OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 39 (File 355, as amended by Senate “A” and “B”)*

AN ACT CONCERNING RESPONSIBLE GROWTH.

SUMMARY:

This bill establishes the Responsible Growth Cabinet and specifies its membership and responsibilities, which include a review of certain “regionally significant projects. ” The cabinet must review these projects to determine their consistency with state growth management principles. Under the bill, these principles encourage the use of land and resources in ways that enhance the long-term quality of life for current and future state residents.

The bill requires that state agencies that provide financial assistance to any real property development under any law (including special acts) to allocate from the assistance, to the extent authorized, sufficient funds for pedestrian and other non-motorized transportation improvements in connection with the property. The bill allows the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) secretary to waive this requirement upon a finding that the project's nature, scope, or location is not appropriate for such improvement.

The bill allows a municipality to remove or cause to be removed from the right-of-way of a highway or street any commercial sign that does not comply with its rules, regulations, or ordinances.

*Senate Amendment “A” eliminates provisions that (1) made zoning, subdivision, and inland wetland regulations that conflict with local plans of conservation and development ineffective unless the municipality's legislative body approved the regulations; (2) allowed zoning regulations to promote concentration of population; and (3) made related changes.

*Senate Amendment “B” adds the provision on signs.

EFFECTIVE DATE: January 1, 2009 for the provisions regarding regionally significant projects, upon passage for the sign provision, and July 1, 2008 for the remaining provisions.

RESPONSIBLE GROWTH CABINET

Membership

Under the bill, the cabinet consists of the following officials or their designees: the OPM secretary; the Economic and Community Development, Environmental Protection, Agriculture, Transportation and Public Health commissioners; and the executive directors of the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority and the Connecticut Development Authority. The OPM secretary or his designee must be the cabinet's chairperson. (Executive Order 15 created an interagency steering council consisting of the same officials. )

Responsibilities

The bill requires the cabinet to advise the governor on policies and initiatives to implement responsible growth principles. Under the bill, these principles seek to use land and resources to enhance the long-term quality of life for citizens of the state and future generations by (1) protecting open space, farmlands, and historic sites; (2) cleaning up and reusing brownfields; (3) encouraging growth and real estate development in areas served by existing infrastructure; (4) promoting development of housing, including affordable housing, near existing highways and sewers; (5) revitalizing cities; (6) preserving the state's unique charm; (7) developing pedestrian or other non-motorized transportation; and (8) building livable, economically strong communities while protecting natural resources.

The bill requires state agencies to refer “regionally significant developments” to the cabinet for review before the agency issues a permit for certain developments or provides them more than $ 500,000 in financial assistance. These developments are construction projects that are planned to create, or a renovation or expansion project that is planned to result in, (1) more than 250,000 square feet of indoor commercial or industrial space (the Legislative Office Building has approximately 240,000 square feet of usable space), (2) more than 250 residential housing units in buildings that are less than four stories high, or (3) more than 500 parking spaces.

The cabinet may invite the developer to attend its next meeting to make a presentation and answer questions from cabinet members. The meeting must be open to the public and noticed like a public meeting.

Within 30 days of the meeting, the cabinet must send written comments to the developer on the consistency of the development with the principles of responsible growth. The comments may include (1) specific recommendations to strengthen that consistency and (2) a recommendation whether it would be in the public interest for state agencies to coordinate the review and issuance of permits for the development and, if so, whether the development should receive state financial assistance.

The comments and meeting minutes must also be sent to (1) the regional council of elected officials, the regional council of governments, or the regional planning agency of the region affected by the development; (2) the departments of Education and Higher Education, the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, the Office of Workforce Competitiveness; and (3) any other state agency that the cabinet finds may be affected by, in a position to directly assist, or required to approve some aspect of the development.

These meetings, processes, agendas, and comments do not constitute a decision or approval of a state agency. No cabinet action may be appealed, and only parties described in these provisions may intervene in the meetings.

BACKGROUND

Related Bill

sHB 5324, An Act Implementing the Recommendations of the Program Review and Investigations Committee Study of Regional Planning Organizations (File 228), requires planning and zoning commissions to notify regional planning organizations (RPOs) of applications for projects of regional significance. It requires the RPO to study the proposal and report its findings and recommendations to the sending commission. The report must analyze the compliance of the project with the regional plan of conservation and development and other issues it considers critical. That bill defines such projects differently than this bill.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Planning and Development Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

20

Nay

0

(03/12/2008)

Government Administration and Elections Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

9

Nay

0

(04/08/2008)