- Kevin McCallum ©️ Seven Days
- Gov. Phil Scott in Colchester Wednesday
“I just think we need to go back and start over,” Scott said at a press conference in Colchester, where he had traveled to celebrate the groundbreaking for a new housing project. “We need a clean slate.”
The bill, S.234, became an end-of-session political football. It would have required additional environmental review of large projects that risk fragmenting forests, and it also would have shifted appeals of Act 250 decisions from environmental courts to a professional panel — measures Scott opposed. It would have streamlined permitting processes to spur housing development, too.
To ensure Scott didn't block those housing provisions, lawmakers copied and pasted those sections into a larger housing bill, S.226, that he supported. They passed both bills, and resigned themselves that only one would become law.
Mayors across the state had objected to the proposed appeals changes. Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, a former developer, slammed that proposal as likely to make housing development even harder by complicating the process.
Brian Shupe, executive director of the Vermont Natural Resources Council, countered that by rejecting forest protections, Scott had put the state's landscape of compact cities and towns surrounded by green space at risk.
Environmental groups argued the change would have improved the administration of the Act 250. "In vetoing the bill the Governor has actively chosen not to modernize and improve one of Vermont’s most important environmental programs,” VNRC's Jon Groveman said in a statement.
Scott supported these measures, and said he plans to sign the bill containing them next week.