Download this document in MS Word 97 format

S.107

Introduced by Senator Condos of Chittenden County, Senator Campbell of Windsor County, Senator Canns of Caledonia County, Senator Cummings of Washington County, Senator Doyle of Washington County, Senator Gossens of Addison County, Senator Illuzzi of Essex-Orleans County, Senator Leddy of Chittenden County, Senator Maynard of Rutland County, Senator Scott of Washington County and Senator Snelling of Chittenden County

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject: Conservation; downtown development district; new town centers; Act 250-exempt downtown zones; downtown study

Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to provide that new town centers, by complying with slightly different application requirements, be eligible for benefits currently provided to designated downtown development districts. It also expands those benefits by according the district appropriate deference in state highway design within the district; by authorizing technical assistance from the agency of natural resources, with regard to wetlands mitigation and stormwater treatment; and by authorizing technical assistance by the department of agriculture, food and markets, with respect to farmland mitigation. It proposes to allow a municipality to avoid revocation of designation on the grounds that failure to construct was due to unavailability of "sufficient state or federal funding," replacing the current language which refers to unavailability of "state or federal matching loan funds." It also proposes to allow any municipality with a downtown to designate an Act 250-exempt downtown zone. Such a zone would be created on application to the secretary of commerce and community development, upon the municipality establishing: it has a confirmed planning process and permanent zoning and subdivision bylaws; the delineated area is in fact a downtown or that conditions have been established to foster a new town center; it has adopted the municipal administrative procedures act; and it has created a development review board. The bill would allow designated municipalities to adopt one or more Act 250 criteria by reference, and to measure permit applications against those criteria. The bill proposes to create a house study committee on downtown growth, with a mandate to prepare a report that includes incentives to foster and encourage planned, mixed-use growth and development in town and village centers, designated growth centers, downtowns, and new town centers, in a manner that is consistent with the historic settlement pattern of compact village and urban centers separated by rural countryside. The committee is also to report on incentives to preserve historic village greens and the historic rural countryside separating compact village and urban centers, to create new village greens, and to preserve other important natural and historic features of the Vermont landscape, as identified by a municipality in its duly adopted plans.

AN ACT RELATING TO DOWNTOWN GROWTH, ACT 250-EXEMPT DOWNTOWN ZONES, AND PRESERVATION OF HISTORIC SETTLEMENT PATTERNS

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1. 24 V.S.A. § 2791(3) is amended to read:

(3) "Downtown" means the traditional central business district of a community, that has served as the center for socio-economic interaction in the community, characterized by a cohesive core of commercial and mixed use buildings, often interspersed with civic, religious, and residential buildings and public spaces, typically arranged along a main street and intersecting side streets and served by public infrastructure. Downtown also means a "new town center" as evidenced by a comprehensive plan and land use regulations that provide for creation of a central business district composed of compact, multi-story, mixed-use development that is characteristic of a traditional downtown, and which is supported by planned or existing urban infrastructure, including curbed streets with sidewalks and on-street parking, stormwater treatment, sanitary sewers, and public water supply with fire hydrants.

Sec. 2. 24 V.S.A. § 2793 is amended to read:

§ 2793. DESIGNATION OF DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT DISTRICTS

(a) A municipality, by its legislative body, may apply to the state board for designation of a downtown area within that municipality as a downtown development district. An application by a municipality shall contain a map delineating the district, evidence that the regional planning commission and the regional development corporation have been notified of the municipality’s intent to apply and information showing that the district meets the standards for designation established in subsection (b) of this section, or the standards for designation established in subsection (d) of this section if the legislative body submits that application on behalf of a new town center.

(b) Within 45 days of receipt of a completed application, the state board shall designate a downtown development district if the state board finds, with respect to that district, that the municipality has:

(1) demonstrated a planning commitment through the adoption of a design control district, an historic district, an urban renewal district, or through the creation of a development review board authorized to undertake local Act 250 reviews pursuant to section 4449 of this title; and

(2) provided a community reinvestment agreement that has been executed by the authorized representatives of the municipal government, business and property owners within the district, and community groups with an articulated purpose of supporting downtown interests, and that contains the following provisions:

(A) a delineation of the area that meets the requirements set forth in subdivision 2791(3) of this title and that is part of or contains a district that is listed or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places pursuant to 16 U.S.C. § 470a;

(B) a capital improvement plan to improve or preserve public infrastructure within the district, including facilities for public transit, parking, pedestrian amenities, lighting and public space;

(C) a source of funding and resources necessary to fulfill the community reinvestment agreement, demonstrated by a commitment by the legislative body of the municipality to implement at least one of the following:

(i) a special assessment district created to provide funding to the downtown district;

(ii) authority to enter into a tax stabilization agreement for the purposes of economic development in a downtown district;

(iii) a commitment to implement a tax incremental financing district pursuant to subchapter 5 of chapter 53 of this title; or

(iv) other multiple-year financial commitments among the parties subject to the approval of the state board;

(D) an organizational structure necessary to sustain a comprehensive long-term downtown revitalization effort, including local board or designation of the entity that will qualify as the downtown development nonprofit corporation under subdivision 2791(5) of this title;

(E) evidence that any private or municipal sewage system and private or public water supply serving the proposed downtown district is in compliance with the requirements of chapters 47 and 56 of Title 10, and that the municipality has dedicated a portion of any unallocated reserve capacity of the sewage and public water supply for growth within the proposed downtown district. Any municipality proposing a municipal sewage system and public water supply to serve the proposed downtown district shall provide evidence to the state board of a commitment to construct or maintain such a system and supply in compliance with requirements of chapters 47 and 56 of Title 10, or a commitment to construct, as applicable, a permittable potable water supply, wastewater system, indirect discharge or public water supply within no more than ten years. A commitment to construct does not relieve the property owners in the district from meeting the applicable regulations of the agency of natural resources regarding wastewater systems, potable water supplies, public water supplies, indirect discharges, and the subdivision of land. In the event that a municipality fails in its commitment to construct a municipal sewage system, *[and]* or public water supply, or both, the state board shall revoke designation and the incentives that accrue pursuant to 24 V.S.A. § 2794 from that date forward, unless the municipality demonstrates to the state board that all good faith efforts were made and continue to be made to obtain the required approvals and permits from the agency of natural resources, and failure to construct was due to unavailability of sufficient state or federal *[matching loan funds]* funding.

(c) The state board shall review a community’s designation every three years. If the state board determines that the downtown development district no longer meets the standards for designation established in subsection (b) or (d) of this section, it may take any of the following actions:

(1) require corrective action;

(2) provide technical assistance through the Vermont downtown program; or

(3) remove the district’s designation, with such removal not affecting any of the district’s previously awarded benefits.

(d) Within 45 days of receipt of a completed application submitted on behalf of a new town center, the state board shall designate a downtown development district if the state board finds, with respect to that district, that the municipality has:

(1) developed a municipal center plan and regulations to implement the plan, and established a design control district or created a development review board authorized to undertake local Act 250 reviews pursuant to section 4449 of this title; and

(2) provided a community investment agreement that has been executed by authorized representatives of the municipal government, businesses and property owners within the district, and community groups with an articulated purpose of supporting downtown interests and that contains the following provisions:

(A) A map of the new town center that is designed to accommodate a significant share of the municipality’s growth needs for the next 20 years, as identified in its duly adopted plans.

(B) Regulations enabling development densities that are clearly greater than those allowed in any other part of the municipality.

(C) Regulations enabling mixed-use buildings which enable the development of buildings in a compact manner through appropriate standards for parking and setbacks, and through other regulations.

(D) A capital improvement program to provide public infrastructure within the center, including facilities for public transit, parking, pedestrian amenities, lighting and public space.

(E) A funding mechanism that includes at least one of the following:

(i) a special assessment district created to provide funding for the new town center district;

(ii) authority to enter into a tax stabilization agreement for the purposes of economic development in a downtown district;

(iii) commitment to implement a tax incremental financing district pursuant to subchapter 5 of chapter 53 of this title; or

(iv) other multiple-year financial commitments among the parties to the agreement, subject to the approval of the state board.

(F) Evidence of compliance with the regional plan.

(G) Evidence of provision for a variety of housing types and densities in the center of the community, and evidence that there is or is planned to be adequate water and sewer capacity available to support planned housing densities;

(H) Evidence that civic and public buildings do exist or are planned to exist in the center, or both;

(I) Within five years of initial designation, an organizational structure necessary to sustain a comprehensive long-term downtown revitalization effort, including a local board or designation of the entity that will qualify as the downtown development nonprofit corporation under subdivision 2791(5) of this title.

(J) Evidence that any private or municipal sewage system and private or public water supply serving the proposed downtown district is in compliance with the requirements of chapters 47 and 56 of Title 10, that the municipality has dedicated a portion of any unallocated reserve capacity of the sewage and public water supply for growth within the proposed downtown district, and that the municipality has dedicated a portion of the allocation within the proposed downtown for affordable housing. Any municipality proposing a municipal sewage system and public water supply to serve the proposed downtown district shall provide evidence to the state board of a commitment to construct or maintain such a system and supply in compliance with requirements of chapters 47 and 56 of Title 10, or a commitment to construct, as applicable, a permittable potable water supply, wastewater system, indirect discharge or public water supply within no more than ten years. A commitment to construct does not relieve the property owners in the district from meeting the applicable regulations of the agency of natural resources regarding wastewater systems, potable water supplies, public water supplies, indirect discharges, and the subdivision of land. In the event that a municipality fails in its commitment to construct a municipal sewage system or public water supply, or both, the state board shall revoke designation and the incentives that accrue pursuant to 24 V.S.A. § 2794 from that date forward, unless the municipality demonstrates to the state board that all good faith efforts were made and continue to be made to obtain the required approvals and permits from the agency of natural resources, and failure to construct was due to unavailability of sufficient state or federal funding.

Sec. 3. 24 V.S.A. § 2794 is amended to read:

§ 2794. INCENTIVES FOR PROGRAM DESIGNEES

(a) Upon designation by the Vermont downtown development board under section 2793 of this title, a downtown development district and projects in a downtown development district shall be eligible for the following:

* * *

(7) technical assistance by the department of housing and community affairs with regard to planning *[and]*, coordination, and development issues, including but not limited to, adaptive reuse of buildings within the district, development of a marketing plan for the downtown district that includes a heritage tourism component where appropriate, development of a program to encourage merchants and building owners to rehabilitate, restore and improve building facades, and, in coordination with the agency of transportation, planning for multi-modal transportation needs of the community; as well as technical assistance by the agency of natural resources with regard to wetlands mitigation and stormwater treatment, and technical assistance by the department of agriculture, food and markets, with respect to farmland mitigation.

* * *

(13) due and appropriate deference to local plans and design standards in state highway design within the designated district, including streetscape design, utility placement and design, and road widths.

* * *

Sec. 4. 24 V.S.A. § 4450 is added to read:

§ 4450. ACT 250-EXEMPT DOWNTOWN ZONE

(a) A municipality may apply to the secretary of commerce and community development to have a specified downtown zone designated as an

Act 250-exempt downtown zone. The application shall contain the following:

(1) A map delineating the proposed downtown zone, the entirety of which must consist of a "downtown," as the term is defined in section 2791 of this title.

(2) Evidence that the municipality has in effect permanent zoning and subdivision bylaws.

(3) Evidence that the municipality has adopted the municipal administrative procedures act (MAPA) established under chapter 36 of this title, and has provided that it shall apply to all hearings under this chapter.

(4) Evidence that the municipality has created a development review board under the provisions of section 4461 of this title.

(b) On receipt of an application under this section, the secretary of commerce and community development shall review the application, and shall designate the downtown as an Act 250-exempt downtown zone, upon determining all of the following:

(1) The municipality has a confirmed planning process, and has in effect permanent zoning and subdivision bylaws.

(2) The delineated downtown is, in fact, a "downtown," as defined in section 2791 of this title, or that conditions have been established to foster a new town center.

(3) The municipality has adopted the municipal administrative procedures act (MAPA) established under chapter 36 of this title, and has provided that it shall apply to all hearings under this chapter.

(4) The municipality has created a development review board under the provisions of section 4461 of this title.

(c) A municipality designated under this section may adopt by reference one or more of the criteria established under 10 V.S.A. § 6086, and may issue, deny, or condition local permits, based upon development review board determinations regarding whether those criteria have been met.

(d) Upon the effective date of designation, all development, permitted or not, within the designated zone shall be exempt from review under 10 V.S.A. chapter 151.

(e) The secretary of commerce and community development shall review a community’s designation every three years. If the secretary determines that there is no longer compliance with the standards for designation established in this section, the secretary may require corrective action, or may remove the zone’s designation, with that removal not affecting the status of development completed while the designation was in effect.

Sec. 5. STUDY ON INCENTIVES FOR DEVELOPMENT OF DOWNTOWNS AND GROWTH CENTERS, AND PRESERVATION OF LOCALLY-IDENTIFIED IMPORTANT HISTORIC AND NATURAL FEATURES OF THE VERMONT LANDSCAPE

(a) A study committee on downtown growth shall be formed, consisting of at least eight members of the house, appointed by the speaker of the house so that no party has a majority, and to include at least three members of the committee on natural resources and energy. The study committee may meet up to eight times, and committee members shall be entitled to compensation and expenses as provided in 2 V.S.A. § 406.

(b) The study committee shall prepare a report and submit it to the general assembly no later than January 15, 2002. This report shall include draft legislation which focuses upon incentives to foster and encourage planned, mixed-use growth and development in town and village centers, designated growth centers, downtowns, and new town centers, in a manner that is consistent with the historic settlement pattern of compact village and urban centers separated by rural countryside, and that is supported by public infrastructure. The report shall include incentives to develop or redevelop housing in designated growth areas, downtowns, new town centers, and town and village centers. The report shall include incentives to preserve historic village greens and the historic rural countryside separating compact village and urban centers, to create new village greens, and to preserve other important natural and historic features of the Vermont landscape, as identified by a municipality in its duly adopted plans.