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ACT NO. 40

(H.475)

Conservation; Act 250; Recorded Hearing Pilot Project

This act repeals environmental board rule 2(A)(6), that defines “development” to include certain projects on highways that are 800 feet in length, or more, or that provide access to more than five parcels. The act replaces this repealed rule with a provision that expands the definition of “subdivision” to include land which a person has divided into six or more lots, within a continuous period of five years, in a municipality which does not have duly adopted permanent zoning and subdivision bylaws. The act provides that a person who completely transfers ownership and control of property that is the subject of an Act 250 permit shall not be liable for later violations of that permit by another. The act requires affected agencies to establish a regular schedule of project review, and requires that state employees whose job is to assist applicants in the Act 250 process shall endeavor to assist all applicants, regardless of the size of the project involved. It allows a district commission to stay the effective date or issuance of a permit, if it determines by clear and convincing evidence that the applicant is in violation of specified related requirements. The act amends Act 250 criterion 10 by providing that if the environmental board or a district commission finds a town plan to be ambiguous, it shall consider bylaws, but only to the extent that they implement and are consistent with the plan, and need not consider other evidence. The act provides that certain technical determinations of the agency of natural resources shall be accorded substantial deference by the district commissions and the environmental board. With respect to certain temporary physical improvements for the purpose of producing films, television programs, or advertisements, the act provides that Act 250 jurisdiction shall not continue after the improvements are no longer in place and the conditions in the permit have been met, provided there is no long-term adverse impact under the 10 criteria. The act requires a district commission to issue a stay of construction for 14 days, upon timely receipt of a request for a stay submitted by a party, together with a notice that the party intends to appeal to the board.

The act establishes three pilot projects: one that allows Act 250 parties, in a limited number of instances, the option of requesting that proceedings before the district commission be recorded, and that any appeals to the environmental board be heard on the record developed before the district commission. This procedure shall take place no more than 12 times throughout the state, without further legislative action, and must be with the consent of all the parties. The act establishes a facilitator pilot project, pursuant to which a limited service employee shall be assigned to assist applicants for small projects in developing a complete application and otherwise preparing for their participation in proceedings under Act 250, to assist parties who are not applicants in preparing for their participation in proceedings under Act 250, and to assist applicants in identifying other Act 250 parties and in the exchange of information among parties. It also establishes a mediator pilot project, pursuant to which the environmental board would contract for mediation services to be provided at no cost to the Act 250 parties. The pilot projects shall all be the subject of interim and final reports, and all expire on September 1, 2004.

The act establishes a study on the land use permitting process, to be conducted in six meetings by a specified group of legislators, state government representatives, and representatives of other specified interests. The group is required to examine the land use permitting process for the purpose of recommending legislation that would accomplish the following, while assuring citizen participation and environmental protection: categorize permits that should have similar processes and identify the environmental protection goals that each process seeks to achieve; list permits that should have presumptive weight under Act 250; recommend pilot projects in which different regulatory units would conduct reviews together; recommend different permits that could be consolidated; review common parts of the entire land use permitting processes, including public participation components, for strategies that would result in standardization; review the end result of the entire permitting process for overlap, redundancy, and efficiency and for logical sequencing of appeal routes and appeal procedures; report the positive and negative effects of allowing all parties to appeal to the supreme court; and recommend strategies for predictability. Finally, the act requires legislative council, in consultation with the committees on natural resources and energy, to investigate mechanisms used by other governmental entities to address the issue of cumulative growth.

Effective Date: July 1, 2001