Act 250

Vermont’s Conservation and Development law, State Land Use and Development Plans (10 VSA 151) (Act 250), is a state-wide land use planning law that regulates large scale developments using ten criteria related to natural resources, cultural resources, and social effects. The law is implemented through nine District Commissions which review proposed projects and issue permits. The Vermont Land Use Panel, part of the Vermont Natural Resources Board, oversees the activities of the District Commissions and enforces the Act 250 permits through the Act 250 Rules.

When It Is Required

For public infrastructure projects, Act 250 regulates projects that disturb over ten acres and all projects over 2,500 feet in elevation. The amount of land involved is calculated as land that is actually disturbed by the project rather than all of the affected property or right of way (10 VSA § 6001 (3)(A)(v)). Public rail projects are exempt from Act 250 requirements.

Permit Process

The Act 250 Rules set forth the permit process for issuing Act 250 permits. The Land Use Panel has also published a “Guide to Applying for an Act 250 Land Use Permit” with instructions on filling out a permit application. The applicant provides landowner information, plans, location map, abutter information, and an application narrative that addresses the ten criteria in the law, which are paraphrased below.

Before granting a permit, the district commission shall find that the subdivision or development:

(1) Will not result in undue water or air pollution, specifically to:
(A) Headwaters;
(B) Waste disposal;
(C) Water conservation;
(D) Floodways;
(E) Streams;
(F) Shorelines; and
(G) Wetlands.

(2) Does have sufficient water available for the reasonably foreseeable needs of the subdivision or development.

(3) Will not cause an unreasonable burden on an existing water supply, if one is to be utilized.

(4) Will not cause unreasonable soil erosion or reduction in the capacity of the land to hold water so that a dangerous or unhealthy condition may result.

(5) Will not cause unreasonable congestion or unsafe conditions with respect to use of the highways, waterways, railways, airports and airways, and other means of transportation existing or proposed.

(6) Will not cause an unreasonable burden on the ability of a municipality to provide educational services.

(7) Will not place an unreasonable burden on the ability of the local governments to provide municipal or governmental services.

(8) Will not have an undue adverse effect on the scenic or natural beauty of the area, aesthetics, historic sites or rare and irreplaceable natural areas.

(A) Will not imperil necessary wildlife habitat and endangered species.

(9) Is in conformance with a duly adopted capability and development plan, and land use plan when adopted, including the following considerations:

(A) Impact of growth;
(B) Primary agricultural soils;
(C) Productive forest soils;
(D) Earth resources;
(E) Extraction of earth resources;
(F) Energy conservation;
(G) Private utility services;
(H) Costs of scattered development;
(J) Public utility services;
(K) Development affecting public investments; and
(L) Rural growth areas.

(10) Is in conformance with any duly adopted local or regional plan or capital program under chapter 117 of Title 24.

VTrans, the Land Use Panel, and the Vermont State Traffic Committee have a Memorandum of Understanding to coordinate the regulation of certain transportation related projects. The agreement sets forth a policy for the District Commissions to impose Act 250 permit conditions that do not conflict with state highway law, and provides procedures for phased review of VTrans projects.

Act 250 permit applications address resources for which the applicant may be seeking a permit elsewhere, such as for wetland impacts. Seeking a wetland permit from the state does not preclude the need to address the wetland criterion in the Act 250 application.

The Natural Resources Board now requires electronic submission of Act 250 applications. Guidelines for the format of these submissions are available on the Land Use Panel website.

For More Information

Natural Resources Board

(802) 828-3309

Guide to Applying for an Act 250 Land Use Permit

Memorandum of Understanding Among the Land Use Panel of the Natural Resources Board, the Vermont Agency of Transportation, and the Vermont State Traffic Committee