City of Burlington, Vermont City of Burlington, Vermont

Department of Planning & Zoning
City Hall,  Burlington, Vermont 05401
Phone: 802-865-7188 Fax: 802-865-7195


Comprehensive Planning Overview

Planning for future land development is an essential governmental function. Community land use and development patterns are guided by public policy that forms the basis for where and how we invest in public infrastructure like streets and water/wastewater systems; guide private investment that provides new businesses, housing, institutions, and services; and protect important community resources like water and air quality, cultural and natural features .

Community planning is a process that combines objective information about community resources and trends with more community needs, goals, and aspirations into a road map for how the community will grow and evolve over time. This road map, or community master plan, is then put into action through land development regulations, investments in public facilities and infrastructure, and government programs for things like affordable housing and small business development. Change happens, so we need to anticipate and plan for it!

The Department of Planning & Zoning works in partnership with other City, regional and state agencies in developing a wide range of plans that help assess future community needs and guide future public and private investments in fulfillment of the City's Master Plan.

Planning initiatives currently underway or recently completed include:

  • planBTV South End: NOW UNDERWAY! This is a visioning process for the South End of Burlington. Your Neighborhood, Your Voice! Check out our website for more information and to learn how to get involved in the process.
  • planBTV Downtown & Waterfront: The 2013 planBTV Downtown & Waterfront Plan was adopted unanimously by City Council on June 2013.
  • Burlington Climate Action Plan: 2014 Climate Action Plan was approved by the City Council on March 31, 2014.
  • Open Space Protection Plan: The updated 2014 plan to protect and preserve natural areas and open spaces, maintain and improve ecosystem integrity, guide development, and ensure long-term stewardship of natural resources.
  • Burlington Transportation Plan: New citywide transportation plan for Burlington

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.