Vermont State Coat of Arms 
 

  Natural Resources Board

Mediation

The Natural Resources Board's Mediation Initiative

The Act 250 Statute and Rules require that the District Commissions promote the expeditious, informal, and non-adversarial resolution of the issues. Since the passage of Act 250, the District Commissions have always encouraged parties to resolve their differences informally. While many parties are able to reach settlement on their own, mediation can significantly improve the chances that the parties will find a mutually acceptable settlement.

The decision whether or not to engage in mediation is completely voluntary. If the applicant and the other parties agree to mediate, they must select and hire a qualified mediator. A qualified mediator may be chosen from the Environmental Courtís roster of mediators, or the parties may select another qualified mediator. The cost of the mediator is often split equally among all parties; however, the parties can agree to other ways of sharing responsibility for these costs. The law requires the District Commission to review settlement agreements for compliance with Act 250, so it may be helpful to hire a mediator who has Act 250 experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Mediation?
Mediation is a process in which the parties meet with a mutually selected impartial and neutral person -- the mediator -- who assists them in the negotiation of their differences. Mediation leaves the decision making power with the parties. The mediator does not decide what is "fair" or "right."

What is the Mediatorís Role?
The mediator acts as a catalyst between opposing interests attempting to bring them together by defining issues and eliminating obstacles to communication, while moderating and guiding the process to avoid confrontation and ill will.

The mediator does not represent any party and has no bias against any party or their position. It is not the mediatorís role to impose an agreement on any party.

What is a Mediation Session Like?
Mediation may begin with a joint session to set an agenda, define the issues and ascertain the position and/or concerns of the parties. The joint session is usually followed by a separate caucus between the mediator and each individual party or their counsel. This allows each side to explain and enlarge upon their position and mediation goals in confidence. Depending on the nature of the dispute and the dynamics of the mediation sessions, the mediator may alternate between joint and private sessions until the parties have resolved their differences, decided to reconvene for additional sessions, or determined that further mediation is no longer constructive.

What are the benefits of Mediation?

  • Mediation can be much faster than the District Commission hearing process. If a settlement is reached through mediation, the District Commission still needs to review the terms of the settlement for compliance with Act 250. Successful mediation takes much less time than it would to go though the District Commission hearing and an appeal at Environmental Court. This can also mean considerable cost savings.

  • Mediation is less formal and allows parties an opportunity to express their concerns freely.

  • Mediation allows parties the opportunity to tell their side of the story in their own words. In hearings, lawyers and expert witnesses do most of the talking. Mediation is less formal and allows parties an opportunity to express their feelings.

  • Mediation allows parties to focus on the issues that are most important to them, even if they are not directly related to the Act 250 criteria at issue.

  • Mediation can help all parties resolve other issues related to the dispute and agree on ways to handle any future problems related to the project.

What Should I do to Prepare for the Mediation?

  • Before the mediation -- Think about what points you want the mediator to understand. Think about the weak points in your case. Think about the strong points of the other side. Think about reasonable ways to resolve the dispute that would satisfy you. Realize that there may be many ways to resolve the dispute that satisfy your interests that you have not thought of yet. Mediation works best when parties are flexible on how their interests can be met.

  • During the Mediation -- Bring all the documents and drawings that you think are important to help explain your side of the case. Bring extra copies for the other parties and the mediator. Have someone at the mediation who has decision making authority for your side.


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