Hartwell explained that 40 years ago when Act 250 was created, the state’s lakeshore and pond regulations were relaxed, and compared to New Hampshire and Maine’s lake and pond water quality, Vermont’s is “disturbing.”
The House bill, which still needs to be voted and worked on in the Senate, does not outlaw building within the 250-foot zone, but would require lakefront property owners to obtain an ANR permit before performing any construction. Hartwell said the open nature of the bill will still allow landowners to build, as long as projects are within the guidelines. “Instead of trying to mandate, and say that you can’t do anything within a certain amount of feet of the water,” said Hartwell. “It’s a 250-foot area of interest to take a look at, not an arbitrary decision. Setting limits makes it harder for people to accept.”
The bill is not intended to stop anyone in their tracks, according to Hartwell, and will not affect ongoing permitted development, roads or access to lakes.
Selectboard member Jacob White asked what qualms residents on Lake Raponda might have about the bill. “There is a trend to upgrade what we call camps on lakes, which are not full-time four-season houses,” said Hartwell. “Those buildings have a tendency to evolve in size and if someone wanted to add substantially to a house they’d have to get a permit and that permit has conditions on what vegetation has to remain and what can’t be disturbed.”
The bill will also set up a system by which individual municipalities can create their own regulations instead of using state regulations. Selectboard member Susie Haughwout questioned why a town would want to make use of this provision if the state has overriding authority. “It’s similar to adopting your own sewer regulations or not,” said Haughwout. “If the town is going to write its own regulations there must be a standard by which the state deems a town’s regulations to be legal if, say, we didn’t conform to some of the things the state had set forward.”
Hartwell compared the issue to whether towns have influence over subdivisions and zoning or whether they refer to Act 250 for decisions. Over 50 towns in Vermont have lakes, and some have already enacted these types of rules and have been using them without the bill. Hartwell also said the Senate will work on creating a more streamlined permitting process. If someone on a shoreline wanted to build and has acquired all the necessary zoning permits, Hartwell says there’s no reason why the ANR should hold things up unnecessarily.
While Hartwell said that Lake Raponda’s shoreline is in very good condition, the purpose is to keep it that way, citing Woodford Pond’s over-development and problems with shoreline septic systems.
“When we first read the law,” said selectboard chair Meg Streeter, “our concern was we have a beach and this law doesn’t want sandy beaches with sediment washing into lakes, but this looks like from what we’ve read there won’t need to be changes.”
Haughwout also asked Hartwell if the Senate does put language referring to sandy beaches into the bill that the selectboard be notified so they may have the option of testifying against it.
Hartwell expects the bill to be worked on and passed in January.