State Senate looks at revisions to shoreline protection bill



A Senate version of a lake shorelands protection bill passed by the Vermont House could include exemptions for small projects under its regulations.

The Agency of Natural Resources has come up with some revision for a bill detailing statewide standards for building along Vermont’s lakes. The bill, which applies only to lakes larger than 10 acres in size, creates a protected zone extending up to 250 feet from the shoreline under certain conditions.

The Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy reviewed the proposals last Friday. This week, the committee will mark up a bill amending H.526, which passed the House last year.

The ANR bill includes permit exemptions for such actions as clearing a 6-foot wide path down to the water, for projects within the existing footprint of the home, and the maintenance of existing lawns, gardens, or beaches.

Larger lakeshore projects less than 100 square feet in size, such as the construction of a shed or boathouse, would only require a 15-day registration.

Projects within the protected zone that do require a permit would be subject to a set of standards under the ANR revisions: no construction on a 20 percent slope; less than 40 percent of the parcel’s area can be cleared of its natural vegetative cover; and less than 20 percent of a parcel’s area can contain impervious surfaces that prevent the absorption of water runoff.

All projects are permissible as long as they fit within these flexible parameters, said David Mears, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation.

"There may be some instance where there could be no development, but those should be relatively rare. For the most part, what the permit requirements will do is they will affect the placement of the building and how big it is. And those things will be dependent on some choices that the developer of the project will have," Mears told the committee on Friday.

Mears said the department is open to discussing ways to finance the necessary staff to police the regulations. The current bill as proposed by the House requires a $75 registration and $500 permit fee.

Under the proposal, which has drawn fire from some concerned about state overreach on property rights and regulations, the agency can override existing municipal regulations. This would prevent inconsistent shoreline regulation from town to town, proponents of the provision say.


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