal is not relevant or attainable, and indicate what measures should be taken to mitigate any adverse effects of not making substantial progress toward that goal. The determination of relevance or attainability shall be subject to review as part of a consistency determination under this chapter.

    (2) As used in this chapter, for one plan to be “compatible with” another, the plan in question, as implemented, will not significantly reduce the desired effect of the implementation of the other plan. If a plan, as implemented, will significantly reduce the desired effect of the other plan, the plan may be considered compatible if it includes the following:

    (A) a statement that identifies the ways that it will significantly reduce the desired effect of the other plan;

    (B) an explanation of why any incompatible portion of the plan in question is essential to the desired effect of the plan as a whole;

    (C) an explanation of why, with respect to any incompatible portion of the plan in question, there is no reasonable alternative way to achieve the desired effect of the plan; and

    (D) an explanation of how any incompatible portion of the plan in question has been structured to mitigate its detrimental effects on the implementation of the other plan. (Added 1967, No. 334 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. March 23, 1968; amended 1969, No. 116, § 1; 1979, No. 174 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 1987, No. 200 (Adj. Sess.), § 7, eff. July 1, 1989; 1989, No. 280 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 1991, No. 130 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 2003, No. 67, § 7b; 2003, No. 115 (Adj. Sess.), § 82; 2013, No. 16, § 1, eff. July 1, 2014; 2013, No. 96 (Adj. Sess.), § 161; 2013, No. 146 (Adj. Sess.), § 4, eff. May 27, 2014; 2015, No. 64, § 27; 2015, No. 171 (Adj. Sess.), § 14; 2015, No. 174 (Adj. Sess.), § 2.)