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Watershed Protection Buffers

The Town of Williston is considering changes to the current watershed protection regulations, with the goal to allow more flexibility for properties that are largely or entirely within watershed protection buffers. The current regulations do not permit any development or mowing within the buffers, and the town has heard feedback from some property owners that the regulations are unreasonably restrictive.  

Chapter 29 of Williston’s Unified Development Bylaw requires that watershed protection buffers be maintained around streams and wetlands. Watershed protection buffers are protective strips of land along both sides of a stream and around the perimeter of a wetland; where trees, shrubs and perennial plants filter runoff before it reaches the stream. In Williston, the size of the buffer depends on the type of stream or wetland it is protecting. The table below illustrates the required buffer widths: 

Stream/Wetland Type


Buffer Size

Named Stream

Allen Brook, Sucker Brook, Muddy Brook, Winooski River             

150 feet

Unnamed stream

All other perennial and ephemeral streams

50 feet

Class 2 wetlands

Significant wetlands as determined by the state

50 feet

Class 3 wetlands

Insignificant wetlands as determined by the state

25 feet*

* Class 3 wetland buffers are encouraged, not required.

In 2012, the town identified 250 properties where structures, driveways and mowed lawns are present within a watershed protection buffer. Activity prior to the 2005 adoption of the buffer requirements is considered “grandfathered.” However, any new development must comply with the current standards. As part of the discussion about whether or how to revise watershed protection standards, the town conducted a survey in March 2019. Survey results can be viewed here.

View this interactive map to find out whether or not your property is in a watershed protection buffer.

More information about stream and wetland buffers is available in the Watershed Protection Buffers brochure linked below. The Lake Champlain Land Trust authored a series of articles discussing best practices for curbing the amount of sediment and nutrients flowing into our waterways. Use the links below to view recent columns.

Plant a Tree (or Two) for Lake Champlain

Natural Landscaping to Help the Lake

Property Changes and Water Quality

Slow the Flow and Save Money with Rain Barrels

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