Municipal land use planning is the process of assessing current conditions in a community, envisioning a desired future, and charting a course toward that future. It involves multiple stakeholders, including property and business owners, elected and appointed municipal officials, renters, and even visitors. Planning encompasses many activities, including adopting town plans and municipal bylaws, capital budgeting, development review, and enforcement. Plans are implemented using regulatory tools such as zoning bylaws and subdivision regulations.
The Vermont Legislature first provided municipalities the opportunity to undertake local land use planning in the 1920s; see Title 24, Chapter 117, which contains the municipal planning and development laws. Since then, the Legislature has passed extensive enabling legislation that allows communities to conduct a wide range of activities related to local land use planning and regulation.
Most recently, the Housing Opportunities Made for Everyone (HOME) Act (Acts 47 and 81, 2023) amends Title 24, Act 250, and other laws related to land use planning and development regulations. Its purpose is to encourage increased housing development. For more information, please visit the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) website with resources that provide more information on the HOME Act.
Roles & Responsibilities
Municipal land use planning and administration involves various town officials. Most municipal officials have distinct roles that are delineated both by statute and by function. Within the local land use system, there are legislative, quasi-judicial, and administrative functions. Depending on the town’s structure, the following players are typically involved in municipal land use administration: the administrative officer (“zoning administrator”), planning commission, appropriate municipal panel (development review board, or zoning board of adjustment and planning commission), and the legislative body. Some municipalities have a robust professional planning staff, if the demand requires it and the resources exist to support the positions. Other municipalities are supported entirely by the efforts of their part-time volunteer community. Regional planning commissions exist to support both.
While every effort is made to provide members with the most accurate information possible, these documents do not constitute legal advice. If you have questions about this or any of our other municipal law topics, resources, and services, click here:
- Regional Planning Commissions (to find your town’s RPC webpage)
- Northern New England Chapter of the American Planning Association (NNECAPA), Vermont Section (for Vermont-based that are useful to planners and local governments)
- Vermont Planning Information Center (VPIC) Planning & Zoning Page (for handbooks, manuals, templates, and other tools)
- Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) (housing, community development, historic preservation, floodplain management, planning grants, Act 47 resources)
- Natural Resources Board Home Act (Act 47) Guidance and Exemptions