A public hearing on H.223 is scheduled for Tuesday, March 12, from 6-8 PM in Room 11 at the State House in Montpelier.

The Federation of Vermont Lakes and Ponds has urged legislators to develop enforceable statewide regulations to protect and restore Vermont’s lakeshore buffers. Statewide regulations and enforcement are needed in addition to existing educational outreach. The VT Agency of Natural Resources, Vermont Natural Resources Council, Lake Champlain International, the Lake Champlain Committee, the Conservation Law Foundation and Vermont lakeshore property owners are among those who have spoken in favor of H.223. Legislators need to hear from even more Vermonters. Please attend the public hearing and offer your thoughts on the value of protecting and enhancing the quality of Vermont’s lakes and ponds.

H.223 was introduced in response to the VT Agency of Natural Resources’ Act 138 Shorelands Report, a report mandated by the Vermont Legislature in 2012. In the Shorelands Report, the VTANR concluded that “the current shoreland management approach in Vermont – education, outreach, technical assistance and voluntary municipal participation – is not providing adequate protection of Vermont’s lakes. Comparing Vermont’s current shoreland management practices to other northeastern states’ programs reveals a major gap in Vermont’s management program: Vermont is the only northeastern state without state standards for shoreland development. New approaches are needed to ensure the long term health of Vermont lakes and shorelands.”

The following summary of H.223 is based on the bill as it was introduced in the Legislature on February 8, 2013. Over the past few weeks the House Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources Committee has been hearing testimony on the bill, and the final form of the bill is still under discussion. The next Legislative Update will summarize changes to the bill anticipated to be presented at the public hearing on March 12.

Among other findings, H.223 finds that the protection of shorelands is essential to maintain the integrity of lake waters and that under current law, the potential exists for development patterns along lake shorelands that could result in significant negative impacts on the lakes.

The bill establishes a “lakeside zone” within 100 feet of lakes and a “protected shoreland zone” within 250 feet of lakes. The bill requires VTANR to adopt rule standards for the permitting of disturbances and development in the lakeside zone and protected shoreland zone. The standards must be designed to minimize shoreland disturbance in order to protect lake waters, while accommodating reasonable levels of shoreland development adjacent to lakes. The bill requires the establishment and maintenance of a buffer within the lakeside zone, provides additional guidance regarding the standards, and authorizes paths to the lake and small clearings in the vegetative cover within the lakeside zone to allow for recreation and uses related to structures. In addition to other requirements, the standards must require new primary structures to be set back 25 feet from the lakeside zone and must establish maximum building heights for new primary structures and minimum lot sizes and lake frontage for new lots. The standards must also include requirements regarding the expansion, repair, renovation or amendment of existing primary and accessory structures.

Beginning January 1, 2016, a person shall not begin or conduct land development or a disturbance in the protected shoreland zone without a permit from VTANR under the required rules. Variances from the rules may be granted. A general permit may be established to authorize a specific land development or disturbance without notifying or reporting to VTANR.

Beginning January 1, 2016, a person shall not begin or conduct land development or a disturbance in the protected shoreland zone without a permit from VTANR under the required rules. Variances from the rules may be granted. A general permit may be established to authorize a specific land development or disturbance without notifying or reporting to VTANR.

As of January 1, 2016, those provisions of municipal bylaws or ordinances that regulate land development or disturbances within the lakeside zone and protected shoreland zone are superseded by the provisions of the bill and the rules adopted by VTANR. Permits issued under those ordinances remain in effect unless and until superseded by a permit issued under the new rules.

If a municipality requests delegation of the permitting required under this bill, VTANR must delegate authority to the municipality to implement the rules and enforcement if the municipality satisfies VTANR that it has adopted a bylaw or ordinance at least as stringent as the rules, has a permitting process and sufficient staff to implement it, will take enforcement action, and commits to annual reporting to VTANR. VTANR may review municipal implementation.

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