Department of Planning & Zoning

Planning in Burlington- A History and Resource Library

History of Planning in Burlington

Land use planning has played a central role in shaping the City of Burlington since 1925 when voters authorized "the creation of a Municipal Planning Commission in accordance with Act No. 107 of the Laws of Vermont of 1921." This action eventually resulted in the city's first land use plan and zoning ordinance in 1947, a subdivision ordinance in 1955 to control the layout of city streets, and subsequent revisions to each as needed.

In the 1960's, the City undertook a major urban renewal program in an effort to revitalize the downtown area. Large tracts of land were created in the Central Business District (CBD) to be available for commercial development. However, urban renewal also eliminated neighborhoods, altered street patterns, and significantly changed the historic context of the downtown. Since 1973, in accordance with the Vermont Municipal and Regional Planning and Development Act (VSA Title 24, Chapter 117), a Municipal Development Plan for the City of Burlington has been prepared every five years. In 1988, the Vermont legislature amended the Act and other statutes affecting land use planning. Collectively known as "Act 200," these changes encouraged comprehensive planning at the state, regional and local levels, facilitated cooperation between communities, and offered a forum to resolve disputes. Communities that choose to plan must do so in an effort to address a common set of statewide goals. The 1991 Burlington Municipal Development Plan was Burlington's first plan to be guided by the goals of Act 200.

Since these guidelines went into effect, many plans, policies, and projects in Burlington can trace their roots back to the Municipal Development Plan, now known as planBTV. A few notable examples include:

  • The 1998 North Street Revitalization Plan, which resulted in a rezoning and significant streetscape improvements along North Street in the Old North End.
  • The 2000 Open Space Protection Plan, which resulted in the creation of the Conservation Legacy Fund, which is now used by Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Department to purchase and protect significant natural areas within the City. 
  • The 2013 planBTV Downtown & Waterfront Master Plan, which includes a vision to restore the urban fabric that was lost to urban renewal in the 1960's, and inspired the multi-year process to redevelop the former Burlington Town Center into a mixed use development and restore lost sections of Pine and St. Paul Streets.
  • The creation and adoption of Neighborhood Activity Center and Institutional Core Campus Overlay zoning districts. 


See below for a number of plans, studies and programs related to the creation and implementation of the City's Municipal Development Plan:

Legacy Project The Legacy Project is a partnership effort aimed to bring the Legacy Action Plan, Burlington’s vision for sustainability in 2030, to life.
Visit the Legacy Website
Climate Action Plan (CAP) Learn about the Climate Action Plan, updated in 2014, and the strategies idenfied for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Visit the CAP website
Open Space Protection Plan 2000 Open Space Plan - Full Report
2000 Open Space Plan - Executive Summary
1.Introduction and Rationale
2.Value of Urban Open Space
3.Status of Open Space
4.Framework for Open Space Protection
5.Implementation Plan
References and Appendices
Conservation Legacy Program Program administered by the Department of Parks and Recreation to manage and coordinate the protection and enhancement of significant natural areas, and other important conservation lands within the City. Program is an implementation of the Open Space Protection Plan.
Visit the CLP Website
Housing and Community Development Action Plan This document explains how the city plans to spend the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnership Act (HOME) funds that the city receives from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD).
2013 Amended Plan
Transportation Plan

This plan is a multi-modal transportation improvement plan that provides a comprehensive and coordinated list of roadway, transit, bicycle and pedestrian facility, streetscape, and land use recommendations. The Plan seeks to implement the Municipal Development Plan and Legacy Action Plan vision of an interconnected system where "transit, cycling, and walking are successfully competing with the automobile for the dominant mode of choice."

Visit the Transportation Plan Website

Waterfront Revitalization Plan A plan to revitalize Burlington's downtown waterfront. A progress report has been prepared to update the status of this 1998 plan.
2011 Progress Report
North Street Revitalization Plan A plan to revitalize the "Main Street" of Burlington's Old North End.
1998 Plan