Shoreland Protection Passes VT Senate

Intact sand dunes protect beach, wildlife, and homes. Photo by Mike Winslow.

In early February the Vermont Senate passed legislation to protect Vermont shorelands. Over the summer, legislators traveled around the state and held a series of public meetings to hear concerns about the bill. The Senate version incorporates much of the feedback received during those summer sessions. Final passage of the bill will erase Vermont’s stigma as the only New England state without legislation protecting lake shores.

The Senate version of the bill requires a permit for significant clearing of vegetation or expansion of impervious surface along lake shores. Clearings of less than 100 square feet of vegetation at least 25 feet from the shore or construction of less than 500 square feet of impervious surface would not require a permit, but would require registration. The registration is designed to prevent sequential projects that cumulatively would have a significant impact. Routine site maintenance like mowing an existing lawn or clearing dead or dying trees would be exempt from any regulation. To receive a permit the property owner would need to demonstrate that steps have been taken to minimize disturbance. For parcels where existing development puts them out of compliance with the regulation, any new construction has to occur as far from the water as possible and expansion of existing structures can only take place away from the water. If enacted as proposed by the Senate the bill would take effect on July 1.

The Senate’s bill differs from one passed last year in the House and so the two bodies have appointed a conference committee to work out the differences. Senate conferees include Senators Robert Hartwell of Wilmington, Diane Snelling of Hinesburg and John Rodgers of Glover. House conferees include Representatives David Deen of Westminster, Steve Beyor of Highgate and Bob Krebs of South Hero.