§ 1201. Definitions
As used in this chapter:
(1) "Contested hearing" means one of the following:
(A) A case in which an applicant for a land use permit under 10 V.S.A. chapter 151 is required to obtain local Act 250 review of municipal impacts by a municipality that has taken steps required under section 4420 of this title to allow it to conduct that local review.
(B) A hearing, under chapter 117 of this title, which will be subject to review on the record, as determined under procedures established in that chapter.
(C) A hearing which a provision of law requires to be heard according to procedures established in this chapter.
(D) A hearing by a municipal body which is not required by law to be conducted according to procedures established in this chapter, but which the municipality elects to conduct in accordance with this chapter.
(2) "Directly or indirectly interested" means a financial or personal involvement in the contested hearing or with any party.
(3) "Local board" means the entity authorized to conduct a contested hearing.
(4) "Party," for purposes of proceedings under chapter 117 of this title, other than those related to local Act 250 review of municipal impacts, means "interested person," as defined by subsection 4465(b) of this title. "Party," for purposes of local Act 250 review of municipal impacts, means a person whose interests, under relevant provisions of 10 V.S.A. § 6086(a) being reviewed at the municipal level, may be affected by a proposed development or subdivision, as those terms are defined in 10 V.S.A. chapter 151. "Party" for purposes of other proceedings under this chapter, shall have the meaning established under statutes controlling those proceedings. (Added 1993, No. 232 (Adj. Sess.), § 44, eff. March 15, 1995; amended 2003, No. 115 (Adj. Sess.), § 76, eff. Jan. 31, 2005.)
§ 1202. Application
(a) This chapter shall be used by local boards conducting contested hearings, where required by law, and may be used by local boards conducting contested hearings, even where not required by law. Local determinations to use this chapter, unless otherwise provided by law, shall be made by majority vote of those voting at a duly warned special or annual municipal meeting, or may be made on behalf of the municipality by the legislative body.
(b) This chapter creates only procedural rights and imposes only procedural duties. They are in addition to those created and imposed by other statutes.
(c) This chapter provides the minimum due process rights of parties in contested hearings. A local board may grant additional rights to parties so long as the rights of other parties are not substantially prejudiced.
(d) A local board may adopt additional procedural rules not inconsistent with this chapter governing its hearings. The ordinance adoption process established by chapter 59 of this title shall be used for this purpose. (Added 1993, No. 232 (Adj. Sess.), § 44, eff. March 15, 1995.)
§ 1203. Conflicts of interest
Local boards shall comply with the provisions of 12 V.S.A. § 61(a) when they conduct contested hearings and make findings under this chapter. For purposes of this section, prohibitions referring to those within the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity shall refer to the person's spouse, as well as to the person's and the spouse's: parent, child, brother, sister, grandparent, or grandchild. (Added 1993, No. 232 (Adj. Sess.), § 44, eff. March 15, 1995.)
§ 1204. Notice
(a) Initial public notice of any hearing under this chapter shall be provided in accordance with applicable statutes. All parties and interested persons shall be given an opportunity for hearing after reasonable notice.
(b) At any hearing held under this chapter, opportunity shall be given to all parties to respond and present evidence and argument on all issues involved.
(c) If a hearing is to reconvene at a later date, it shall be deemed sufficient to constitute proper notice of that later session, if an announcement made before adjournment of the previous session of the hearing specifies the time, date and place of that later session. (Added 1993, No. 232 (Adj. Sess.), § 44, eff. March 15, 1995.)
§ 1205. Procedure at hearing
(a) The chair or vice-chair of the local board shall preside at the hearing. If neither is available, the board shall elect a temporary chair.
(b) The presiding officer may conduct all or part of the hearing by telephone, television, or other electronic means, if each participant in the hearing has an opportunity to participate in, hear, and, if technically feasible, to see the entire proceeding as it is taking place.
(c) The presiding officer shall cause the proceeding to be recorded. (Added 1993, No. 232 (Adj. Sess.), § 44, eff. March 15, 1995.)
§ 1206. Evidence
(a) All testimony of parties and witnesses must be made under oath or affirmation.
(b) Irrelevant, immaterial or unduly repetitious evidence shall be excluded. The rules of evidence as applied in civil cases in the superior courts of this state shall be followed. When necessary to ascertain facts not reasonably susceptible of proof under those rules, evidence not admissible under those rules may be admitted if it is of a type commonly relied upon by reasonably prudent people in the conduct of their affairs.
(c) When a hearing will be expedited and the interests of the parties will not be prejudiced substantially, any part of the evidence may be received in written form, to expedite the presentation of direct testimony of a witness, provided the witness is available for direct testimony and cross-examination at the hearing on this evidence.
(d) Documentary evidence may be received in the form of copies or excerpts, if the original is not readily available. Upon request, parties shall be given an opportunity to compare the copy with the original. (Added 1993, No. 232 (Adj. Sess.), § 44, eff. March 15, 1995.)
§ 1207. Ex parte communications
(a) A presiding officer shall not communicate, directly or indirectly, with any party, party's representative, party's counsel, or any person interested in the outcome of the proceeding, on any issue in the proceeding, while the proceeding is pending, without notice and opportunity for all parties to participate.
(b) No other members of a local board sitting in a contested hearing shall communicate on any issue in the proceeding, directly or indirectly, with any party, party's representative, party's counsel, or any person interested in the outcome of the proceeding, while the proceeding is pending.
(c) A presiding officer who receives an ex parte communication on any issue relating to the proceeding and a member who receives any ex parte communication shall place on the record all written communications received, all written responses to those communications, and a memorandum stating the substance of all oral communications received, all responses made, and the identity of each person making the ex parte communication. (Added 1993, No. 232 (Adj. Sess.), § 44, eff. March 15, 1995.)
§ 1208. Qualification of members
(a) Members of a local board in a contested hearing shall not participate in the decision unless they have heard all testimony and reviewed all other evidence submitted for the board's decision.
(b) Members who have not attended every session of the board in a contested hearing may participate in the decision if they have listened to the recording of the testimony they have missed (or read transcripts of this testimony) and reviewed all exhibits and other evidence, prior to deliberation. (Added 1993, No. 232 (Adj. Sess.), § 44, eff. March 15, 1995.)
§ 1209. Decisions
(a) A final decision in a contested hearing shall be in writing and shall separately state findings of fact and conclusions of law.
(b) Findings of fact shall explicitly and concisely restate the underlying facts that support the decision. They shall be based exclusively on evidence of the record in the contested hearing.
(c) Conclusions of law shall be based on the findings of fact.
(d) The final decision in any case involving local Act 250 review of municipal impacts shall include notice that it constitutes a rebuttable presumption under the provisions of 10 V.S.A. chapter 151, and notice that presumption may be overcome in proceedings under 10 V.S.A. chapter 151.
(e) The presiding officer shall cause copies of the decision to be delivered to each party.
(f) Transcriptions of the proceedings of contested hearings shall be made upon the request and upon payment of the reasonable costs of transcription by any party. (Added 1993, No. 232 (Adj. Sess.), § 44, eff. March 15, 1995.)
§ 1210. Appeals
Appeals under this chapter shall be taken in the manner established for the underlying proceedings to which this chapter is applied. (Added 1993, No. 232 (Adj. Sess.), § 44, eff. March 15, 1995.)