Fall/Winter 2015-2016 Business Travel Guide
The Vermont Way
Even well-seasoned business travelers can occasionally find a state’s laws and culture confusing. Here, we explore some of the differences and downright quirks in the Green Mountain State.
In the Car
No idling: Since 1973, it has been illegal in Vermont to let your vehicle run while unattended in public.
On May 1 of 2014, a law took effect limiting the idling of all motor vehicles to five minutes in any 60-minute period, occupied or not. There are few exemptions. Burlington is tougher.
No texting or hand-held cell phone use while driving: Effective Oct. 1, 2014, Vermont law prohibits the use, by any driver, of cell phones or other hand-held devices while driving.
Vermont has one of the toughest smoking law in the country. Effective July 1 of this year, it is not legal to smoke a cigarette in cars when a child is present in a car seat or booster seat. If you’re caught, you can be fined up to $100.
The state also bans smoking of tobacco products in nearly all common areas of indoor places of public access. This includes any public or privately owned, for-profit or nonprofit place of business that serves the public or that the public has access to use. Private schools are included, as is the area within 25 feet of all state-owned buildings and offices, except areas not owned by the state.
A separate law bans any tobacco products on public school grounds or at school-sponsored events and licensed child-care homes when children are present. Fines can be as high as $10,000 for each violation.
Act 250 And Act 200
Act 250, Vermont’s comprehensive land-use law, was passed in 1970 to protect against substandard or shortsighted development and the burdens it places on water, sewer, utility, police, and fire services and on schools and roads. Its goal was to protect air and water quality; promote soil conservation; and preserve wildlife habitats and scenic, archaeological, and historic sites.
Proposals for commercial and residential developments that fall under Act 250 are reviewed by one of nine District Environmental Commissions.
To receive a permit, a development proposal is reviewed against 10 criteria specified in Act 250. The procedure provides a public hearing where abutters and interested parties may voice their views. Most Act 250 permits are granted conditionally; two-thirds are issued within 60 days. Of the thousands of applications processed, fewer than 5 percent have been denied. Decisions may be appealed to the state environmental court. Final appeals may be made to the Vermont Supreme Court.
Act 200, a growth management act, went into effect in 1989 to make sure that regional and local plans are consistent with Vermont’s planning goals. This law addresses agricultural land, forest preservation, and affordable housing.
Vermont’s 251 municipalities must have approved town plans to be eligible for state planning funds. Towns that have adopted a capital budget and program may collect impact fees from developers to help fund municipal projects made necessary by development.
A Day Off
Vermonters observe national holidays — weekdays when there is no mail and the banks are closed — in much the same way they are honored in other states. Many states add at least a couple of days that are special on a statewide or local level. Vermont has few, but they are worth noting.
Town Meeting Day. Vermont law reads: “A meeting of the legal voters of each town shall be held annually on the first Tuesday in March unless the town charter says otherwise.” An amendment allows for an alternate date for town meeting “the first Saturday immediately preceding the first Tuesday in March.”
Some public schools (and businesses) close to honor this expression of participatory government. Sales representatives who are planning cold calls in the state in early March might want to phone ahead. Because voting by Australian ballot must be held on that first Tuesday, many people arrive at work a little late or leave a half hour early in order to vote.
Deer Season. Although not a designated holiday, opening day of Vermont’s main, 16-day deer-hunting season, can probably compete with the day after Thanksgiving as a most-requested day off.
The season runs from mid to late November and attracts the attention of all Vermonters, not just hunters.
Following the 16-day rifle-hunting season is a nine-day muzzleloading season. Archery season runs for 23 days, the last nine of which begin on the first Saturday after rifle season.
Huge numbers of Vermonters (mostly men, but that’s changing) spend at least one of the weekends at “deer camp,” traditionally a cabin in the woods with few amenities. More recently, deer camp might include condos or hotel suites ... and many of the hunters really do hunt.
Bennington Battle Day. Aug. 16 marks the anniversary of the Battle of Bennington (actually fought in Walloomsac, N.Y.) when British troops attempted to capture Bennington storehouses of ammunition and supplies. The British were turned back by the so-called “Bennington Mobb” made up of Ira Allen — Ethan was in jail at the time — the Green Mountain Boys, and (mostly) Benningtonians.
The closer you are to the Bennington Monument (the southwest corner of the state), the more likely that businesses will take the day off.
Lack of Billboards
Vermont was the first state to outlaw billboards and enact a set of stringent rules regulating all kinds of signage. A 1968 law prohibits privately owned, off-premises signs and restricts the size, height, and distance from the road of on-premises signs. Signs can’t have moving parts or flashing lights, either. All signs are forbidden on the legal right-of-way. Communities may adopt laws more stringent than the state’s.
Local entrepreneurs have found other eye-catching ways to grab attention. In Leicester, a 19-foot concrete gorilla holds a VW Beetle aloft in one hand over the lot of a used-car dealership. Elsewhere, flags or giant objects sprout on buildings and lawns and elaborately decorated trucks and vans are parked in conspicuous spaces.
No peeking: Since 2005, it has been a crime to peep in windows or use any technology, including cell phone cameras, to spy on people.
In 1991, Vermont lowered the allowance for legal blood alcohol content while driving from 0.1 percent to 0.08 percent. The law imposes stiffer penalties for repeat convictions and requires counseling for offenders.
All hard liquor (anything over 16 percent alcohol content by volume) is controlled by the state. Prices are tightly regulated, so there is no variation among liquor stores. Beer and wine are sold at supermarkets and convenience stores. •