WILMINGTON -- A bill that would impose additional permitting for private property owners along lake shore lines has begun to worry some residents.
Fellow board members agreed to sign a letter written by Selectboard Chairwoman Meg Streeter that would urge legislators to consider stopping the legislation from going into effect.
"Anything over 10 acres is affected by this," she said. "I had some calls from people at Lake Raponda who are very concerned and not the part about keeping the lake clean."
Known as a bill that will offer lake shore land protection and improve water quality, it was mostly established with an eye on Lake Champlain, where high levels of phosphorus were found. It would create additional hoops for property owners while putting new restrictions on clearing land adjacent to lakes and creation of driveways as well as other impervious surfaces.
For Wilmington, the legislation would affect property owners along Lake Raponda as well as the Harriman Reservoir.
The bill calls for a permitting process for development within 100 feet of the water and a specific amount of trees for different dimensions of land. Trimming trees as well as building fire pits or sitting areas would also be reviewed with 250 foot buffer zones in areas designated as protected shore land areas.
Those against the legislation say it is an intrusion on property rights and Vermonters tend to look after the water around the state. Supporters believe it will provide important protections to key wildlife habitat and to water quality.
On Feb. 5, the Selectboard agreed to sign the letter. Two days later, the bill advanced on a 22-6 vote.
Now, the language of the bill will be discussed in the House committee for Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources, which will review changes submitted by the Senate. According to state Rep. David Deen, a Westminster Democrat, the bill had been in the works for two years and New Hampshire has had the law in place since 1991.
For Streeter, an additional permitting process for owners of property along Lake Raponda and the fact that the town owns 20 acres itself was enough for the Selectboard to express its concerns.
In October, state Sen. Bob Hartwell, a Bennington Democrat, appeared at a Wilmington Selectboard meeting to discuss the proposed regulations outlined in the bill. At the time, he said the House of Representatives passed the legislation by a "pretty big margin."
Hartwell told the board he had visited Lake Raponda and did not believe there was a concern.
"The vegetation along the line does not appear to be threatened," he said.
The House had established standards in its statute that said "this bill would require the Agency of Natural Resources to adopt by Jan. 1, 2015 rules establishing shoreland protection standards for areas -- known as protected shoreland areas -- within 250 feet of the mean water level of a lake."
By that deadline, permits would need to be acquired from ANR. But, municipalities may also have the right to approve or deny applications.
"We theoretically, as a town, could adopt some of the same regulations that mirror the state's and issue our own permits. If this gets passed, this may be a faster source of permitting for land owners," said Streeter. "But the best thing would be that it doesn't get passed at all."
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or email@example.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.