Act 250 bill might slow housing development, Chamber says

The House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish, and Wildlife voted out, on a vote of 8-3, H.492 which does the following;

  • Restructures the Natural Resource Board (ERB) into the Environmental Review Board which will have five members with a full-time chair. 
  • Members of the new ERB would be nominated by an Environmental Review Board Nominating Committee which will have seven members; three from the Governor, two from the House, and two from the Senate.   
  • The ERB will hear appeals instead of the Environmental Court. 
  • Creates a new pre-hearing discovery period with non-expert witnesses which will be non-admissible later in the process. 
  • Makes the decisions of the District Coordinator the final decision if there is failure to appeal a District Commission jurisdictional opinion within 30 days following the issuance of the opinion.

The Committee felt that this process will be more citizen-friendly than the current process. The Governor has looked for governance changes to further professionalize the Board. However, this might not satisfy that desire. What has been passed here feels less helpful in our current housing crisis and might actually serve as an impediment to housing development. As we highlighted last week, their Senate counterparts have had little interest in addressing these components of Act 250 and have been more focused on priority housing projects and new jurisdictional triggers. 

The Senate Natural Committee and the Senate Economic Committee Chairs have been consistent contact this week to attempt to make their efforts more complementary. 

Republished from the 2/25 Lake Champlain Chamber newsletter.

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