Greco: S100 endangers Vermont paradise

by Rosanne Greco

‘Why Vermont?’

That’s the question Vermonters almost always ask whenever I tell them we moved here from the Maryland suburbs. My answer is always the same: “Vermont!” 

I usually follow that up with the fact that neither my husband nor I had any relatives or friends in Vermont, nor we did have any job prospects. (We were at retirement age, but intended to keep working.) At first, Vermonters’ incredulity that we would choose to retire to a cold, costly state with fewer amenities took me by surprise.

For me, and for many others who move to Vermont after living in other states, it was obvious: unmatchable quality of life! I feel fortunate—even blessed—to live in a place like Vermont. Many of us who have lived elsewhere (I’ve lived in eight U.S. states and five foreign countries)  fled those places, and deliberately choose Vermont because it was unlike the other states.

Discovering that there was a place like Vermont was like remembering how to breath and how to smile again. Sixteen years ago, we choose Vermont for its uniqueness and even its quirkiness, for its natural beauty, because it took care of the environment, for it’s smallness which allows neighbors to know each other, for its caring for others less fortunate, for its sense of safety, for its citizen involvement, and so much more.

I instantly felt a soul-connection with this wonderful state. And every time I leave the state—which is very rarely—my heart leaps a bit as soon as I cross back into Vermont.

But, much of what I cherish about Vermont now seems in jeopardy. There is a concerted effort to homogenize our state—make it like “Anywhere, USA.”

Some of those in power are vigorously pushing that we pave over paradise to build 40,000 more houses and add 100,000+ more people. They tell us that we need to build, build, build and grow, grow, grow, even if it causes the destruction of our natural environment, and changes the look, feel, and character of Vermont. They tell us that adding more houses and people is worth the loss of our state’s soul.

The mountains, meadows, trees, hillsides, wildlife, waters are part of who we are. You don’t have to imagine what Vermont would look like without them. Just drive south, or east, or west to other states. 

There is a distinct possibility that the paradise that is Vermont is on the verge of being lost.  Legislators in the Statehouse are considering a bill (S.100) that will take away local control over land use, including town’s regulations to preserve open lands. The bill will force dense housing over the rural lands in some areas, and at the same time, remove some of the environmental protections put into place through Act 250 decades ago.

Vermont would look very different were it not for environmental protections. Those of us who cherish our majestic open lands are shamed for not being ok with destroying them for housing.

Housing advocates are clamoring that we should be willing to sacrifice just about everything for more housing. They talk as if nothing is more important. All other problems, including the existential threat of climate change, take a back seat, if they get a seat at all.

Adding tens of thousands more houses along with the accompanying hundred thousand population increase will destroy a significant amount of the natural world and dramatically change our small state. I am beyond baffled as to why some Vermonters are doing their darndest to destroy the very things that most of us cherish, and which attract tourists and those who love the natural world, to Vermont.

I sometimes get the impression that Vermonters think our smallness is a negative, and that we are backwards or behind the times, or are country bumpkins because we don’t think, act, or look like the rest of the U.S. In reality, we possess something far more meaningful. Our country needs more of the small town and small state values which focus on taking care of ALL of us: human and non-human beings alike. 

One of the main reasons we moved to Vermont was because of its reputation for protecting nature and wildlife. Unlike other places which think it normal to exploit the natural world so that humans can live larger lives and have more stuff, Vermonters respected and cared for the natural world even as they did for one another. The growth and consumption mentality, which has caused the climate crisis, was not part of the Vermont ethic — until this push to grow and build.

Eliminating nature to build houses will not only destroy the uniqueness of Vermont, but it will also alter our souls. And the incredibly sad thing is that most won’t know what they had till it’s gone. Our children and their children will never know the beauty and peace we now enjoy. We really are paving over paradise.

I struggled with words to express my feelings and fears for Vermont, and it turned into this long-winded commentary. Perhaps the words of a child and a stranger on a plane say it better than I. 

A few years ago, after a week-long visit with us, family members were flying back to Maryland. As they sat on the plane waiting for it to take off from the Burlington airport, our eight-year-old granddaughter started crying and then turned to her mother and asked, “Why do we have to go back to America?” 

A few years before that on a non-stop flight to Vermont, I overheard a stranger make a comment which has stayed with me. Parents with young children boarded the flight and took their seats in the row in front of me. Just as the plane was taking off, the father turned to his children and said: “Next stop…paradise.”

Children and visitors understand “Why Vermont?” Do we?

Rosanne Greco is a retired Air Force Colonel, and a former Chair of the South Burlington City Council. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the South Burlington Land Trust.

Categories: Commentary

11 replies »

  1. I moved to Vermont over fifty years ago, I came on vacation and could not leave, it was perfect. Vermont has lost i’ts uniqueness, it has lost it’s love for the common man, and unfortunately, I, like many other “Vermonters”, have lost my love for it.

  2. Thank you for this beautiful tribute to Vermont and for voicing what I’m sure many of us are thinking and feeling. Housing for the homeless is a complex issue that is more than about providing living spaces, so it’s important that that issue is looked at holistically and ameliorated from many angles.

    However, building out many houses in Vermont in order to attract others (to develop the “economy”) is, in my opinion, a wrong-headed approach. People already in Vermont are having a hard time finding houses to buy or affording rents in large part because of all the short-term rentals with out of state or absentee landlords that seem to be taking over the state. I have been trying for 8 years to find a house I can afford, and now the market is beyond hope for me. I personally know of several small houses I would have loved that were bought for cash for very little (before covid) and are now strictly used for short-term rentals. Something is just not right with that picture. AirBnBs should be what they were originally intended to be: people sharing their homes to make some extra money, not absentee landlords looking to make an easy buck at the expense of communities and even hotels. Where are the regulations?

    I agree with this commenter that protecting and enhancing Vermont’s natural gifts will go a long way to ensure Vermont’s viability, in the long run. I keep hearing about the many abandoned buildings and foreclosed houses. If this is true, then why not renovate these structures for housing? That would also avoid blight. I, also, don’t understand why some in Vermont want to try to develop this state to compete with cities. Vermont is unique and should stay unique and all Vermonters be proud of this uniqueness and not aspire to create homogenization and mediocrity.

  3. Interesting article. I live in one of your neighboring states and love visiting Vermont. I really wonder who is driving this push for more housing. Vermont is such a beautiful place, and it seems like the Democrats that Vermont overwhelmingly supports want to change that. This bill is almost law, your “Republican” governor supports it, as well as the Democrats. Are they all being paid off by developers? It just seems nonsensical to me.

    Our nation is increasingly overcrowded, dirty, and dangerous. Why the heck would Vermont want to be more like that? This issue should unite people across party lines, and Vermonters need to wake up, pressure their legislators and get this ridiculous bill thrown out before you become like another suburb of New York. The good thing is you are a small state, so if you organize you can make an impact.

  4. I have been coming to Vermont since I was a child. I am three years away from finally retiring and have waited decades to live full time in the house we have owned for a long time. I are now considering retiring somewhere else.we have been watching the changes and the 100’s of non sense bills being introduced and passed in what is now a monopoly of the state government. It’s really sad. It really such a shame. I pray that things change. But I am Not that confident.. out of state influence and greed and power is going to destroy the place that I have cherished since a young boy. As does my entire family. This article is right on point.

    • The saddest part is that the legislative morons, sorry for the epithet but ONLY people who create & then pass bills such as these over the last couple of years are fully deserving of such a description, who come on here and read this publication, whilst pretending that they don’t even know of its existence, couldn’t care LESS about what the government OF, BY, and FOR the people think or want.

      They peruse this site and others JUST to make sure that there is no genuine organized, monied group attempting to take back this now sad little state and unfortunately, there isn’t. The VT GOP is wasting its time “honoring” some Long Island, NY congressman who lost his gubernatorial race in NYS at a “fundraiser” in South Burlington. GREAT JOB, DAME!!!!!! That’ll show ’em!

      Their goal has been to destroy VT culture and to ultimately denigrate, besmirch, and destroy the USA to create their “utopian” socialist paradise – just like the ones in Cuba & Venezuela…….what could go wrong? Answer: It already is, and they still cannot stop themselves. They are delusional powermongers – and that’s the most complimentary description I can conclude with.

  5. I was born in Vermont, as was my father and grandfather’s family, and have lived here, except for a few short years in N.H. But my husband and I missed our home state and came back to it and built our house to retire in. I have seen many changes in Vermont over the years some good and some bad. Small family farms have disappeared for big monopoly farms, small family stores have been replaced by malls, schools have been closed in rural areas and pushed into bigger ones miles away from the town, which destroyed one of the main things that held a community together and allowed you to know your neighbors and children. People moved from out of state and took over the government of our towns and state in the name of progress. Now we are left with a government that pushes ideological agendas and pet projects instead of people who once cared for the state and the people in it! Socialism has been allowed to infiltrate the state, I’m afraid to the point of no return, unless people can join together and say NO MORE!

  6. If you liked vt 5 years ago, you should’ve seen it 40 years ago. As our government involvement grows, our state declines further and further. Sadly vt is lost and its residents that haven’t already been forced out will be shortly, myself included. RIP

  7. There was nothing wrong with Vermont until woke Democrats decided to fix it…Keep voting in Democrats folks…

  8. The same bureaucrats that want more housing — the demand for which is increased by open borders and unlimited welfare that includes free housing, education, healthcare, daycare, food, etc., etc. — are the same ones that make it difficult to nearly impossible to renovate a home to include accessory dwellings or subdivide for a small parcel. They are also same global warming scammers/scaremongers that force the price of energy (and therefore everything else) beyond a wage earner’s or retiree’s ability to keep up.

    It’s true there are many progressive transplants here now that have been educated in the Young Global Leaders curriculum adopted by all our universities in the last 2-3 decades. They are activists that care not about the people, only their mission which is spelled out in their Agenda 2030.

    One might also look a lot closer at our election integrity. Despite our ex-SOS’s insistence that all is pure and innocent, VT uses the discredited ERIC system. I no longer trust the outcomes of our elections nor whether our votes have counted for a long time.

  9. I’m a sixth generation Vermonter. My ancestors are likely rolling in their graves. Yet, a few of them knew of scandalous secrets and dirty politics in Orange County going back to the 1930’s. I heard a person say once, “the State went to Hell as soon as I-89 was built.” The old-timers saw the writing on the wall generations ago. They worked hard to make a living, maintained their properties, many grew their own food,some operated farms, and they raised families that didn’t leave after graduation. Modernity brought many changes. Vermont is not the only rural State affected by modernization, technology, and the overt greed that comes along with it. Now, the Vermont root system is upended and woefully contaminated. The land of second homes for the wealthy. All the industry and manufacturing gave way to a behemouth welfare system. Dependence on the Federal welfare corrupted every institution in Vermont and failing miserably. This is not the Vermont I grew up in at all. I am not opposed to change. I am opposed to fraud and corruption. The day of retribution is closing in like a freight train on those who defraud and corrupt this once decent, livable, managable State. I, along with others, stand in the gap and willing to clean it up once all the perps and pervs are swept out in the flood of their own excrement.

  10. The push for more housing is a push for more tax revenue. If lawmakers would focus on cutting costs and corrupt social programs to lower state expenses there would be no need. Constant spending and development is a breeding ground for corruption. Social programs create a state where one can sleep in a hotel, eat three meals a day of their choice, drink/party continually, get free health care, phones, hell even cars without having a JOB. Until Democrats in charge develop some grey matter we’re doomed, or until we vote them out.