Elizabeth Bridgewater (Executive Director, Windham and Windsor Housing Trust) thanked the Committee for prioritizing housing issues and seeking ways to make the development process itself faster and more efficient. Reforming the appeals process, she believes, is particularly needed as she “unfortunately has some experience” with this.Read more
Chairman Bray kicked off the Senate Natural Resources Committee meeting on Thursday by acknowledging that Legislative Counsel has done great work producing a “very long bill,” S.308, based on the Natural Resource Board (NRB) recommendations. The core bill concepts were presented to the Committee, but they did not do a full walk-through because of the length of the legislation. The “advocates who are in this morning” were encouraged to respond to the draft with comments and concerns about the draft.Read more
No new arguments were presented on the House floor Tuesday; the bill primarily deals with municipal zoning reform and feigned to address Act 250 issues, shy of a few time-limited exemptions. It focused on large lot sizes, excess parking requirements, excess setbacks, and other local zoning requirements legislators felt inhibited housing growth.
Critics of the bill argued that municipal reform should be paired with rollbacks to Act 250, the state’s major land-use and environmental law. However, since the bill passed third reading in House with a voice vote, incremental progress will have to be settled for. Amendments were introduced to limit energy requirement that could drive up construction costs by tens of thousands of dollars, but it was disagreed to. Other amendments would have moved up some of the implementation dates, add reviews of current processes for inclusivity, and widen the priority housing project exemption in Act 250. They were met with varying levels of success.
After passage, the Senate Committees began reviewing the bill.
Anne Sosin (Interim Director, Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition) spoke to the House General & Housing Committee on Thursday about Housing and Homelessness. She cast homelessness as a housing problem and a "policy choice," reiterating that they are "aligned" with other advocates supporting the S.100 housing bill.Read more
This week the Senate Natural Resources Committee focused mainly on amendments and wording changes to S.100 and the amendments being offered. These language changes dealing with definitions of downtown development districts, areas affected by municipal sewers infrastructure and wastewater systems.Read more
He commented on the state’s failure to pass statewide land use planning back in the “Act 250 days.” Specifically, he pointed to the abundance of opportunities during the permitting process for folks to increase costs and raise objections that lead to a lack of affordable or lower market rate housing generally.
He pointed out that the Vermont Housing Conservation Board (VHCB) is the financing arm of the state’s housing development efforts and recanted some stories about a designated smartgrowth site in Putney adjacent to the food coop. The same person came forward and appealed at two different stages of the process. Both times they won the initial appeal against the objections, but now it is headed to the Vermont Supreme Court. The town of Putney was all on board, however the resulting delays will be 18 months by the time the appeals play out, and it will raise the per unit cost by an estimated 20% (originally expected to be $400,000).Read more