Law Office James Palmisano
417 Barre Street
Montpelier, Vermont 05602
Phone: (800) 585-3169
Phone: (802) 229-4001
Fax: (802) 229-2733

Do You need a Local Zoning Permit?

If a town has a zoning ordinance, then you will likely need a zoning permit before commencing work on your project. Most towns and cities in Vermont have adopted a zoning ordinance. For instance, in the Central Vermont area every town and city has adopted zoning, except for four towns: Orange, Roxbury, Williamstown and Worcester.

Most towns require zoning permits for development activities. Some of the things that may require a zoning permit include:

  • Any new construction or any conversion or alteration of an existing building
  • Construction or enlargement of steps, decks, porches, pools, fences or sheds
  • Addition of any new signs
  • A home occupation or home business
  • Subdivision of properties or changes in property line configurations
  • Changes in parking lot configurations
  • Any change of use of a building

When in doubt, the applicant should always check with Zoning Administrator. (Note: If the administrator fails to approve or disapprove a zoning application within 30 days of its submission, the permit is approved automatically on the 31st day.)

Some common activities that may not require a zoning permit include:

  • Replacement of siding, roofs, windows, decks, porches, doors, and signs
  • Replacement of existing fencing with the same material and size as the original
  • Painting
  • Minor grading or excavation
  • Replacement of a building, or portion thereof, where the replacement is substantially equivalent to the original location and configuration
  • Swimming pools less than 150 sq ft


Vermont Zoning Law Summary.

A town’s authority to adopt zoning is covered by Chapter 117 of Title 24 of the Vermont Statutes (or Act 200), which was first enacted by the Vermont legislature in 1967. Zoning ordinances (also known as "zoning bylaws" or "zoning regulations") usually divide a town into different zoning districts. Each district is defined by the types of activities that are allowed within the district boundaries. The allowed activities are usually further divided into what are known as permitted uses and conditional uses. In addition to determining what activities are allowed in each district, the zoning ordinance will usually also define setback areas, building height restrictions and minimum lot sizes within the district.

If a project is a permitted use in the district, usually a zoning permit can be easily obtained directly from the town zoning administrator. The term "permitted use" is also known as "use by right" and refers to a property owner’s use of property in a manner consistent with the uses listed as permissible in the zoning district .  Even if a project is a permitted use within the zoning district most towns will still require a property owner to obtain a permit before starting the project to ensure he or she is aware of the regulations, including setbacks, structure size, and lot coverage, that pertain to the zoning district.

A conditional use permit (CUP) is a permit to authorize a use that is not routinely allowed in a particular zoning district either because of its unusual characteristics or the large area required for its operation. If a project is defined as a "conditional use" in the district, then a conditional use permit will have to be obtained from a local town board referred to as either a Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) or a Development Review Board (DRB).  The process of obtaining a permit from a ZBA or DBA is more formal and may require a public hearing. Decisions by either a ZBA or DBA may be appealed to the Vermont Environmental Court.