Senate tug-of-war continues over Act 250 housing bill

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Categories: Housing, Legislation

5 replies »

  1. The Act 250 10/5/5 rule does not only affect large housing projects, it prevents small contractors from building more than 2a year, perhaps on lots 4.9 mikes apart

  2. While your attention is diverted by such bills as S.100, hopefully modifying Act 250…
    and whether to ban soccer cleats made of kangaroo hide, S.32 enacting Ranked Choice Voting for Presidential primaries is slipping thru, hopefully unnoticed…
    S.32 seemingly is innocuous, but the implications for Vermont are dangerous.

  3. “Establishing a three-year “sunset” for S100” Well, Yes! …think about that. Allow me a little tangential thinking here. Wouldn’t it be prudent to attach such an expiration date…a sunset clause to any legislation passed. The law evaporates on a given date. The legislature can reviews it for it’s intended impact…any other impacts…what’s the consensus among the voters…Is it worth the surrender of individual liberty/responsibility involved? If it still looks good they can re endorse it…otherwise we will be unburdened automatically. Simple clause added to any bill…what do you think?

  4. Whoever remarked that market forces are the key factor in housing shortages had it pretty much right, too much housing drives down prices, rents and profits. That’s why the Canadian investors bailed on the the Burlington marketplace development.lol, after the Chinese government released the brakes on housing development there was such a glut that it ended up dynamiting high rise apartments dozens at a time but, of course the Communist party has the liberty to do that, in America similar situations end up in endless litigation and bankruptcy. regulations in Vermont also restrict markets by favoring big money developers, those least likely to fall into the trap of overbuilding. Especially dangerous is building a lot of housing during a period of intense inflation, high debt to GNP ratios, failing banks and recession. As far as job creation goes, the benefits are only temporary, most of the permanent jobs created by downtown development are low paying service jobs and retail businesses which will still have trouble competing with the big box stores. I think it’s possible to be skeptical of legislators understanding of the true extent of the ‘housing crisis’ in the first place. That current situation is far from any Utopian ideal is certain, and striving to fulfill that ideal makes great campaign promises, after the last election legislators are bound to follow up, due diligence and ‘baby steps’ is a difficult argument to make when the ‘reforming’ party is a supermajority. My hope would be that at least some limit would be placed on on the use of tax dollars to promote these real estate schemes, like using Tax Incremental Financing ( pledging school tax revenues) to subsidize loans to housing developers.