The benefits of using mediation, including cost and time savings and better outcomes, have been well documented in negotiation literature over the past three decades. When applied to the land use context, although mediation has successfully resolved disputes it is typically ad hoc, applied from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, case by case, as inclination and resources determine.
To evaluate the use and applications of mediation across a “system” of land use decision-making, CBI and Green Mountain Environmental Resolutions (GMER) conducted an eighteen-month screening and evaluation study in the State of Vermont. The study sought to examine mediation across the land use system within the state, from local boards to the state court level, and to evaluate mediation screening to determine how to identify cases where engaging in mediation may be appropriate, prior to the appeal stage. While the study focused on land use decisions in Vermont, it sought out lessons that can inform local land use decision-making processes in other states across the country.
Evaluation of data on over three hundred Vermont land use cases at the local, Act 250, and Environmental Court levels, resulted in the following lessons learned:
The report makes the following recommendations for designing a mediation screening program:
As disputes become more complex and as resources, time, and money for resolving land use disputes become scarcer, it will be important to find efficient and reliable methods for settling cases. Mediation and mediation screening hold great potential for the efficient and reliable resolution of land use disputes.
Download a PDF of the complete report above.