PO Box 490, St. Albans Bay, VT 05481
Contractor Registry -
The contractor registry continues on a wayward journey. Governor Scott vetoed a stand-alone bill in February, arguing that the dollar amount in time and materials for a job that would trigger registration was too low ($3,500). Too many small-time contractors would be over-burdened with registry requirements.
But, the registry was revived when the Senate Economic Development Committee took a different tack and attached the same language to the “must pass” Omnibus Housing Bill.
The Governor had been sending signals that his line-in-the-sand amount for registration was $10,000. Last week, in a clear sign of compromise, Democratic and Republican Senators offered an amendment to the housing bill on the Senate floor that raised the registration threshold to $10,000. The trigger for requirement of a written contract is also raised to that amount. Other registry language remains the same, including proof of adequate liability insurance.
Now the bill moves through the House. The registry is only one section of an important bill loaded with initiatives to address Vermont’s housing crisis (see below). VBRA’s advocacy has been instrumental in keeping the registry moving forward and will stay engaged.
Act 250 -
Having already passed out of the Senate, the House now begins deliberation of S.234, the Act 250 bill. The bill shares language with the Omnibus Housing Bill that attempts to ease restrictions on development in areas of downtown flood hazard zones where there is pre-existing development. It also extends Priority Housing Projects to designated Neighborhood Development Areas and increases the allowable number of units from 25 to 50 in towns under 6000 population. PHPs are development projects that are exempt from Act 250 review if they are located within a Designated Program area and meet affordability requirements.
S.234 also creates new definitions of “forest blocks” and “connecting habitats” intended to address forest fragmentation and sprawl into the states forested regions. Presently, the bill contemplates a new jurisdictional “road rule” that would trigger review in these forest blocks. The road rule says Act 250 is triggered for any road or driveway designed over 800ft., or for any combination of roads or driveways over 2000 ft. In lieu of the road rule, the committee has also discussed an elevation trigger of 1500ft as a possible jurisdictional alternative.
The Administration has expressed serious concern over inclusion of the road rule, arguing it may not provide the level of protection proponents desire – developers will still figure out ways around the rule, and it could even discourage thoughtful, appropriate development. Rather, to encourage development away from forests and into already developed areas, the administration has proposed Act 250 exemptions for downtowns, neighborhood development areas and village centers who have earned Designation Program status.
VBRA supports Act 250 exemptions for areas with a high level of local review. Local planning and zoning professionals provide a level of oversight that doesn’t need duplicative Act 250 processes that add cost and time to projects. The Senate and House Natural Resource Committees have been reluctant to adopt exemptions for Vermont’s designated areas. Please consider reaching out to legislators on your district with support for these initiatives.
As mentioned above, Omnibus Housing Bill S.226 has also made its way to the House. In addition to the municipal zoning changes related to infill development and PHP language (also seen in S.234) and the contractor registry, the bill has several programs and appropriations designed to spark housing:
S.226 also exempts a project that receives a water/wastewater connection permit from a local municipality from needing to obtain a duplicative State permit.
The interplay between the similar language in S.226 and S.234 still needs to be ironed out.
Workforce Development -H.703 is the Omnibus Workforce Development bill. It has passed the House with almost $42 million in spending and is now taken up by the Senate Commerce Committee. Specific to contractors, it contains:
More detail can be found in this fiscal note. Many of these programs may be changed or combined as budget pressures become more apparent, and there will be opportunity for VBRA to testify on the current needs in the industry.
RBES Update -
The Vermont Department of Public Service will soon begin updating Vermont's Residential Building Energy Standards (RBES) and Commercial Building Energy Standards (CBES), with the target effective date of Fall or Winter 2023. The code update process will include multiple opportunities for stakeholders to provide input and feedback.
Vermont's Building Energy Standards set minimum efficiency requirements for new and renovated buildings. The standards are designed to reduce energy use and emissions over the life of a building, saving money in the long term and helping Vermont meet its climate goals.
There will be two RBES public stakeholder meetings and two CBES public stakeholder meetings, coordinated with the Energy Futures Group, taking place in April and late May and will be held remotely. To participate please contact Liz Bourguet at the Energy Futures Group (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions.
We have a date for the Annual VBRA Golf Tournament! Friday, September 16th 2022! This year’s tournament will again take place at the beautiful, family run Cedar Knoll course in Hinesburg, VT. It’s never too early to start practicing your swing! Save the date and stay tuned for more info.
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