By Guy Page
A day after one Senate committee voted to remove language that would exempt more housing developments from Act 250 review, another committee today discussed restoring it – and then adjourned before taking a vote.
The Senate Housing and Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs Committee met this morning to discuss two key changes made yesterday to S100, its housing bill, by the Senate Natural Resources Committee:
- Restoring to 10 the maximum amount of housing lots in an Act 250-exempt development. Act 250 review is seen as a major barrier to large housing developments. Faced with the state’s acute housing crisis, Housing & Economic Development opted to increase the exemption to 25. Natural Resources by a 4-1 vote (Sen. Mark MacDonald, D-Orange, the only no vote) amended the bill back to the current 10, except for 25 in downtown/high density areas. One Natural Resources member said market forces, not Act 250 or other government restrictions, are driving Vermont’s housing shortage.
- Establishing a three-year “sunset” for S100’s relaxed housing regulations. After three years, the Legislature would revisit the new regs and, if it chooses, rescind them. Sen. Randy Brock (R-Franklin) said at noontime today that a three year period is inadequate because some projects require almost three years for planning and leaping regulatory hurdles, including Act 250.
Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs adjourned with a single paragraph left to discuss. It plans to finish the conversation Tuesday morning. S100 is on the Senate calendar today but a vote is unlikely before committee discussion is concluded.
The disagreement between the two committees is shaping up for a lively floor debate – probably sometime next week. If approved by the Senate, it will go to the House. Gov. Scott supports S100 as written because of its goal of building thousands of new homes. Whether he will support it without the increased Act 250 exemption is uncertain.
In other legislative action, the Senate yesterday also sent S32, ranked choice voting in the presidential primary, to the Appropriations Committee, following its approval by Government Operations. S100 has already met today’s Crossover deadline, having been approved by its original committee of jurisdiction.