August 11, 2020. The legislative recess was short. We hope you were able to pack summer in to the two-month reprieve from legislative action.
When legislators return, the tone may change as it will be after the state primary and we will know who is running for statewide and legislative seats from the Democratic and Republican parties. The legislative task will be to adopt a budget for the remaining three quarters of FY2021. However, legislators will take up non-COVID related bills. Those include:
S. 237, a bill to address affordable housing and zoning, in House General, Housing and Military Affairs. There is no disagreement that the scarcity of housing at all income levels is a major economic development, social justice, and public health problem – which is exacerbated during the COVID-10 pandemic as people looking for a refuge from that storm buy property in Vermont.
Section 2 of S. 237 preempts local land use regulation and severely challenges the long-standing relationship between local government and the state for finding local solutions to the affordable housing crisis. The bill annihilates communities’ efforts to pursue local planning and zoning strategies to achieve statewide affordable housing goals and supersedes allowing for the implementation of the new “Enabling Better Places: A Zoning Guide for Vermont Neighborhoods”. Instead, the bill applies requirements on minimum lot sizes to all municipalities. These provisions would require zoning districts served by municipal water to allow quarter-acre lots. Those served by both municipal water and sewer must allow one-eighth acre lots. Local officials must urge their representatives to oppose Section 2 of S. 237.