Environmentalists say location of Environmental Court promotes sprawl

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(Host) Environmental groups say the newly expanded Vermont Environmental Court may have a credibility problem when it comes to regulating sprawl. That’s because the court is being located in Berlin, in a suburban location four miles outside downtown Montpelier.

Sandy Levine is a lawyer with the Conservation Law Foundation in Montpelier. Levine and other members of the Vermont Smart Growth Collaborative say the Environmental Court needs to set a better example.

(Levine) “It’s absolutely a bad environmental precedent. And it’s very disappointing that the Environmental Court of all things is fostering this sort of sprawl development.”

(Host) Levine points out that for two decades state policy has called for public investment in downtowns.

(Levine) “I don’t see how a facility like this, outside of town, could ever be considered consistent with this policy.”

(Host) Thomas Torti, the commissioner of Buildings and General Services, says the state first looked for a downtown location, as the policy requires. He says officials couldn’t find any sites that were suitable.

Torti says the leased building in Berlin has close access to the Interstate and is near other office buildings.

(Torti) “So this is not an undeveloped area. In fact, this is an area that the town of Berlin has designated for growth. And in that way, and I’d love to talk to folks from CLF and from the Smart Growth Collaborative. I think it does reflect the principals of smart growth.”

(Host) The state will hold a ten-year lease on the building. The Environmental Court plans to move in next month.

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