Vermont’s Shorelands Protection Act goes into effect July 1

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Vermont’s Shorelands Protection Act goes into effect July 1

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 2:26pm -- tim

Vermont’s recently created Shoreland Protection Act goes into effect beginning July 1. In May, the Vermont General Assembly passed shoreland protection legislation that applies to activities within 250 feet of a lake or pond’s mean water level for all lakes and ponds greater than 10 acres in surface area. The Act establishes a new state regulation for guiding shoreland development. The intent of the Shoreland Protection Act is to prevent degradation of water quality in lakes, preserve habitat and natural stability of shorelines, and maintain the economic benefits of lakes and their shorelands by defining standards in creation of buildings, driveways, and cleared areas in shorelands.

The Act recognizes that many shoreland properties in Vermont are already developed or are small parcels that cannot meet the new standards. Developed properties are “grandfathered” until the owner proposes redevelopment. On existing small parcels, the Shoreland Permit Program staff will work with homeowners so that the standards are met to the extent possible in cases of development and redevelopment.             

A designated staircase limits trampling of vegetation and preserves soil on slopes. Note too, gabions to left and right of staircase provide protection from erosion, but allow vegetation to grow through the wires. Photo by Mike Winslow, Lake Champlain Committee.

The Shorelands Protection Act requires the use of Vegetation Management Practices to protect vegetation within 100 feet of the mean water level of lakes and ponds. Within the first 100 feet the Act requires that new development be setback at least 100 feet. On existing small parcels the specification is setback as far as the parcel allows. Additionally, the Act requires the permit applicant to demonstrate building on a slope greater than 20% will not compromise slope stability. It also creates a maximum 20% impervious surface and 40% cleared area coverage; unless best management practices are utilized to mitigate the effects of additional impervious surface and cleared area.

The Act allows the following to be registered once per parcel for the lifetime of the parcel: (1) creating no more than 100 square feet of impervious surface or cleared area at least 25 feet from mean water level; and (2) creating no more than 500 square feet of impervious surface or cleared area at least 100 feet from mean water level of the lake. Any project involving new cleared area or impervious surface that exceeds the registration limits of a parcel will require a shoreland permit. Shoreland registrations and permits will require compliance with the standards outlined in the Act, and must consider all impervious surface and cleared areas on a parcel, including those created prior to July 1, 2014.             

Although the Act requires shoreland owners either register or apply for a permit when proposing a project within 250 feet of the mean water level of a lake, a variety of activities along lake shorelines do not require a permit. These activities include:

·        Maintenance, but not expansion, of lawns, gardens, landscaped areas, and beaches in existence on July 1, 2014

·        Creation of one six foot wide footpath to mean water level

·        Construction within the impervious surface footprint in existence July 1, 2014

·        Wastewater systems and potable water supplies

·        Repair and replacement of transportation infrastructure, including private roads

·        Silvicultural activities

·        Agricultural activities

·        Utility projects and lines

·        Projects with an Act 250 permit

·        Projects within designated downtowns and village centers

·        Certain urban and industrial redevelopment. 

Regarding municipal delegation, the Act allows the Vermont Dept. of Environmental Conservation to approve municipal bylaws or ordinances that achieve functionally equivalent protection for lake shorelands and delegate regulatory authority to those partner municipalities.

The Shoreland Permit Program has prepared guidance documents to help explain the Act, available on the Program’s website: (link is external)

The Program is also hosting a series of field training workshops and information sessions, free and open to the public. The schedule for these meetings is also available at the web address listed above, or by calling (802) 490-6196.

For more information contact the Shoreland Permit Program at (link sends e-mail) or by phone at 802-490-6196. Questions regarding municipal delegation can be directed to Susan Warren at (link sends e-mail), or 802-490-6134.