Connecticut Seal

Substitute House Bill No. 7275

Public Act No. 07-131

AN ACT CONCERNING THE FACE OF CONNECTICUT.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Subsection (a) of section 7-131e of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2007):

(a) Grant award decisions under the protected open space and watershed land acquisition grant program established under section 7-131d or under the Charter Oak open space grant program established under section 7-131t shall be made by the Commissioner of Environmental Protection at least semiannually. All complete and eligible grant applications shall be acted upon by the commissioner as soon as practicable. A single project may receive a grant in more than one grant cycle, subject to future availability of funds and subject to the limitations set forth in this section and sections 23-78, 12-498 and 7-131d. Up to [two] five per cent of the grant funds may be used for administrative expenses including, but not limited to: (1) Contractors to assist the Department of Environmental Protection in the review and evaluation of grant proposals and baseline data collection for conservation easements; (2) appraisals or appraisal reviews; and (3) preparation of legal and other documents. Administrative expenses may not be used for staff salaries. Not later than September 1, 1998, for the protected open space and watershed land acquisition grant program established under section 7-131d, and not later than September 1, 2000, for the Charter Oak open space grant program account established under section 7-131t, the commissioner shall develop written guidelines and a ranking system for consistency and equity in the distribution of grant awards under the protected open space and watershed land acquisition grant program established under section 7-131d or under the Charter Oak open space grant program account established under section 7-131t based on the criteria listed in subsections (b) and (c) of section 7-131d. Consistent with such criteria, additional consideration shall be given to: (A) Protection of lands adjacent to and complementary to adjacent protected open space land or class I or class II water company lands; (B) equitable geographic distribution of the grants; (C) proximity of a property to urban areas with growth and development pressures or to areas with open space deficiencies and underserved populations; (D) protection of land particularly vulnerable to development incompatible with its natural resource values including the protection of a public water supply source; (E) consistency with the state's plan of conservation and development; (F) multiple protection elements, such as water quality and supply protection, scenic preservation and farmland preservation; (G) the extent to which the presence of already constructed buildings or other manmade improvements diminish or overshadow the natural resource value of a proposed acquisition, or its value relative to its cost; and (H) preservation of forest lands and bodies of water which naturally absorb significant amounts of carbon dioxide.

Sec. 2. Section 7-131g of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2007):

(a) Subject to the provisions of sections 7-131d to 7-131k, inclusive, the Commissioner of Environmental Protection may (1) where a federal grant is also made, approve grants to municipalities in an amount not to exceed one-half of the nonfederal share of open space land acquisition or development costs, (2) where a federal rehabilitation or innovation grant is made to a municipality under the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Act of 1978 (P. L. 95-625, 92 Stat. 3538), approve a grant to such municipality not to exceed fifteen per cent of the total project cost of such development or rehabilitation and (3) where a federal grant is not made, may approve grants to municipalities in accordance with the provisions of this section.

(b) The Commissioner of Environmental Protection may make grants under the open space and watershed land acquisition program to: (1) Municipalities for acquisition of land for open space under subdivisions (1) to (6), inclusive, of subsection (b) of section 7-131d in an amount not to exceed [fifty] sixty-five per cent of the fair market value of a parcel of land or interest in land proposed to be acquired; (2) municipalities for acquisition of land for class I and class II water supply protection under subdivision (5) of subsection (b) of said section 7-131d, in an amount not to exceed sixty-five per cent of such value; (3) nonprofit land conservation organizations for acquisition of land for open space or watershed protection under subdivisions (1) to (6), inclusive, of subsection (b) of said section 7-131d, in an amount not to exceed [fifty] sixty-five per cent of such value; (4) water companies for acquisition of land under subdivision (7) of subsection (b) of said section 7-131d, in an amount not to exceed [forty] sixty-five per cent of such value provided if such a company proposes in a grant application that it intends to allow access to such land for recreational uses, such company shall seek approval of the Commissioner of Public Health for such access; and (5) distressed municipalities or targeted investment communities, as defined in section 32-9p, or, with the approval of the chief elected official or governing legislative body of such a municipality or community, to a nonprofit land conservation organization or water company, for acquisition of land within that municipality or community, for open space under subdivisions (1) to (6), inclusive, of subsection (b) of said section 7-131d, in an amount not to exceed [sixty-five] seventy-five per cent of such value or for performance of work in the restoration, enhancement or protection of resources in an amount not to exceed fifty per cent of the cost of such work. Applicants for grants under the program shall provide a copy of the application to the chairperson of the review board established under section 7-131e, as amended by this act. The board shall provide comments to the commissioner on pending applications as it deems necessary.

(c) For purposes of this subsection, the fair market value of land or interest in land shall be determined by one or more appraisals satisfactory to the commissioner and shall not include incidental costs, including, but not limited to, surveying, development or closing costs. The commissioner may consider a portion of the fair market value of a donation of land by an entity receiving a grant as a portion of the matching funds required under this subsection. No other funds made available by the state may be used by a potential grantee as matching funds under the program.

(d) To the extent there is a balance of bonds authorized but not allocated by the State Bond Commission on or after July 1, 1998, pursuant to any bond act for the purposes of (1) the recreation and natural heritage trust program established under sections 23-73 to 23-79, inclusive, and (2) the municipal open space grant program established under sections 7-131c to 7-131g, inclusive, the State Bond Commission shall authorize the issuance of such balance only for the purposes described in section 23-74 and sections 23-75 and 7-131d and in two substantially equal installments one in each half of the fiscal year commencing with the fiscal year ending June 30, 1999.

Sec. 3. (NEW) (Effective July 1, 2007) (a) The Commissioner of Agriculture shall administer a program providing eligible municipalities with a loan for the purchasing of agricultural lands. Such loan shall be for a period not to exceed five years and shall not be subject to interest. Municipalities shall be eligible for such loan if they provide not less than twenty per cent of the purchase price of such lands and may apply for such loan on a form prescribed by the Commissioner of Agriculture.

(b) There is established an account to be known as the "municipal purchasing of agricultural land account" which shall be a separate, nonlapsing account within the General Fund. The account may contain any moneys required by law to be deposited in the account. Moneys in the account shall be expended by the Commissioner of Agriculture for the purposes of providing municipalities with loans for the purchase of agricultural lands in accordance with subsection (a) of this section.

(c) The Commissioner of Agriculture may adopt regulations, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54 of the general statutes, setting forth the criteria for loans granted under this section, and the terms governing such loans.

Approved June 25, 2007