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Governor Phil Scott Signs Bill to Encourage Development in Downtowns and Village Centers

June 8, 2017

White River Junction, Vt. – Joined by legislative leaders at the Downtown and Historic Preservation Conference, Governor Phil Scott signed S.135 into law to expedite state permitting for housing and increase public investment in buildings and infrastructure in state-designated centers, among other pro-growth initiatives.
“Simplifying and reducing the cost to develop in areas the state has designated for growth is the best way to build vibrant communities, create jobs and increase the tax base,” said Gov. Scott. “This bill builds on our success revitalizing Vermont’s downtowns and villages by addressing both funding and permitting challenges that can limit redevelopment opportunities.” 
The new law does the following, making this the most effective economic development bill in recent years:  
• Makes development in state-designated centers faster and more affordable by increasing the downtown tax credits by $200,000 to $2.4 million annually, exempting housing projects in state-designated centers from a redundant Act 250 review; and enabling six new Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts;
• Expands the existing affordable housing tax credit to captive insurance companies, thereby incentivizing our captives to invest in growing Vermont's affordable housing stock;
• Supports rural economic development with Rural Economic Development Infrastructure Districts;
• Directs the state to study and implement the Green Mountain Secure Retirement Plan, a voluntary retirement program for businesses with 50 or fewer employees; 
• Creates a Career Pathways Coordinator position at the Agency of Education to develop stronger career pathways in our schools and technical centers; 
• Establishes a Heating Fuel and Service Workforce Training Pilot Project to work towards filling the workforce supply gap in this industry; 
• Repeals the sunset on the sales tax exemption for aircraft parts to support the emerging Vermont-Quebec aerospace corridor; and
• Makes Vermont more affordable by reducing employers’ contributions to the worker’s compensation fund.   
Currently Vermont has 23 downtowns and 123 villages that participate in the state’s designation program. Once designated, communities receive training and technical assistance to support the local revitalization process as well as priority consideration for state grants to help plan and implement a range of public improvements. Developers in these designated areas receive Act 250 benefits, reduced permit fees and tax incentives to rehabilitate historic buildings and build new ones. 
In the past year, the state-designated downtown communities have documented nearly $90 million in public and private investment, nearly 134 new and expanded businesses have opened and more than 290 new jobs have been created within the downtown districts.
The Agency of Commerce and Community Development, in partnership with the Preservation Trust of Vermont, hosts the biennial Downtown and Historic Preservation Conference, which provides a forum to share best practices on how communities of all sizes can support creative economies, attract tech entrepreneurs and develop small business. This year’s keynote address was by Joe Minicozzi who speaks nationally on the benefits of investing in downtowns. His research has proven that Vermont’s historic patterns of development are not only more rewarding for the community culturally, environmentally, and aesthetically, but also financially. 
“I want to thank the Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs and Finance Committees, the House Commerce and Economic Development and Ways and Means Committees, and all legislators who supported this legislation,” said Gov. Scott.
The law was signed on June 8, 2017. Portions of the bill are effective on date of enactment of FY 2018-2019 budget.