The law gives the selectboard
the authority to order a landowner to permit a neighbor to cross
his or her lands in order to remove lumber, wood or other
materials. 19 V.S.A. § 958. The right of way must be restored to
its original condition after the removal of the lumber and the
board may set the length of time and conditions for the use of the
right of way, and can order it to be closed or discontinued when,
in the judgment of the board, it is necessary.
1. Selectboard can create temporary
rights of way to remove lumber.
19 V.S.A. § 959.
2. Selectboard must hold hearing
before granting a temporary right of way. Before it grants a
right of way over a person’s property the board must give 30 days
written notice to the property owner or any interested person
(like a person who might be leasing the property) of when the
board will inspect the property and take testimony. In order to
grant a temporary right of way the board must decide on the
necessity, and establish conditions, including requiring a payment
to the landowner for any damages to the property. It must file its
decision with the clerk within ten days and send it to all
interested parties. Note that the board can deny the request for a
temporary right of way, even if by denying the request the
landowner cannot remove his or her lumber. 19 V.S.A. § 923.
Vermont law makes it illegal for people to stand
in the roadway to solicit from passing vehicles. However, if the
selectboard approves, a not-for-profit or municipal organization
can conduct coin drops or other solicitations (except on limited
access highways). Before it grants a request to conduct a coin
drop the board must be sure that the proposed activities or
location would not create a safety hazard or cause undue traffic
congestion. The board must also be sure that organization has
adequate liability insurance. Note that the law prohibits children
who are under 16 to participate in coin drop solicitations. 23
V.S.A. § 1056.
3. Coin drops must be approved by
Unless a municipal charter provides
otherwise, if the legislative body of a town or village wants to
sell municipal real estate, the board must post a notice of the
terms of the proposed sale in at least three public places within
the municipality, including the clerk’s office, and publish the
notice in a local paper at least 30 days prior to the date of the
proposed sale. The sale may go through unless a petition signed by
five percent of the legal voters of the municipality objecting to
the proposed conveyance is presented to the municipal clerk within
30 days of the date of posting and publication of the notice. If a
petition is received the board must put the question of the sale
to a vote. If the board wishes it may circumvent the notice and
petition process and simply put to public vote the issue of
whether the community should sell a particular municipal property.
If a majority of the voters of the municipality present and voting
vote to approve the proposed conveyance, the real estate may be
conveyed. 24 V.S.A. § 1061.
4. Board must warn public before sale
of municipal property.
The legislative body of a town or
village may authorize the sale of municipal real estate if the
sale is related to the control, maintenance, operation,
construction, relocation or abandonment of highways or public
water, sewer or electric system, or involves real estate used for
housing or urban renewal projects. 24 V.S.A. § 1061.
5. Board may convey certain property
without public input.
Although the decision about whether
to sell municipal property is made by the legislative body of the
town or village or the voters of the municipality, the papers that
effectuate that sale are signed by an agent elected or appointed
to sell property. The certificate of election (if elected) or
appointment (if appointed) must be recorded by the clerk.
6. Municipal property is conveyed by
agent to sell real estate.
24 V.S.A. § 1061.
All records that are produced or
acquired in the course of town or school business are public
records unless an exception in the law permits them to be kept
confidential. Because the law does not include an exemption for
e-mail addresses that are collected by the town (except insofar as
an employee’s home e-mail address might be considered personal
personnel information, or a student’s e-mail address might be
considered private under school privacy laws) this information
will be available to the public. 1 V.S.A. §
7. E-Mail addresses are not exempt
from public disclosure.
8. Any voter in town may work at
polls, except candidates in contested races. Any person who
lives in the town who is on the voter checklist may be appointed
as an assistant election worker by the BCA. (Note that pending
legislation will permit the BCA to appoint 16 and 17 year olds to
work at the polls as well.) However, the law prevents an
individual from serving as an election official in any election in
which his or her name appears on a ballot as a candidate for any
office unless he or she is the only candidate for that office, or
unless he or she is running for moderator, justice of the peace,
town clerk, clerk-treasurer, ward clerk, or inspector of
elections. 17 V.S.A. § 2456.
9. Zoning Administrator may staff
Zoning Board during most deliberations. Except for appeals
from decisions of the zoning administrator, the zoning
administrator may staff the deliberative sessions of the zoning
board of adjustment or development review board. The zoning
administrator may produce copies of bylaws, past decisions of the
board, etc. upon request, but the zoning administrator should not
participate in making the decision.
10. Minutes of all public bodies
including committees and subcommittees of public boards must be
available for inspection and copying within five days of the
meeting. Although some towns or boards post minutes on the
bulletin board or on a website, this is done as a courtesy
only—the law does not require posting of minutes. 17 V.S.A.§ 312
requires that minutes be made available for inspection and copying
within five days of the meeting. The minutes can be marked or
stamped DRAFT until the board approves them, but they must be made
available upon request.
11. Selectboard is not required to
approve minutes. If a selectboard fails to review and approve
of minutes of a prior meeting there is no legal consequence. That
is because all the law requires is that minutes of a meeting be
available for public inspection at least five working days
following the meeting. The minutes are once piece of evidence of
what decisions were made at a meeting. And, while approved minutes
will have greater weight in the event that they are needed as
evidence in court, unapproved minutes will be considered as well.
In no event will the failure to approve minutes call into question
the legality of what occurred at a meeting. 1 V.S.A. § 312(b).
12. Town should not generally use
public funds to maintain private roads. The Vermont
constitution prohibits use of public funds for private benefit.
For this reason we believe it is bad practice for towns to use
public money to maintain private roads. However, in some
circumstances it is acceptable - for instance where there is a
public health or safety reason. (e.g. If there is a low-income
disabled individual on the road who has frequent or possible
serious need of emergency services . . .) Note that some towns
will grade private roads and fix culverts at the request of the
landowners who will pay the town for the work.
13. Clerks can reject incomplete PTR.
The law requires town clerks to accept a PTR only if it is
"complete and regular on its face." 32 V.S.A. § 9607. The
department of Property Valuation and Review has taken the position
that what this means is that the PTR must include all "information
that the commissioner of taxes may reasonably require for the
proper administration of [the transfer tax]," along with the
flood, subdivision and Act 250 disclosure certificates. 32 V.S.A.
§ 9606 (b)(c). (This includes PTR form sections A; B; L or M
through P; the section entitled "Flood and Subdivision Regulations
and Act 250 certificates"; the parties must sign the form; and, if
the property is enrolled in current use, the parties are obligated
to fill in section K, pursuant to 32 V.S.A. § 3757(e).) A town
clerk can require more than this minimal information and may
return forms that are not so complete.
14. Delinquent Tax Collector may not
put tax money in a personal account. The law requires the
delinquent tax collector to pay over to the town treasurer all
money collected every two months and when requested in writing by
the selectboard. 32 V.S.A. § 4646. The collector of delinquent
taxes must never put the collected money into a personal account,
but should instead set up a delinquent tax account (if it is
interest-bearing all interest on principal and interest in the
account goes to the town) for holding the receipts in between the
times the money is paid over to the town. When the money is paid
over to the town it should include the delinquent tax collector’s
fee. The treasurer must take out the proper withholding then issue
a town check in the amount due the delinquent tax collector.
15. Selectboard fills School Board
vacancy with the advice of the school board. 16 V.S.A. § 424
provides that when there is a vacancy on the school board, the
selectboard "with the advice of the remaining school board
members, within 30 days of the creation of the vacancy, appoint a
qualified person to fill a vacancy in the town school board, until
an election at a special or annual meeting is held." As a
practical matter this means that the school board considers
applicants for the open position (if any) and then makes a
recommendation of one or more individuals to the selectboard. If
the selectboard is not satisfied with the recommendations it may
ask the school board to send them new names.
16. Petition may be withdrawn by
withdrawing signatures. A petition to consider an article at a
special meeting cannot simply be withdrawn by those who submitted
it. Rather, a petition can be withdrawn (or made invalid) when
those who signed the petition call and remove their names from the
petition in sufficient number to make the petition no longer
17. Polling places must be accessible
to people with disabilities. Each polling place must be in an
accessible public place in the voting district (unless all
districts in your town vote at one polling place) as designated by
the Board of Civil Authority; unless the voters, at an annual or
special meeting, designate a different place. 17 V.S.A. §§2501,
2502. Boards of Civil Authority and/or town voters must choose
polling places that are ADA accessible. It is also a best practice
to have all polling places in a nonsectarian building whenever
possible. Although rulings in court cases in other states have
upheld the use of a church all-purpose room when absolutely no
other public place is available, it is a best practice to take
this time between elections to find and designate a truly public
18. By 2006, when we must meet all of
the requirements of the new federal law (Help America Vote Act),
we are strongly suggesting that towns combine polling places
wherever possible. Although your town may have more than one
voting district (due to legislative apportionment), you can have
all of your voting districts at one polling place if there is
sufficient room for parking and subdividing the gym or auditorium
into voting districts. If your town is all in one voting district,
there is no need to have more than one polling place, and the BCA
needs to designate only one polling place for the town.
19. Special town or special school
district meetings may be held on any day chosen by the legislative
body, so long as appropriately warned. If other town or school
boards happen to be meeting on the same day, the meeting places
need to be separated, but no law prevents several meetings from
being scheduled simultaneously. Voters may not appreciate it if
they are interested in attending all of the meetings, so we do
suggest coordinating with a "master calendar" before scheduling,
but law does not require it.
20. It's best not to schedule special
meetings on Mondays. When voting on articles by Australian
ballot, it is best practice NOT to schedule special town or
special school district meeting on Mondays or the day after a
holiday. Voters are accustomed to being able to pick up an
absentee ballot on the day before the election, so select a day
when the Town Clerk’s office will be open on the day before the
election. Voters are also accustomed to having the Public
Informational Hearing on the night before the election, and you
don’t want that to fall on a Sunday or Holiday.
21. Reserve fund can be spent without
vote if established for a particular purpose. If a town has
established a reserve fund for a special purpose, such as a
reserve fund for highway equipment, the statute provides that the
reserve fund is to be under the control and direction of the
legislative body (Selectboard or School Board). 17 V.S.A.
§2804. Once a reserve fund is established and funded by town vote,
the Board may expend the funds for such purposes for which the
fund was established without another town vote. If the
legislative body wants to spend those reserve funds for any other
purpose, then the spending must be authorized by a majority of
voters at an annual or special meeting.
22. Only those JPs residing in the
Village can be on the Village BCA. The Board of Civil
Authority of a village consists of the Justices of the town who
reside in the village, the trustees of the village, and the
village clerk. Other Justices of the Peace who reside in the town
but not in the village cannot be involved in administering village
elections. 17 V.S.A. §2103(5).
23. Village checklist includes those
votes on the town checklist who live in the village. A village
clerk shall automatically include all voters living within the
village who are on the town checklist. 17 V.S.A. §2126.
There is no need for the voter to apply separately to the village
24. BCA should purge checklist on a
regular basis. We recommend that Board of Civil Authority meet
at regular intervals to maintain the checklist, including sending
the required notices to remove or purge names. The statute
requires that by September 20 of each odd-numbered year, you must
send a letter to the Office of the Secretary of State certifying
that your checklist has been updated and that detailed records
have been maintained 17 V.S.A. §2150(d)(7).
In our monthly Opinions we provide
what we believe the law requires based upon our legal judgment,
years of observing Vermont’s local government practices, and
Vermont Court decisions. This information is intended as a
reference guide only and should not replace the advice of legal