HIGHGATE – The Highgate selectboard brought Montpelier home Thursday night, hosting visits from the town’s recently elected state Senator Corey Parent (R – Franklin) and Representative Charen Fegard (D – Berkshire) for the small audience attending the board’s regular meeting.

The half-dozen-strong audience and selectboard had a host of issues for their new legislators to bring to the upcoming session, but two issues in particular won the most attention last night: economic development, law enforcement and the state’s controversial school consolidation law, Act 46.

“For Highgate, one of our issues is economic development… in our small-town way, trying to figure out the best ways and the best options for us,” said Sharon Bousquet, the chair of Highgate’s selectboard.

She referenced ongoing developments in Highgate, where an area developer was interested in raising an industrial park near the expanding Franklin County State Airport and where a village center planning process was starting to come to fruition.

Parent answered the question of development more immediately, citing a plan by the legislature to revisit Act 250 in the coming session, where, according to Parent, politicians appeared more eager to gear Act 250’s permitting process toward industrial parks and designated downtowns.

Act 250 is a landmark law regarding land use and development in Vermont. The law, enforced through a permitting process, was designed to mitigate the environmental and community impacts of development by judging a development according to a series of environmental standards.

Proponents of the law often attribute Vermont’s successes in conservation and preservation to Act 250, while critics often accost the law for driving away development through its sometimes lengthy and costly permitting process.

As Act 250 approaches its 50th anniversary in 2020, the legislature has sought to revisit Act 250’s standards and permitting process. Lawmakers have called for both a streamlining of the process and the addition of criteria related to climate change.

 

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