What is a town plan?
Town plans, also called comprehensive plans, lay out a vision for the town for next twenty years. What should the zoning do? Should we consolidate schools? What about a new fire truck? How will we conserve wildlife? All of these and more are questions that can be answered in the town plan can answer. The plans expire eight years after adoption so that they do not get stale. Towns are required to have a valid plan in place if they are going to adopt or amend any bylaws, but expiration of a plan will not affect bylaws in place.
Towns are not required to have plans, but if they do, Vermont statute(24 VSA section 4382) lays out the 12 elements they must contain. Town plans are not required to be consistent with the state planning goals in 24 VSA section 4302, but if they are not they can’t get regional approval. Regional approval is needed for access to some grant programs and downtown or village designation. Town plans also function as the community development plans required for CDBG grants.
What is the adoption process for town plans?
The town plan adoption process is laid out in sections 4484 and 4385 of Title 24 of the Vermont Statutes. The planning commission must warn and hold at least one hearing (two in larger towns) on the draft plan before sending it on to the Selectboard. The Selectboard must also hold a hearing prior to adoption. Hearings require 15 days notice, but remember the first mailing has to be 30 days before the hearing.
A handy adoption checklist for plans and bylaws is found here.
What is the Regional Plan?
The Regional Plan is very similar to the town plan in its required parts (though these are laid out in 24 VSA section 4348a), except the scope is regional. Unlike town plans, the Regional Plan must be consistent with the state planning goals in 24 VSA section 4302. For more about the Regional Plan, click here.
How are town and regional plans used in Act 250?
All projects that trigger Act 250 permitting must conform to the local and Regional Plan. In this way, the plans themselves can have regulatory effect. However, this is limited to where they clearly have mandatory language. For example, a policy that “encourages shared parking lots” can be used in Act 250, but can’t mandate shared lots, but a policy that states, “shared parking will be used, when present, to minimize creating impervious surface” creates a mandate. For more on Act 250 go here.
What maps are in town and regional plans?
Both town plans and the Regional Plan are required to have a series of maps, some of which are often combined. One of the main maps is the Future Land Use map, as that is used on the local level to guide zoning districts, and at the regional level to indicate areas for various levels of use. We make a variety of maps using our Geographic Information System (GIS). Click here for more on our mapping services.
What kind of emergency plans are there?
This information is located in another part of our site, click here. Go to Emergency plans