McClaughry: Deregulating Vermont in to ‘compact settlements’

By John McClaughry

While thousands of messages are pouring in to the House and Senate in opposition to the heating fuel price increases required by the Vermont Climate Council’s “Affordable Heat Plan” (S.5), another political battle is brewing: a battle over control of everyone’s land.

John McClaughry

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Vermonters over age 70 may recall the furious battle over the State Land Use Plan from 1973 to 1976. Act 250, enacted in 1970, was concerned with unchecked development overpowering the capacities of rural cities and towns. The culmination of the Act was to be the creation of a State Land Use Plan that would — literally — enforce the correct use of every acre of Vermont, as determined by expert planners imbued with the Greater Good. This did not prove to be a popular idea.

After four years of tumultuous hearings, the bill to implement a progressively enfeebled version of the Land Use Plan disappeared. In 1987 Gov. Madeleine Kunin tried to resurrect the idea. Her scheme, Act 200, was designed to impose a Plan ominously “uniform in standards, specific in requirements, and tough on delinquents.” Protest meetings in 128 towns made the Governor’s goals unattainable.

In 2020 the Global Warming Solutions Act created a Vermont Climate Council to present a Climate Action Plan. Its goal is to drive down CO2 emissions from fossil fuels by 80% by 2050. The current Clean Heat Standard bill is the initial flash point, but the land use control issue is waiting in the wings.

There is a universally acknowledged need for lots more housing. That will require backing off regulatory obstacles — including Act 250 and local zoning — that are too daunting for a housing developer to confront.

The Climate Council promoters are on board with relaxing some regulatory barriers, but they demand a price. Their Climate Action Plan declares that “[We must] support compact settlement patterns that contribute to the reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, enhance community and built environment resilience, and help conserve natural and working lands.”

That requires channeling development into population centers where people can get around by cycling and walking, and no development anywhere else. This is the 1973 Land Use Plan with a new rationale but the same aim: keeping Vermonters out of the countryside, this time to reduce motor fuel usage, defeat forest fragmentation, reduce “social isolation” and encourage other climate conscious behavior.

An early measure to achieve this is the “Community Resilience and Biodiversity Protection Act” (H.126, 50 cosponsors). Its goal is to make sure that 50 percent of Vermont’s area is “conserved” by 2050. “Conserved” means enjoying permanent protection of intact and connected ecosystems. The bill sets up elaborate planning machinery, but leaves mandatory land use control measures to later legislatures.

A more imminent thrust is S.100, a bill “to promote the supply of affordable housing in this State … and broaden housing opportunities.” The 53-page bill seeks to implement two different policy ideas.

The first 29 sections put the State in charge of a great deal of hitherto local planning, zoning, and control of land use. The bill recognizes that our cherished local control, favoring increasingly expensive single family home ownership, has often led to a shortage of more affordable rental housing. It rolls back restrictive local efforts to thwart locally disfavored housing (such as duplexes, quadriplexes and “accessory dwelling units”) and offers relief from Act 250 and other regulations for compact development in state Natural Resource Board-approved “enhanced designation areas.”

But this transfer to the state of power over local land use regulations in the name of more affordable housing comes at a price. The state wants Yourtown not just to back off the restrictive policies, but to do things its way — compact climate-conscious development — that may well run against what local people want. There are respectable arguments on both sides.

The bill’s targeted deregulation to promote affordable housing naturally troubles those who have spent their adult lifetimes arguing that the path to the Greater Good is more regulation. This bill in effect buys them off with $20 million for Middle Income Home Ownership subsidies, $20 million for Rental Housing Improvements, and $35 million for the Housing and Conservation Board, all to be expended in “compact settlements”.

In a Town Meeting week statement Gov. Scott asked that in the bleak fiscal year approaching, where are legislators going to find $100 million a year for paid family leave, $279 million a year for universal child care, and $2,000 million over four years to finance the price-inflating Clean Heat Standard. He might have added the $80 million for the S.100 subsidies needed to buy support for modest deregulation to promote affordable housing — in compact settlements.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Images courtesy of Public domain and John McClaughry

14 thoughts on “McClaughry: Deregulating Vermont in to ‘compact settlements’

  1. Thank you, John, for writing about this very dangerous bill – S.100.

    It is indeed the Democrats’ plan to depopulate rural Vermont and herd us all into urban communities. That’s what Rep. Welch’s staff manager disclosed in a meeting back in 2016.

  2. 1. We are addicted to fossil fuels and still think nothing of having to pay $42,000 for a car that will be a pile of rust in less than ten years while we pay $7,500 a year to use it. A person living within a quarter-mile of downtown can easily walk to everything– restaurants, library, movie theater, food co-op, thrift store, hairdresser/barber, primary care provider, churches, school and even the cemetery within 5-10 minutes. Among other things, this saves them $7,500 a year.
    2. It’s not the non-profits that are driving up housing costs and housing scarcity. It’s people with enough money to buy houses above market price, then rent them as “family rentals,” thereby denying the renters the chance to save enough for a home of their own.
    3. It’s also the climate refugees who have found out Vermont is free of the droughts, forest fires, earthquakes, traffic jams and overcrowding. They made their pile elsewhere and are willing to bid overmarked to get their little slice of heaven.
    4. It was the federal government that gave us peons the chance to accumulate wealth when it started the FHA back in the 30’s, with the task of building a million homes a year for two decades and creating a financial system that made it possible for our parents to buy them. (Unfortunately, “foaming the runway for the banks” in 2010 made it possible for George Soros, Steve Mnuchin and their ilk to buy at deep discount from the government almost half of the foreclosed homes that over 6.5 million households had to leave. The 440,000 millionaires and 764 billionaires that now claim US domicile can pick up houses almost for pennies. Good luck, Vermonters!)
    4. Walking is one of the simplest and most accessible forms of cardiovascular exercise. Poorer Brits live longer on average than rich Americans because they don’t use cars!

    • cgregory..
      You are showing us your inner control freak.
      It’s not up to you or your party to tell free people where they can live, what they can drive or that they need to walk somewhere.. you live how you choose to live and I’ll live how I choose to live.. You can even get a sex change operation now on the taxpayers dime and be a mystery person that no one can identify- as you smoke weed all day. If people can do this, they certainly can have the car of their choice. This is America incase you forgot.

      Vermont is damn near empty- open up some large acreage and subdivide it into house lots- like has always been done.
      What is the issue here?
      I’m in NH and we are about the same size and yet have double the population- so we are certainly doing our share of taking in those looking to relocate. And in fact, a whole lot of our land is rocky mountainous land not even suitable to build on..but yet we’re getting it done.
      Why is Vermont not doing their fair share?
      It looks to me like you are trying to build a state park.. and only those with the approved Morality can get in.

      • Ms. Stone, I am merely pointing out that addicts very rarely are able to free themselves of addiction by themselves. In my town, the average commute to work is 25 minutes; therefore, people need automobiles to get to workplaces that were installed at remote locations because automobiles are available. You can’t get rid of your car. The need to have a car has enslaved you.

    • It’s not car addiction that drives people out into the hinterlands. Some people just enjoy having space…space to grow their own food, compost their kitchen scraps, do some backyard target shooting, sit around a bonfire and look up at the night sky. Some of us dont like the idea of junkies and vagrants roaming the streets, stealing cars and throwing lawn furniture through our windows, with dwindling levels of police protection. Property ownership promotes personal responsibility and a beneficial do-it-yourself philosophy. The lack of having skin in the game of life promotes irresponsible, antisocial and sometimes criminal behavior. Being an American means having freedom of choice as to how you want to live. If someone wants to pretend they are a different gender than their anatomy dictates, dangle shiny metal objects from holes they punch in their face, color their hair purple or hire someone to inject ink under their skin, more power to them. If someone’s lifestyle choice is to avoid the pathos of urban living, that is to be respected, not reviled. Leftist authoritarians ruling from Montpelier are members of a party that obsesses about the shortage of affordable housing while their national leadership allows hundreds of thousands of indigent migrants across our borders, and they all need a place to live. How is that unsustainable burden on the landscape working out?

  3. This is taken out of the UN 2015 Agenda 2030, which is an update to the failed 1992 Agenda 21.
    It portrays a bleak, dystopian over regulated and overly surveilled future.
    Enthusiastically supported by the Southern Poverty Law Center, so you know it’s worse than bad.
    It is the WEF wet dream.

  4. “Property: The Foundation of All Rights
    It is no accident that a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to justice for all protects property rights. Property is the foundation of every right we have, including the right to be free. Every right claim, after all, is a claim to something — either a defensive claim to keep what one is holding or an offensive claim to something someone else is holding. John Locke, the philosophical father of the American Revolution and the inspiration for Thomas Jefferson when he drafted the Declaration of Independence, stated the issue simply: “Lives, Liberties, and Estates, which I call by the general Name, Property.” And James Madison, the principal author of the Constitution, echoed those thoughts when he wrote, “as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.”

    Much moral and legal confusion would be avoided if we understood that all of our rights — all of the things to which we are “entitled” — can be reduced to property. That would enable us to separate genuine rights — things to which we hold title — from specious “rights” — things to which other people hold title, which we may want for ourselves. It was the genius of the old common law, grounded in reason and custom, that it grasped that point. And the common law judges understood a pair of corollaries as well: property, broadly conceived, separates one individual from another; and individuals are independent or free to the extent that they have sole or exclusive dominion over what they hold. Indeed, Americans go to work every day to acquire property just so they can be independent.”

    Fight the collective!!!

  5. I tend to think that any law saying what you cannot do with your property for the greater good, is nothing less then confiscation of property and the state must pay for it to have their way. Anything else is unconstitutional.

    We would have more housing if there weren’t so many non-profits who don’t pay taxes, buying up houses for their offices in downtowns. No one talks about that.

  6. I believe the goal of all of these environmental and housing bills is to urge people to leave the state so that it can become a safe haven for progressives now living in cities. Our legislators just look and sound stupid, but they have a long-term plan that doesn’t include us.

    • They have succeeded in my case. I’m moving out of this socialist 3rd world hole to escape their crazy agendas.

      • And I hope to be following in your footsteps in the not too distant future. Good for you and I hope you have a wonderful life.

  7. Sounds like they want to make a bunch of concentration camps throughout the state and expect us to just sit on our hands and accept it. Good luck with that.

  8. Another attempt to legislate human nature. It is amazing to me how much these bozos think they can actually do besides pissing off a lot of Vermonters. They will fail, no doubt (and probably blame Trump). Their view of a world utopia is a fantasy. Herding the populace into what is actually a collective or cooperative will not be good for humanity as a species.

    Wake up folks…you cannot legislate human nature! Get over it.

Comments are closed.