Population: 608,827
Counties: 14
Governor Howard Dean (D)

Key Laws/Administrative Actions/Court Decisions/Organizations/Regional/Readings/Calendar

Click here for the amount of protected land in Vermont, and click here to review Vermont's federal transportation spending.
Source:  Pew Center on the States & Changing Direction:  Federal Transportation Spending in the 1990s. Surface Transportation Policy Project

In 1986, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Coalition—a coalition of affordable housing, conservation, and historic preservation advocates concerned with this rapid change in the character of the Vermont landscape--approached the state legislature with a plan to form a unique agency to review and fund projects addressing a range of community needs. The Legislature responded, passing the Vermont Housing and Conservation Trust Fund Act, enacted in June 1987, and capitalized with $3 million.  Thirteen years later, VHCB remains unique in the nation in pioneering this comprehensive approach to affordable housing and community development linked with land conservation and historic preservation.  For a history of the coalition and how it can be replicated, please visit
Contact Information:
149 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05602

For an overview of Vermont's planning and zoning statutes, see a summary provided by the American Planning Association.

State Land Use and Development Bill, June 1, 1970, (Act 250)
Championed by a Republican governor and passed by a conservative legislature in 1970, Act 250 is one of the nation's first land use regulatory programs. Act 250 is significant because it gives citizens an opportunity to participate in decisions regarding large-scale development projects and requires communities to consider the  long-term impact of such projects. 

Act 250 requires major developments to obtain a permit before proceeding. Permits are granted by Vermont's  district environmental commissions, one for each nine regions. Major developments are defined as projects that involve one or more of the following: fiv or more residential lots in towns lacking zoning or subdivision regulations; ten or more acres of commercial, industrial, or municipal development; more than one acre of commercial, industrial or municipal development if located in towns lacking zoning regulations or subdivision regulations; construction above elevations of 2,500 feet. 

To determine whether a project should be approved, rejected, or approved with conditions, the commission holds local public hearings in the town where new development is proposed.  In assessing a project, the commission applies 10 criteria set forth in Act 250.  One criterion is whether the development will create "scattered development," [i.e., sprawl] thereby burdening taxpayers with added public service costs.  In short, Act 250 asks government officials and the public to consider the long term effects of a project. 

Based on the review, the commission approves or denies the permit. An interested party can appeal to a 9-member governor-appointed state environmental board, which provides a public, quasi-judicial process for the appeals. National Life Records Center Building, Drawer 20, Montpelier, VT 05620-3201;  (802) 828-3309 ;

The Vermont Growth Management Act (Act 200 of 1988) Title 24 Vermont Statutes Annotated, Chapter 117
Years after Act 250 was adopted and implemented, the requirement for a state land use plan was deleted. The State found it needed additional controls on growth.  In 1987, the Commission on Vermont's Future was formed under Governor Madeleine Kunin's guidance.  After meeting with the public, the commission  found that the state overwhelmingly wanted to protect its unique community and natural resources. In response, Vermont passed Act 200 (May 1988), which established twelve planning goals (later added to).  Act 200 does not require towns to plan but it does provide financial incentives to do so. If a town chooses to plan, it must follow the state goals and address land use, transportation, natural resource and local heritage issues.  Neighboring towns must coordinate plans. The regional commissions act as links between towns, and state and local government.  They are required to adopt regional plans that meet state goals. They also mediate conflicts.  If parties cannot resolve conflicts, a Council of Regional Commissions arbitrates. State agencies are also required to adopt plans that are consistent with land use goals.  Some planning experts believe that Act 200's actual implementation has been a disappointment and that the law has not fulfilled its promises. 

Contact: Vermont Department of Housing and Community Affairs/Planning Office, National Life Building, Drawer 20, Montpelier, Vermont 05620-0501; 802-828-3211; Internet: 

Downtown Community Development Act - H.0278
The Downtown Community Development Act of 1998 establishes that the state use its limited resources to focus its attention on those downtowns that are making a commitment to their own revitalization.  Not only did the legislation contain special rehab tax incentives to encourage downtown rehabs but it also contains provisions aimed at curbing sprawl through highway curb cut permits. 

For more information on the Downtown Community Development Act contact: Contact: Department of Housing and Community Affairs, National Life Building, Drawer 20, Montpelier, Vermont 05620-0501; Telephone (802) 828-3211; Fax (802) 828-2928;      Internet:

Building on an Executive Order signed by Governor Howard Dean, the Legislature passed Act 112 in 2000.  The act requires state agency programs and investments to support land conservation, strengthen agriculture and forestry, and focus growth on existing downtowns and village centers.

Executive Order No. 15
Issued by Governor Madeleine Kunin in September, 1985, this Executive Order directs Vermont's Department of State Buildings to help local officials revitalize their communities and preserve local historic resources.  It directs the state: 

 * to give priority to locating state government activities in historic buildings and exisiting buildings when appropriate;
 * support the Vermont Community Development Program by using rehabilitated historic and other existing buildings for state offices;
  *coordinate the location of state facilitites with local government officials to assure that state facilities will be located in accord with municipal policies, plans and regulations.
Contact: Office of the Governor, 109 State Street, Montpelier, Vermont 05609; Phone: (802) 828-3333 Fax: (802) 828-3339; Governor's Info./Referral line (within VT): 1-800-649-6825 

In re Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 702 A.2d 397 (Vt. 1997)
In 1993, Wal-Mart submitted a major development plan to Vermont's District 6 Environmental Commission, which then voted to grant a building permit.  Fearing it would displace economic activity from downtown St. Albans, a small Vermont city, and change the character of the region, the Franklin/Grand Isle County Citizens for Downtown Preservation protested.  Together with the Vermont Natural Resources Council, this organization appealed the decision to the Vermont Environmental Board.  The Board heard from both sides of the conflict and found in favor of the citizens group.  Evidence supplied by witnesses for the Citizens showed that: 

  *the St. Alban's  Wal-Mart would displace one-third of the total market for department store-type merchandise, and
  *the superstore  would take up 44 acres for 100,000 sq. feet of store, while downtown St. Albans contained 1.7 million sq. feet of retail space in a smaller area of land. 

In early 1995, Wal-Mart appealed the environmental board's decision to Vermont's Supreme Court.  Later the Court "upheld both the Board's interpretation of Act 250's criteria and its authority to compel permit applicants, such as Wal-Mart, to prepare a credible study on the impact of the proposed development on secondary growth, including its associated costs and benefits, and then to propose measures to rectify whatever concerns have been identified." In the end, the decision shows that Act 250 has the requisite teeth to require credible studies of a developments impact on the local community.   (Source: Preservation Law Reporter, 16 PLA 1197, Oct-Dec 1997). 

Vermont Natural Resources Council
The Vermont Natural Resources Council is a non-profit environmental organization founded in 1963 to promote the wise use of Vermont's natural resources.  VNRC does research, legislative lobbying, advocacy and education work on issues including land use, forestry, agriculture, water, energy, wastes, and growth management.  Address:  VNRC, 9 Bailey Avenue, Montpelier, VT 05602; Telephone: (802) 223-2328; Fax:  (802) 223-0287; Email: 

Vermont Forum on Sprawl
Vermont Forum on Sprawl seeks to assist Vermont and Vermonters in achieving compact settlements surrounded by rural landscapes while encouraging community and economic development to be consistent with this vision.  Address: Vermont Forum on Sprawl, 110 Main Street,Burlington, VT 05401-8451; Phone: 802-864-6310; Fax: 802-862-4487; Email:

The Preservation Trust of Vermont
The Preservation Trust of Vermont, organized in 1981, is dedicated to the preservation of Vermont's architectural resources. The nonprofit organization provides resources and tools to local organizations, communities, and others who are on the ground dealing with critical preservation projects and issues.  In 1987, the Preservation Trust of Vermont helped pass the Vermont Housing and Conservation Fund, a program designed to create affordable housing and conserve and protect agricultural land, historic properties, significant natural areas and recreational lands. Contact: PTV, 104 Church Street,  Burlington, Vermont 05401; Telephone: (802)658-6647. 

Conservation Law Foundation
The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF)  is the largest regional environmental advocacy organization in the United States. Based in New England, the organization's attorneys, scientists, economists, policy experts work on the most significant threats to the natural environment of the region, and to the health of its residents. Founded in 1966, CLF maintains advocacy centers in Boston, Massachusetts; Montpelier, Vermont; Concord, New Hampshire; and Rockland, Maine.
Contact: CLF, Vermont Branch Office: 21 E. State Street, Suite 301; Montpelier, VT  05602-3010 Telephone: (802) 223-5992; Fax: (802) 223-0060. 

Vermont Land Trust
Vermont Land Trust (VLT) is a member supported non-profit land conservation organization, operating six regional offices throughout the State. Since 1977, VLT has conserved more than 172,000 acres, including over 220 operating farms.VLT provides technical and legal assistance to individuals, communities, and local land trusts, helping them  achieve local conservation objectives. Contact:  VLT, 8 Bailey Avenue, Montpelier, VT 05602; Telephone: (802) 223-5234; Fax: (802) 223-4223. 

The Vermont Forum on Sprawl profiles the efforts of two Vermont towns addressing the problems of sprawl. View the Richmond and Manchester case studies at or contact them at the address above for more information. 

Constance Beaumont, Smart States, Better Communities, (Washington: National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1996.) (pp. 85, 173-177, & 270-285). 

John Degrove, Land Growth and Politics, (Chicago:  Planners Press/American Planning Assn., 1984), pp.235-290. 

Julie Campoli, Elizabeth Humstone, and Alex McLean, Above and Beyond, Visulaizing Change in Small Towns and Rural Areas, (Chicago: Planners Press/American Planning Association, 2002). This book contains aerial photography, computer graphics and case studies about growth and development in Vermont.