OLR Bill Analysis

HB 5793

AN ACT CONCERNING WEST ROCK RIDGE STATE PARK

SUMMARY:

This bill makes several changes in the statute and special acts governing the way in which the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) can obtain additional property for West Rock Ridge State Park. It (1) adds to the notice requirements, (2) increases the penalty for property owners who fail to follow the law's requirements and potentially applies the penalty to more property, (3) limits the length of time the state is considered to have waived its rights regarding property, (4) requires a property owner to record an affidavit if the state fails to respond to a notice in a timely way, and (5) eliminates registered mail as an alternative way to provide notice leaving certified mail, return receipt requested, as the only method allowed.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon Passage

NOTICE REQUIREMENTS

By law, before any property owner can change the use of, develop, or transfer any property within the West Rock Ridge conservation area or conservation area supplement, he must give the DEP commissioner written notice of his intention. The bill requires this notice to include a description of the property and a price at which the state can buy the property.

Currently, if the owner later proposes to alter the terms of the change, development, or transfer of his property, he must so notify the state. The bill specifically requires him to notify the state if he intends to sell the property at a price less than that which was in his original notice.

WAIVER OF STATE'S INTEREST AND AFFIDAVIT

By law, the DEP commissioner has 90 days to respond to the property owner's notice, and if he fails to respond or if he notifies the owner that the state is not interested in the property, the state is deemed to have waived its right to acquire the land. The bill limits the state's waiver of its rights to 180 days, calculated from (1) the expiration of the 90 days or (2) receipt of notice of the state's lack of interest in the property.

Currently, if the state notifies a landowner that it is not interested in obtaining a piece of property, it must record that notice on the town land records. The bill makes the landowner responsible for recording the notice. Alternatively, it requires him to record an affidavit on the land records when the state fails to respond within its 90-day window of opportunity. It allows a landowner who fails to record on the land records the notice or the affidavit to correct his omission at any time. But such a late recording does not affect the legal rights of any third party buying the property and suing the owner for failing to file the required notice or affidavit.

The bill also eliminates a process in current law requiring an owner to "certify in writing" that he has sent the commissioner notice, include in the certification the return receipt of the notice, and file the certification on the land records.

PENALTIES

Under current law, a person is liable for a civil penalty if, after the DEP sends notice, he changes, develops, or transfers his "priority parcel" without notifying DEP of the transaction. Priority parcels are those designated by the DEP commissioner as priorities for state acquisition. The commissioner must record on the land records for all priority parcels the requirements and restrictions in the law regarding changes to, development of, or transfers of land. The bill expands the potential application of the penalty to anyone changing, developing, or transferring property anywhere within the West Rock Ridge conservation area or conservation area supplement regardless of whether or not it is a priority parcel or has had an entry made in the land records. It also increases the penalty when property is transferred from 5% to 25% of the price.

BACKGROUND

West Rock Ridge State Park

West Rock Ridge State Park is about 1,600 acres. It is located mostly in Hamden, but part of it is in New Haven. It abuts Bethany and Woodbridge.

West Rock Ridge Conservation Area and Conservation Area Supplement

The West Rock Ridge conservation area was established by SA 75-80. It basically surrounds the park and extends well into it, in some places all the way to the trap rock ridge line, which runs north/south close to border of the towns of Hamden, Bethany, and Woodbridge. The West Rock Ridge conservation area supplement was established by SA 79-92. It is mostly in Hamden, is a continuation along the trap rock ridge line, and is, for the most part, north of the conservation area.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Environment Committee

Joint Favorable Report

Yea

27

Nay

0