Open Meeting Law. Vermonts Open meeting law applies to both the meetings and hearings of the
various local boards. It has three basic requirements: All public bodies who hold meetings
must provide notice of the meeting, provide the public with an opportunity to be
participate in the meeting, and minutes of the meeting must be taken in order for a record
of the business of the meeting and actions taken to be available at a later date. There
are a few exceptions to the open meeting law set out in statute which allow boards to go
into a closed or "executive" session. These exceptions include, for example,
considering contracts, or civil actions where premature general public knowledge would
place the municipality at a substantial disadvantage. Board quasi-judicial hearings apply
a modified version of the open meeting requirements since, for example, only interested
parties (as defined by statute) may participate in the hearings and the deliberations of
the boards are not considered public meetings. 1 V.S.A. § 312.
Quorum Rules. According to 1 V.S.A. § 172, a board may only act with a concurrence of the
majority of the board. When determining how many board members are needed to count a
majority, the board, as legally constituted (by statute, selectboard or bylaw) is
considered. If a board does not have a majority of members willing to approve a permit
request, then the request is denied.
A board may adopt its own rules of procedure for meetings. These rules will apply when
the board is acting on administrative or legislative (adopting bylaws) matters. Meetings
are generally run by the chair and follow an agenda that has been made available to board
members and the public prior to the meeting. There must be some opportunity for public
discussion of the issues on the agenda.
Hearing Process. Quasi-judicial hearings must follow a procedure that will guarantee that the
interested parties will receive due process. Due process includes a right to
notice and an opportunity to be heard, and not the right to a particular outcome in the
matter. The right to due process also means that the zoning board, planning commission
and/or development review board cannot deny a person the right to be represented by
counsel and to present relevant information or evidence at the hearing. Board hearings
must be formally opened and closed, witnesses should be sworn and all interested parties
(including the applicant or appellant) must be given an opportunity to present evidence
and question opposing witnesses. The board may only consider relevant evidence provided by
the parties during the hearing or from a site visit when it makes its decisions. A board
may re-open a hearing if it finds that it needs additional information.