January 01, 2020

Historic Preservation Law: A Green Mountain Perspective

Jess Phelps and Mary O’Neil

Over the past several decades, historic preservation has become an important component of contemporary land use. There is growing recognition that the retention of historic places can fundamentally define our communities in positive ways. As a result, historic preservation has shaped the appearance of many of our nation’s most significant places. Based on the prevalence in the popular imagination of the role of preservation regulations, historic preservation has been largely viewed as an urban phenomenon. Not surprisingly then, most historic preservation tools, such as the local historic district, reflect this urban-centric focus regarding what and how to preserve historic resources. There are, however, unquestionably important nonurban historic resources––ranging from rural village centers to farms––that also merit serious preservation attention. How does historic preservation law influence and interact with historic resources in areas that lack the density to rely so predominantly on collective regulation and design review to accomplish preservation objectives? This article explores how historic preservation law works in a rural state, specifically Vermont––a state recognized in the popular imagination for its historic character and brand.

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