OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 7090

AN ACT CONCERNING RESPONSIBLE GROWTH.

SUMMARY:

This bill establishes a 13-member Responsible Growth Task Force and specifies its membership. It requires the task force to (1) identify responsible growth criteria and standards to guide the state's future investment decisions and (2) study transfer of development rights laws, policies, and programs. The task force must report its recommendations to the governor by October 1, 2007.

The bill prohibits state agencies and quasi-public agencies from providing discretionary state funding for economic development projects (which the bill does not define) unless the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) secretary determines that the proposed use is consistent with any responsible growth development criteria adopted by state law or regulation.

The bill expands the requirement that capital projects undertaken by state agencies be consistent with the State Plan of Conservation and Development. It imposes sanctions on municipalities that fail to amend their local plans of conservation and development every 10 years, as required by law.

The bill imposes consultation requirements for regionally significant projects. It also expands the circumstances when a municipal zoning commission must notify a regional planning agency (RPA) of a proposed action for the RPA's review and comment.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage for the task force provisions; July 1, 2007 for the provisions dealing with consistency with the State Plan of Conservation and Development; October 1, 2007 for the provisions dealing with regionally significant projects, local plans of conservation and development, and zoning commissions; and July 1, 2008 for the requirement of consistency with responsible growth development criteria and sanctions for failing to amend local plans of conservation and development.

TASK FORCE MEMBERS

Under the bill, the task force consists of seven agency heads or their designees and six legislatively appointed members. The agencies are OPM, the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, and the departments of Agriculture, Economic and Community Development, Environmental Protection, Public Health, and Transportation. The top six legislative leaders each appoint one task force member. The OPM secretary or his designee serves as the chairperson.

CONSISTENCY WITH THE STATE PLAN OF CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT

By law, certain state agency actions must be consistent with the State Plan of Conservation and Development when they are funded by state or federal government. These actions are: (1) the acquisition of real property or public transportation equipment or facilities costing over $ 100,000; (2) the development or improvement of real property costing over $ 100,000; and (3) state grants exceeding $ 100,000 for such acquisitions or developments.

The bill additionally requires consistency with the plan when quasi-public agencies authorize spending more than $ 100,000 in state or federal funds on a grant for such acquisitions or developments. It also requires consistency for any use of state bond funds, except for school construction, unless the State Bond Commission waives this requirement.

Current law (1) requires state agencies to request an advisory statement from OPM on the consistency of their actions with the plan; (2) allows agencies to request, and OPM to provide, other advisory reports; and (3) requires OPM to submit an advisory statement on an action's consistency with the plan and the State Bond Commission to consider the statement before allocating any bond funds. The bill extends these provisions to quasi-public agencies.

SANCTIONS FOR FAILING TO AMEND LOCAL PLANS OF CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT

By law, municipalities must amend their plans of conservation and development at least once every 10 years. If they do not, the municipality's chief elected official must send a letter to the OPM secretary and the transportation, economic and community development, and environmental protection commissioners explaining why the plan was not amended.

Under current law, a copy of this letter must be included with any application submitted to these state officials for funding the conservation or development of real property. The bill expands this provision to require that a copy of this letter be included in each municipal application for discretionary funding submitted to any state agency. It makes the municipality ineligible for such funding unless the OPM secretary expressly waives this provision.

REGIONALLY SIGNIFICANT PROJECTS

The bill requires each “public agency” considering undertaking a project that has, or is likely to have, a “significant regional impact” to inform regional planning officials about it. (The bill does not define “public agency” but it presumably includes state as well as municipal agencies. ) Under the bill, a “significant regional impact” is a significant and measurable impact on the environment, economy, housing, public facilities, or transportation systems in one or more municipalities beyond the municipality or municipalities where the project will be located.

For such projects, the public agency must submit the project to the regional planning organization in the area of the host municipality and any municipality adjoining it. (The bill does not define the term regional planning organization, but they include RPAs, regional councils of elected officials, and regional councils of governments. ) The agency must do this at least 60 days before approving the project. The regional planning organization must submit its comments, if any, to the agency within 30 days after receiving its submission. The organization's report is purely advisory.

The bill additionally requires a zoning commission, planning commission, or combined planning and zoning commission to notify the region's RPA when it gets applications for certain projects. These are proposed developments that (1) involve the development of 100 or more housing units or more than 50,000 square feet or (2) require more than 150 parking spaces. When a commission receives an application for such projects, it must notify its RPA of the proposal within 30 days before the public hearing on it. (These requirements do not appear to apply if the municipality is in an area with a regional council of governments, which do not have RPA's. The requirements may apply to areas served by regional councils of elective officials, which may function as RPAs in areas without such agencies (CGS 4-1240, 4-124h). The notice to the RPA must be in writing, return receipt requested.

The RPA must study the proposal and report its findings and recommendations to the commission at or before its hearing. It can designate its executive committee to act for it or establish a subcommittee to perform these duties. The report, which is purely advisory, must be made part of the commission's record. If the report is not submitted on time, it is presumed that the RPA does not object to the proposal.

RPA REVIEW OF ZONING COMMISSION ACTIONS

By law, when a zoning commission proposes to establish or change a zone or change the use regulations affecting a zone, it must notify the affected RPA in writing if the property is within 500 feet of another municipality in an RPA's area of operation. The bill extends this requirement to proposed zone changes that involve more than 10 acres of development that would increase the permitted density by more than 50%. The bill also extends the following requirements to such proposed zone changes:

1. the notice must be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, at least 30 days before the zoning commission's public hearing on the proposed change;

2. the RPA must study the proposal and report its findings and recommendations to the zoning commission at or before the hearing;

3. the RPA report address issues pertaining to the proposal's environmental impact on Long Island Sound, for RPAs located contiguous to the sound;

4. the RPA can send the notice to OPM for its comment; and

5. the RPA's report must be made part of the commission's record.

As under current law, the RPA's report is purely advisory.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Planning and Development Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

12

Nay

6

(03/23/2007)