The Senate Economic Development Committee continued to do mark up of the Omnibus Housing Bill on Tuesday with two members of the Committee absent. Chairwoman Ram Hinsdale stated that she presumed that the absent Committee Members were aligned with moving in the direction that the Committee was going with mark-up of the bill. This, however, contradicts Senator Brock’s statement of last week where he went on record as to not being comfortable with this Bill.
The Committee looked at Section 1 of the bill, which pertained to the parking space issue (municipalities requiring minimum numbers of parking spaces) and decided on language of one space and to add a variance up to 1.5 spaces (rounding up would occur) with certain conditions per dwelling, including whether a development is located a specific distance away from the dwelling.
The Committee looked at other sections of the Omnibus Bill and in Section 5, the focus was on reports that municipalities were required to submit. The Statute already outlines what the required report submissions are but this suggested mark up change takes out the requirement for municipalities to digitally upload the reports to two different State databases.
The absent Committee Members returned to Committee. As mark up continued, Senator Clarkson said she had a change because her focus was that the Bill was to focus on re-development and protect underdeveloped areas. The Senator wanted to have language in Section 16 that focused on re-development in designated growth sections. The Senator was concerned about development in the "wrong places."
The John Beling (Commissioner, Department of Environmental Conservation) spoke to the Committee about reconditioning of housing and said that the preference would be to call it re-development as if classified as re-development that the parking would be viewed under that definition.
The Committee continued with mark-up of the bill, focusing on the Act 250 sections. New language would allow developments up to 25 units without triggering an Act 250 review. However, a legal concern was brought around the definition of designated growth areas it was unclear if development outside these areas could trigger Act 250. Senator Harrison suggested that the Committee could always change the law in the following year if they didn’t like what they had done. Ram Hinsdale agreed that if they created a “Monster” they could deal with it when the Committee returns next year. Clarkson joked that they can create “monsters” and then slay monsters.
In continuing discussion of possible Act 250 triggers, the area of Town applications for enhanced designation status was discussed. Once the application was in there is 30-day window to appeal it under Act 250. Once the designation has been made, then Act 250 could no longer be appealed.
The Committee met again on Wednesday to go through the final draft of the Omnibus Housing Bill incorporating the changes that had been discussed Tuesday. A Motion was made to pass the Bill out the Committee. The Committee voted 5-0 in favor of the bill.
The bill (now referred to as S.100) was referred to the Senate Natural Resources Committee, who took it up on Friday. Legislative Counsel reviewed some of the areas where Act 250 might be triggered or not. The intent is for Act 250 to only regulate large scale development in Vermont and uses specific criteria to addresses negative environmental impacts.
Senator Ram Hinsdale testified next, most of the questions were focused on climate change. Vague answers were provided. Septic Systems issues were raised, but she addressed by saying that it would be easier and more cost effective if developers deal with it themselves instead of requiring municipalities to. Ram Hinsdale tried to make the case that the Bill had "only a few" exceptions to the Act 250 review process. There was some debate over the leveraging of specific definitions, because they are used as the criteria for all the "changes" in the bill.