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S.163

Introduced by Senator Gossens of Addison County and Senator Bloomer of Rutland County

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject: Natural resource conservation districts; voter eligibility; supervisor qualifications

Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to expand voter eligibility and supervisor qualifications within conservation districts to include any registered voter within the district.

AN ACT RELATING TO VOTER ELIGIBILITY AND SUPERVISOR QUALIFICATIONS WITHIN NATURAL RESOURCE CONSERVATION DISTRICTS

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

Sec. 1. 10 V.S.A. § 702 is amended to read:

§ 702. DEFINITIONS

Wherever used or referred to in this chapter unless a different meaning clearly appears from the context:

(1) "Council" or "state natural resources conservation council" means the agency created in section 703 of this title*[;]* .

(2) "District" or "natural resources conservation district" means a corporate body and governmental subdivision organized in accordance with the provisions of this chapter*[;]* .

*[

"Union" or "supervisory union" means the agency created in accordance with section 803 of this title;

]*

(3) "Due notice" means notice published once a week for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation within the proposed district, stating the time and place of such meeting and questions to be voted on, the last publication being not less than two days before such meeting, or ten days’ notice by mail, postage prepaid, addressed to the *[owners of land]* voters residing within the proposed district, stating the time and place of such meeting and questions to be voted on*[;]* .

(4) "Owner" means any person, *[firm or]* including any individual, partnership, corporation, or other entity, who shall hold title in fee to one or more acres of land lying within a district organized under the provisions of this chapter.

(5) "Union" or "supervisory union" means the agency created in accordance with section 803 of this title.

(6) "Voter" means any individual who is qualified to vote in an election in this state or a political subdivision of this state, and whose name is registered on the checklist of a political subdivision of the state.

Sec. 2. 10 V.S.A. § 709 is amended to read:

§ 709. PETITION TO ORGANIZE DISTRICT

Any *[twenty-five owners of land lying]* 25 voters residing within the limits of the territory proposed to be organized into a district may file a petition with the state natural resources conservation council asking that a natural resources conservation district be organized to function in the territory described in the petition.

Sec. 3. 10 V.S.A. § 710 is amended to read:

§ 710. HEARING ON PETITION

Within *[thirty]* 30 days after such a petition has been filed with the state natural resources conservation council, it shall cause due notice to be given of a proposed hearing upon such petition as to the necessity, in the interest of the public health, safety and welfare, for the creation of such district, and upon all questions relevant to such petition. All *[owners of land]* voters residing within the limits of the territory described in the petition and all other interested parties shall have the right to attend such hearings and to be heard. If it shall appear upon the hearing that it may be desirable to include within the proposed district territory outside *[of]* the area within which due notice of the hearing has been given, the hearing shall be adjourned and due notice of further hearing shall be given throughout the entire area considered for inclusion in the district and such further hearing held.

Sec. 4. 10 V.S.A. § 712 is amended to read:

§ 712. REFERENDUM

If after the council has found and recorded a determination that there is need, in the interest of the public health, safety and welfare, for the organization of a district in a particular territory and has defined the boundaries thereof, it shall hold a referendum within the proposed district upon the question of the creation of the district. Due notice of the proposed district meeting shall be given for a vote upon the following question:

Shall a natural resources conservation district of the lands below described and lying in the county (counties) of ......…………............. and …………..................... be created?

The vote shall be by ballot in the following form:

Shall a natural resources conservation district of the lands below described and lying in the county (counties) of …………...................... and ....………............... be created?

YES [ ] NO [ ]

The ballot shall set forth the boundaries of such proposed district as determined by the committee. All *[owners of lands lying]* voters residing within the boundaries of the territory, as determined by the state natural resources conservation council, shall be eligible to vote in such referendum. In writing signed by him or her, a *[landowner]* person eligible to vote in the referendum may designate a person to vote for him or her at any meeting herein authorized and such designated person shall file such written authority with the council before voting. The council shall pay all expenses for the issuance of such notices and the conduct of such hearings, and shall supervise the conduct of such hearings.

Sec. 5. 10 V.S.A. § 714(a) is amended to read:

§ 714. APPOINTMENT AND ELECTION OF SUPERVISORS; APPLICATION FOR CREATION OF DISTRICT

(a) When a district is established, the council shall appoint two supervisors to act, with three supervisors elected by the *[landowners]* voters residing within the district as the governing body of the district.

Sec. 6. 10 V.S.A. § 717 is amended to read:

§ 717. ADDITIONAL TERRITORY; PETITION TO INCLUDE

Petitions for including additional territory within an existing district may be filed with the council, and the proceedings herein provided for in the case of petitions to organize a district shall be observed in the case of petitions for such inclusion. The council shall prescribe the form for such petition. In referendum upon petitions for such inclusion, all *[owners of land lying]* voters residing within the proposed additional area shall be eligible to vote.

Sec. 7. 10 V.S.A. § 719 is amended to read:

§ 719. ELECTIONS

After the issuance of a certificate by the secretary of state certifying to the organization of a natural resources conservation district, nominating petitions for supervisor shall be filed with the *[districts]* district and shall be submitted to the council once the *[nominee is approved by the districts as defined in section 720 of this title, who shall be qualified voters]* *[as hereinafter specified]* voters of the district determine that the candidate meets the qualifications specified in section 720 of this title and nominate him or her, as provided in this section. No such nominating petition shall be accepted unless it shall be subscribed to by at least 25 *[or more owners of land lying]* voters residing within the boundaries of the district. *[Landowners]* Qualified voters may sign more than one nominating petition to nominate more than one candidate for supervisor. The names of all nominees shall appear, arranged in the alphabetical order of the surnames, upon ballots with a square before each name and a direction to insert an X mark in the square before one name to indicate the voter’s choice. Only *[landowners]* persons residing within the district shall be eligible to vote. The candidates who shall receive the largest number of the votes cast in the election shall be the elected supervisors for the *[districts]* district. The council shall pay all the expenses, supervise, prescribe regulations, determine eligibility of voters and publish the results of all elections.

Sec. 8. 10 V.S.A. § 720 is amended to read:

§ 720. SUPERVISORS AS GOVERNING BODY OF DISTRICT;

QUALIFICATIONS

The governing body of the district shall consist of five supervisors, elected or appointed under this chapter. The supervisors shall be persons residing within the district who are by training or experience, or both, as determined by the district qualified to perform the services which will be required of them, and shall not be employees of the federal government. A supervisor need not be a landowner. Advisory supervisors may be appointed to a district board by a majority vote of the supervisors of that district. Term of office shall be designated at the time of appointment, and they shall serve without compensation.

Sec. 9. 10 V.S.A. § 724 is amended to read:

§ 724. LAND-USE, EROSION CONTROL AND NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION REGULATIONS; APPROVAL

The supervisors of any district shall have authority to formulate regulations, as hereinafter provided, governing the use of lands within the district in the interest of conserving soil, controlling soil and stream bank erosion and promoting conservation of natural resources and drainage. The supervisors may conduct such public meetings and public hearings upon regulations proposed to be enacted as may be necessary to assist them in this work. The supervisors shall not have authority to enact such land-use regulations into ordinances unless a majority of the *[owners of land lying]* voters residing within the boundaries of the district cast their votes for the approval of the proposed ordinance. The approval of the proposed ordinance by a majority of the votes cast in the referendum shall not be deemed to require the supervisors to enact the proposed ordinance. The regulations to be adopted by the supervisors under the provisions of this chapter may include provisions for conserving soil resources, soil and stream bank erosion, water quality improvement and conservation of natural resources and drainage.

Sec. 10. 10 V.S.A. § 726 is amended to read:

§ 726. ORDINANCES PRESCRIBING REGULATIONS; REFERENDUM

A referendum shall be conducted as follows:

The ordinances proposed to be enacted shall be delivered by the supervisors or by agents authorized by them, or by mail to the last known address of such *[owners of land]* voters residing within the district, together with a warning of a district meeting, which warning shall contain an article for a vote upon the following question: Shall the proposed ordinance, No. . . ., prescribing land-use regulations for conserving soil resources, soil and stream bank erosion and conservation of natural resources, be adopted, the substance of which is as follows? The vote under such article shall be by ballot in the following form:

Shall the proposed ordinance No…………prescribing land-use regulations for conserving soil resources, soil and stream bank erosion and conservation of natural resources be adopted?

YES [ ] NO [ ]

Sec. 11. 10 V.S.A. § 727 is amended to read:

§ 727. CONDUCT OF REFERENDUM

The supervisors shall prescribe appropriate regulations governing the conduct of the referendum, and shall publish and record the result of the ballot. All *[owners of lands]* voters residing within the district shall be eligible to vote in such referendum.

Sec. 12. 10 V.S.A. § 728 is amended to read:

§ 728. AMENDMENT OR REPEAL OF REGULATIONS

Any *[owner or person in possession of land]* voter residing within a district may at any time file a petition with the supervisors asking that any or all of the land-use regulations prescribed in any ordinance adopted by the supervisors under the provisions of this chapter shall be amended, supplemented or repealed. Land-use regulations prescribed in any ordinance adopted pursuant to the provisions of this chapter shall not be amended, supplemented or repealed except in accordance with the procedure prescribed in this chapter for adoption of land-use regulations. Referenda on adoption, amendment, supplementation or repeal of land-use regulations shall not be held more often than once in six months.

Sec. 13. 10 V.S.A. § 729 is amended to read:

§ 729. TERMINATION OF DISTRICT

At any time after five years after the organization of a district under the provisions of this chapter, any 25 *[owners of land lying]* voters residing within the boundaries of the district may file a petition with the state natural resources conservation council praying that the operations of the district be terminated and the existence of the district discontinued. Proceedings to determine whether a district shall be discontinued shall follow so far as appropriate the procedure for the establishment of the district as set forth in this chapter. If a majority of the *[landowners]* residents of such district present and voting, vote to disband, the chair of the board of supervisors or a member of the board shall so certify to the secretary of state. The secretary of state shall issue to the supervisors a certificate of dissolution, and make proper record of this action.