OLR Bill Analysis
AN ACT CONCERNING THE TIME IN WHICH A REGULATED ACTIVITY MUST BE CONDUCTED UNDER A PERMIT ISSUED BY AN INLAND WETLANDS COMMISSION.
This bill makes changes to the law affecting municipal inland wetlands agencies and the permits they issue for regulated activities. By law, a “regulated activity” is any operation within or use of wetlands or watercourses involving (1) removal or deposit of material or (2) any obstruction, construction, alteration, or pollution of wetlands or watercourses.
First, the bill ties the length of time that inland wetlands permits are valid to the length of time that the related development's project approval is valid, which can be up to 10 years. Certain projects approved before July 1, 2011 are excepted (see BACKGROUND).
Next, for projects that require site or subdivision plan approval, it eliminates the ability of an inland wetlands agency, or its agent, to set a specific time within which a regulated activity must be conducted. It applies this elimination to all planning and zoning approvals, including for incentive housing and affordable housing land use appeals procedure.
Finally, the bill specifies that the agency may include terms in a permit restricting the time of year when a regulated activity may be conducted, if the agency, or its agent, determines the restrictions are necessary to protect inland wetlands and watercourses. By law, an inland wetlands agency or its agent may place terms, conditions, limitations, or modifications on the regulated activity to protect inland wetlands and watercourses, including terms to prevent or minimize pollution or other environmental damage.
EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2012
INLAND WETLANDS PERMITS
By law, municipalities (1) regulate activities affecting inland wetlands and watercourses within their boundaries and (2) issue permits for regulated activities in those areas, including for property development. Property development involving site or subdivision plans also require planning and zoning approval and, as a condition of this approval, must first obtain an inland wetlands permit when inland wetlands are involved.
Under current law, an inland wetlands permit for property development that also requires site or subdivision plan approval is generally valid for up to five years from approval. But a municipal inland wetlands agency can set a specific time period during the five years in which the regulated activity must be completed (i. e. , it could be shorter than five years).
The bill eliminates an agency's ability to set a specific time within which the regulated activity must be conducted for these projects and ties the period of validity of these inland wetlands permits to the length of the corresponding project's approval or 10 years, whichever is earlier.
For example, under existing law, a planning and zoning commission may set completion deadline of up to 10 years for a residential site plan for a project with more than 400 units. Under current law, if an inland wetlands permit is required for such a project, it would be valid for up to five years. Under the bill, the inland wetlands permit required for such a project would be valid for the length of time of the project approval or up to 10 years.
In addition to tying inland wetland permits to approvals required under zoning and planning laws, the bill includes projects involving incentive housing zones and those developed under the affordable housing land use appeals procedure. For any other project approvals under these laws, an inland wetlands permit is valid for the length of the approval or 10 years, whichever is earlier.
Under current law, an inland wetlands permit for an activity that does not involve site and subdivision plan project approval is valid for between two and five years. The bill applies this timeframe to any permit for a regulated activity related to a project that does not require planning and zoning approval including incentive housing and affordable housing projects related to the affordable housing land use appeals procedure.
Site and Subdivision Plans and Inland Wetlands Permits Approval Before July 1, 2011
Notwithstanding existing law concerning inland wetlands permits, PA 11-5 extended the initial and extended deadlines that apply to wetlands permits, subdivisions, and small-scale site plans approved before July 1, 2011, on which approval had not expired by the enacting legislation's effective date of May 9, 2011.
By law, inland wetlands permits tied to approved site and subdivision plans, which had not expired by May 9, 2011 and were approved before July 1, 2011, can be extended up to 14 years under PA 11-5 (CGS § 22a-42a(g)).
Incentive Housing Zones
The law provides grants to towns that choose to zone land for developing housing mainly where transit facilities, infrastructure, and complementary uses already exist or have been planned or proposed. A town receives the incentives only after it has established an incentive housing zone and approved incentive housing developments in the zone (CGS § 8-13m et. seq. ).
Affordable Housing Land Use Appeals Procedure
The legislature created the procedure to address the state's affordable housing needs by requiring zoning and planning commissions to defend their decisions denying affordable housing projects or approving them with costly conditions. In traditional land use appeals, the developer, not the municipality, must convince the court that the commission acted illegally or arbitrarily or abused its discretion.
A developer may use the procedure in municipalities that do not meet the law's 10% threshold of affordable housing stock only if the proposed project includes units low- and moderate-income households can afford. A household falls into this group if it earns no more than 80% of the median income for the area or the state, whichever is less. It can afford the unit if it costs no more than 30% of the household's annual income (CGS § 8-30g).
Planning and Development Committee
Joint Favorable Substitute