By Guy Page
Gov. Phil Scott and municipal leaders today pushed back against the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee’s added restrictions to S.100, the Legislature’s main effort to increase new housing construction.
Scott also didn’t rule out a veto if S100 is passed with the restrictions intact. “I really don’t like” the committee’s changes, he said at a noontime press conference today at the State House.
When S100 came out of the Senate Economic Development Committee, “everyone was singing kumbayah,” Scott, a former state senator, said. “It didn’t get fragile until it entered Senate Natural Resources. It hasn’t gone to the floor yet. We’re hoping they have second thoughts. I’m not going to threaten anything, but we have a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
The Senate’s most ‘green’ committee removed S100’s statewide expansion of Act 250-exempt housing developments from 10 to 25. The Natural Resources and Energy version of S100 leaves people of color – now three times less likely to own a home than whites – and our smaller rural communities behind, Vermont Housing Finance Agency Executive Director Maura Collins said.
Ted Brady, Executive Director of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, urged the Senate to:
- Eliminate act 250 jurisdiction in designated areas
- Increase number of units exempt from Act 250 oversight statewide to 25 – up from 10. “We need to get back to that,” Brady urged.
- Eliminate citizen Act 250 appeal for projects already approved by town process.
- Delegate act 250 requirements to the municipal zoning process.
Gov. Scott and Brady were asked by VDC about water quality concerns raised by clean water advocates like James Ehlers of Vermonters for a Clean Environment.
“S100 tries to strike a balance between facilitating growth and protecting the environment,” Brady said. Vermont already has copious water quality legislation and regulation, and he warned against “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” – the baby presumably being Vermonters without housing. Scott recalled that his administration has budgeted $250 million of federal funding for water quality, but the Legislature so far has been unwilling to dedicate some of the current largesse of federal funding to long-term ‘matching’ funds for multi-year water quality and highway projects.