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Vermont Supreme Court Rules on Regional Plan Case

The Vermont Supreme Court recently issued a decision overturning a Vermont Environmental Court decision that approved a large, multi-use development project adjacent to I-89’s Exit 1 in Hartford. The Environmental Court approved the project on appeal after the District 3 Environmental Commission denied the project, finding that it did not conform to the Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Plan.

The Supreme Court heard the case after both the Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission (TRORC) and the Vermont Natural Resources Board (NRB), which oversees Act 250, appealed the decision.

Several organizations and regional planning commissions, including the BCRC, filed an Amicus brief supporting the TRORC and the NRB. The Supreme Court found that the Regional Plan should be considered because the project would have a substantial regional impact and the meaning and intent of the Plan is clear in directing large-scale commercial developments to areas planned for such growth. Ignoring the clear language of the Regional Plan would have been contrary to the regional land use plan and inconsistent with the statutory planning goals it is attempting to implement.

The Vermont Natural Resources Council, which also supported the appeal, released this statement: “This decision affirms the vital role that regional plans - and by extension municipal plans - play in the Act 250 process. In its unanimous decision the Court sent a clear message that Act 250 Commissions need to defer to plan provisions when they clearly signal that development is contrary to a town’s or region’s land use goals. What’s more, it’s clear that Commissions need to consider Vermont's longstanding planning principles of concentrating development in our traditional centers when applying plan provisions to a project.”