Planning and Development Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-6466

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING PROJECTS OF REGIONAL SIGNIFICANCE.

Vote Date:

3/13/2009

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/2/2009

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Representative Brendan Sharkey, 88th District, Planning and Development

REASONS FOR BILL:

To authorize regional planning organizations (“RPO's”) to convene voluntary pre-application and review meetings for projects of regional significance for the purpose of facilitating communication between private developers and government regulatory agencies, as well as among the agencies themselves. These pre-application meeting would be strictly voluntary for private developers and mandatory for local and state agency participation if requested by the private developer. The meetings, hosted by the RPO's, would not be informational only, non-binding on all parties and not subject to Freedom of Information requirements.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

W.David LeVasseur, Intergovernmental Policy Division, Office of Policy and Management

OPM applauds and endorses the initiative of HB 6466. It is important not only because it allows Regional Planning Organizations to establish a voluntary process for applicants to request a pre-application review of projects of regional significance, but also because it provides a statutory definition for proposed projects of regional significance.

Susan Bysiewicz, Secretary of the State of Connecticut:

I would like to commend the Smart Growth Working Group for its efforts to develop a comprehensive policy proposal in this area.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Mark N. Paquette, Executive Director, Windham Region Council of Governments

Windham Region Council of Governments is in favor of HB 6466. To authorize regional planning organizations to establish a voluntary pre-application review process for projects of regional significance is a significant but much needed change. The pre-coordination of efforts amongst all parties will lead to a more efficient regulatory process.

Martin Mador, Legislative and Political Chair, Sierra Club

Sierra Club strongly supports HB 6466

T.J. Zappulla, Connecticut Association of Realtors INC

Realtors favor this bill which requires regional planning organizations to facilitate a voluntary pre-application review process for developers of larger projects. If done correctly, this process will allow private developers to obtain an informal evaluation of costs and requirements of town and State agencies before risking undue expense and time. It will help make Connecticut become a bit more “business friendly”.

Sara Bronin, Associate Professor, UCONN School of Law:

This bill adds language that makes regionalism one of the state's priorities and could encourage our 169 municipalities to see themselves as part of a greater role in land use regulation.

Shelby Mertes, Partnership for Strong Communities

We support HB 6466, for developers-on a voluntary basis-to gain a clear understanding early in the process of what state and local agencies will expect of them. If done well, It could quicken the development process.

Heidi Green, President, 1000 Friends of Connecticut

1000 Friends of Connecticut supports the HB 6466. A pre-application review at the regional level would meet a number of goals. First, it would let developers know what timelines and submission requirements to expect and would let agencies know what they have in queue so applications can be filed more completely, problems identified early in the process, approvals expedited, and when necessary for sanctions to be applied in a more timely fashion. It would also strengthen the communication and relationships between staff and decision making makers at all levels of Government so contradictory practices or policies can be identified early on and more readily negotiated.

Bart Russell, Executive Director, Connecticut Council of Small Towns

Cost supports HB-6466, which requires each regional planning organization to establish a voluntary pre-application review. This review process will outline the criteria and standards for review the outset of the project. It will also provide preliminary feedback on the project and an opportunity to discuss the project with agency representative. This will ensure applicants understand any issues or concerns regarding the project and will give them the opportunity to address these concerns to move forward with project.

Eric J. Brown, Associate Counsel, Connecticut Business & Industry Association

CBIA supports instituting a voluntary pre-application review process for major economic development projects and exempting these discussions from the Freedom of Information Act, as proposed in section 1(b) and 1(c) of this bill.

Ron Thomas, Connecticut Conference of Municipalities

CBIA supports HB 6466 however; some clarity may be needed on this bill, wherein the draft proposal may add administrative burdens on towns and cities. CCM is unaware of any current law that prevents applicants from meeting and obtaining pre-application information from a municipality. A municipality's participation should be voluntary and incentive-based. After all, it is in a municipality's interest to participate so that economic development is done in a timely manner.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Christopher S. Wood, Connecticut Chapter of the American Planning Association

CCAPA does not support this concept as drafted. Although this bill proposes a voluntary program of regional planning organization review of certain development projects, the criteria for identifying those projects requires further consideration. A more relevant criterion may be the expected vehicle trip generation for large scale projects. Furthermore it is unlikely that RPOs would have the resources to initiate such reviews and reports even if current State funding levels are retained.

Bill Ethier, Chief Executive Officer, Home Builders Association of Connecticut

HBA is opposed to bill 6466. We cannot support this bill without clarifying amendments. We also question the threshold for “projects of regional significance”. Pre-application meetings with regulatory agencies are usually good recommended land development practices. Pre-application meeting should be at the applicants request not the RPAs.

Colleen M. Murphy, Executive Director, Freedom of Information Commission

The Freedom of Information Commission would like to take this opportunity to object to a section in HB 6466. While the stated purpose of HB 6466 is to authorize regional planning organizations to establish a voluntary pre-application review process for projects of regional significance, the proposed legislation attempts to carve out yet another unnecessary and overly broad exemption in the state's government transparency law. The language in Section (c) is overly broad and arbitrarily classifies records as non-disclosable for no apparent reason. If the concern is for the protection of trade secrets or confidential financial information, there are a series of exemptions to disclosure, which are permissive in nature, and which could apply to the records in question. Thus, if that is the concern, the need for such broad confidentiality is moot.

Reported by: Dorian Lockett

Date: 4/2/09