« Previous  
 Next »

Time flies on permit reform

05/07/03 12:00AM By Mary Barrosse-Schwartz
 MP3   Download MP3 

(Host) Commentator Mary Barrosse-Schwartz is concerned that reform of Act 250 seems to have gotten lost in the current legislative shuffle.

(Barrosse-Schwartz) Okay, it is a tired cliche parents use - but time really does fly when you're raising children. My eldest is going into tenth grade this fall. We're already starting to talk about college and career. Where did the time go?

As my husband and I watch our children grow, we are worrying more and more that they won't be able to find good jobs here at home in Vermont. Right now, there's a heated battle taking place in the Legislature about modifications to Act 250. The outcome of this debate will have a direct impact on our children's future jobs.

Take the question of Act 250 third party status. This provision allows anyone the right to challenge a project. They do not have to be a neighbor, town member, or even directly affected by the development. I wonder how many times third party status has been used to challenge non-profits who wish to expand schools, medical clinics and daycare centers. How many times have third parties negotiated a "settlement" in exchange for dropping their challenge? I know of at least one instance in which this was the case.

Act 250 costs non-profits hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal and site testing fees. The process can be lengthy, expensive, and unpredictable. The cost to our communities is lost service from nonprofits. The cost to our children and families in Vermont is jobs.

Can't we do something about Act 250 before time runs out on this legislative session? Can't the House and Senate sit down together in conference and figure out a compromise before they adjourn? Surely, there must be a middle ground that allows businesses to develop in sane ways, so that we can have good jobs, a strong economy, and a clean environment.

The real shame is that even with all the expense and time involved, sometimes Act 250 does not review projects that raise safety concerns in local communities. A propane tank farm is under construction on Route 7 near East Dorset. The propane storage facility was not required to go through the Act 250 review process because it is built on a land parcel of less than 10 acres. The last time I spoke with the East Dorset fire chief, he was concerned about the facility - a tank farm along a major highway in a narrow valley.

With so little time left in the session, the Legislature should forget about posturing and rhetoric. We'll lose our children's future talent and leadership, if they have to go elsewhere to find good jobs.

Mary Barosse-Schwartz is a mother, a freelance writer and an artist.
comments powered by Disqus
Supported By
Become an Underwriter | Find an Underwiter