What is Act 250?
Act 250 (10 V.S.A. Chapter 151) is Vermont’s land use and development law, enacted in 1970 at a time when Vermont was undergoing significant development pressure. The law provides a public, quasi-judicial process for reviewing and managing the environmental, social and fiscal consequences of major subdivisions and developments in Vermont. It assures that larger developments complement Vermont’s unique landscape, economy and community needs. One of the strengths of Act 250 is the access it provides to neighbors and other interested parties to participate in the development review process. Applicants often work with neighbors, municipalities, state agencies and other interested groups to address concerns raised by a proposed development, resolving issues and mitigating impacts before a permit application is filed.
The Natural Resources Board (NRB) is an independent entity in the Executive Branch of Vermont State government. The primary function of the Board is to administer Act 250 to regulate certain types of development and subdivision in Vermont. Nine District Environmental Commissions, supported by full-time staff located in five district offices issue Act 250 land use permits. The NRB is served by a total of 28 full-time employees and approximately 70 citizen volunteer Commissioners and Board members.
In addition to administering the Act 250 program in the district offices , the NRB issues rules and policies related to Act 250 and provides training and legal assistance to District Commissions and staff. The NRB is responsible for enforcement of Act 250 and may participate as a party in appeals from Act 250 decisions to the Superior Court, Environmental Division. In July 2016, the NRB assumed a new statutory function: hearing appeals of energy compliance determinations made by the Commissioner of the Department of Public Service.
This website provides information about the Act 250 program, District Commission cases, and any pending Act 250 rules. The Superior Court, Environmental Division website provides information on Act 250 appeals and other environmental and land use appeals.
Please Note the Following Changes: Effective July 1, 2013, the Land Use Panel and the Water Resources Panel were eliminated. The functions of the former Land Use Panel were transferred to the Natural Resources Board effective July 1, 2013. The rulemaking and policy functions of the former Water Resources Panel were transferred to the Agency of Natural Resources in 2012. Information formerly available on the Water Resources Panel website are available on the ANR Watershed Management Division website.
How does the law work?
Act 250 permit applications are reviewed by one of nine District Environmental Commissions, whose volunteer citizen members are appointed by the Governor. Staff support is provided by full-time District Environmental Coordinators, who are located in five district offices throughout the state. District Coordinators also issue Jurisdictional Opinions on whether an Act 250 permit is required.
Specific program objectives of Act 250 include:
- thoroughly reviewing each Act 250 permit application under the requirements of the statutory criteria;
- performing permit reviews and determinations regarding Act 250 Jurisdiction as expeditiously as possible;
- providing assistance to applicants and other parties in preparation for their participation in Act 250 proceedings;
- assisting permittees in maintaining compliance with permit terms and conditions; and
- enforcing the requirements of Act 250 permits and the statute.
The difference Act 250 has made for Vermont
The effects of Act 250 are most clear when one compares Vermont’s pristine landscape with most other states. Protecting Vermont’s environmental integrity and the strength of our communities benefits everyone, forming a strong basis for both our economy and our quality of life.
The Act 250 process balances environmental and community concerns; a tall order which at times can be complex. Developers, engineers and consultants best navigate the Act 250 process by planning their project, from the earliest stages, with the 10 criteria in mind.
As a result of Act 250 and the planning process, project designs, landscaping plans and color schemes fit the landscape. Act 250 has helped Vermont retain its unsurpassed scenic qualities while undergoing the substantial growth of the last 5 decades. Act 250 is also critical because it requires development to conform to municipal and regional plans and Vermont’s land use planning goals.
The Act 250 criteria have protected many important natural and cultural resources — water and air quality, wildlife habitat and agricultural soils (just to name a few) — that have long been valued by Vermonters and that are an important part of the state’s economy. No single law can protect all of Vermont’s unique attributes — but Act 250 plays a critical role in maintaining the quality of life that Vermonters enjoy.