Environment Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-6660

Title:

AN ACT AUTHORIZING BONDS OF THE STATE FOR VARIOUS STATE GRANT PROGRAMS AND CONCERNING THE FACE OF CONNECTICUT STEERING COMMITTEE.

Vote Date:

3/20/2009

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/16/2009

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Sen. Ed Meyer, Environment Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

To authorize bonds for state grant programs and historic preservation, brownfields remediation and farmland and open space preservation and for each of the grant programs it requires the Face of Connecticut Steering Committee to report on the goals and obstacles of such grant programs. This bill would also create a grant program for mixed-use preservation and develop criteria for eligibility for smart growth funding. This bill would also require a report on the status on the projects funded by the committee.

In committee, language was put in that increased available bonding amounts to thirty two million two hundred fifty thousand dollars.

in lines 84-97, inserted subsection (d) stating the following - the committee shall: 1) not later than January 1, 2010, submit a report, in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a, detailing specific goals of current state programs concerning farmland preservation, open space preservation, brownfields remediation, historic preservation and the obstacles to achieving such goals to the Office of Policy and Management and the joint standing committees of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to the environment and commerce, 2) create a grant program for mixed-use preservation, 3) develop criteria for eligibility for smart growth funding and make recommendations consisting of a prioritized list of smart growth projects to the General Assembly, in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a, and 4) not later than January 1, 2010, and each year thereafter, report to the General Assembly concerning what projects were funded by the committee in accordance with this section.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

None Submitted

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Amy Blaymore Paterson, Project Manager, The Trust for Public Land, supports this bill. This bill provides for funding and administration of programs that are critically important in sustaining land protection and smart growth initiatives in the State of Connecticut. The funds that are enabled by this bill will provide continued support for programs that enhance the health of our communities and our environment. There hasn't been a better market in recent years to purchase land for conservation. Without a market for development, landowners are anxious to sell; and with land prices being at a record low, communities and land trusts are anxious to buy. Without state funding to help finance these transactions, towns and land trusts will be unable to take advantage of these conservation opportunities. During these challenging economic times, it is especially important to ensure that the state programs and their funding sources are implemented and distributed in the most efficient manner possible. The Face of Connecticut Steering Committee has proven to be an effective administrator, successfully bringing multiple state departments and interests to the table to determine the best strategies for smart growth in Connecticut.

Helen Higgins, Executive Director, Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, supports this bill. This bill moves forward the important investment concept that defines the Face of Connecticut: strategic investment in our cities, towns, brownfields, farmlands and open space will result in an improved quality of life for the state.

Jiff Martin, Project Director, Working Lands Alliance, supports this bill. This bill moves the State of Connecticut a step toward a comprehensive, well-planned roadmap for making crucial and imperative investments in our future that we must make today. Farmland protection projects rely heavily on state bonding that matches federal funds and town funds. The financial challenges facing the state are similar to those facing farm families who are looking to sell the development rights on their farmland to the state. Right now there are 54 farm applications representing almost 6,000 acres of farmland that the state may be able to protect over the next two years. The WLA recommends eliminating the underlined text in section 3 since this is a redundant funding commitment given the contents of Section 1.

Martin Mador, Legislative and Political Chair, Connecticut Sierra Club, supports this bill. The Sierra club considers the Face of CT an important element in our efforts to preserve open space and farmland and make land use decisions which are environmentally preferable.

Margaret Miner, Executive Director, Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, supports this bill. There is no greater threat to the resources in the public trust than haphazard, irrational sprawl development. The FACE advocates have made a strong case that the investments proposed in this bill will provide jobs and a better quality of life.

Anita L. Mielert, president of Connecticut Preservation Action, supports this bill. This bill represents a “baby step” in the right direction. The economy requires us to move forward much more slowly, yet even baby steps give us more time for deliberation and creativity. Requiring a report on the goals and obstacles of the program and to develop criteria for mixed-use preservation will certainly strengthen the overall performance even more.

South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority supports this bill. The Face of Connecticut Steering Committee was created during the 2008 session. Because funding for any programs beyond the existing programs was not available, there was limited ability for the Steering Committee to begin its work. Now is the time for the Steering Committee to work together with members of the Face of Connecticut Coalition to provide the structure needed for its success, once additional funding is possible. Several of the requirements for the Steering Committee contained in subsection of (d) of section 2 would be helpful in determining the progress toward reaching the goal of 221% of the state's land being preserved as open space by the year 2023. During troubling economic times owners of undeveloped land will be trying to sell their land as a way to make up for lost income or savings. Connecticut must make sure it positions itself not to ensure that Connecticut is the place that businesses want to grow and people want to live by continuing its funding of open space and watershed lands as they become available. Section three would provide, in part, $32.5 million for the state's existing programs to preserve and protect Connecticut's natural resources. This is not a request for new money, but to continue the same funding as past years. Regional Water Authority realizes that these are extremely difficult times for the state and there are significant decisions for the legislature and Governor will have to make to balance the budget. This often leads to eliminating programs that are really working. This would be the case if funding for the Open Space and Watershed Acquisition Grant program is not provided.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

None Submitted

Reported by: Chris Zavagnin

Date: 3/30/09