Letter: Milne Misunderstands Act 250
To the Editor:
Having been associated with Act 250 for many years, I am compelled to respond to Scott Milne’s interpretation of Act 250 and its process (Perspectives, Aug. 11).
Mr. Milne purports to believe that the purpose of Act 250 is to “create a foundation for economic health,” and thus, he is frustrated and indignant that the District III Environmental Commission denied his proposed commercial project in Quechee. With that as a premise, one might understand his fierce reaction.
But Act 250 is a land use and development law, not a law that promotes economic growth. The statute with its 10 environmental criteria is intended to ensure that commercial developments are environmentally sound, do not pose undue burdens on the local and regional communities, and meet the development goals of the relevant town and regional plans. If a project receives an Act 250 permit, Vermont citizens can be reasonably assured that the project will not cause undue air or water pollution, soil erosion, or traffic congestion, and will preserve critical wildlife habitat and important historic sites, etc. These are but a very few examples of land use concerns that Act 250 commissioners have considered when granting a permit.
What is striking about Mr. Milne’s vicious attack on both the District III commission and the regional commission is his apparent lack of information and knowledge about the purpose of not only Act 250, but also of local and regional planning commissions, and the nature of the quasi-judicial permitting process itself.
Sometimes the goals of nearby towns and regional areas differ and may conflict in what commercial development is welcomed. By law, the regional plan prevails over a town plan. However, Mr. Milne seems to trust only in the Town of Hartford’s position regarding his project and fails to recognize differences of competing interests. He also seems not to understand his burden of proof as a developer to satisfy the 10 criteria as well as to address the multiple interests represented by all the parties that Act 250 is designed to bring together.
Perhaps if he had better educated himself about the relevant development plans, as Peter Gregory of Two Rivers advised him, Mr. Milne would not be in his current situation. The parties to this process are not there to promote Mr. Milne’s commercial business, but to express concerns and issues related to At 250’s 10 criteria as raised by Mr. Milne’s project, and after a fair hearing of the evidence, the commission’s duty is to ensure all statutory criteria have been met. Mr. Milne is entitled to disagree with the outcome, but assuming he participated fully in the hearing process, he should not be surprised. His remedy is to appeal, not to attack the commissions.
Janis M. Murcic, Esq.
The writer is former chair of the District III Environmental Commission.