Planning and Development Committee
JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING TEMPORARY HEALTH CARE STRUCTURES.
Joint Favorable Substitute
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Committee on Planning and Development
REASONS FOR BILL:
This bill is designed to create a comprehensive zoning law which allows for the placement of Temporary Healthcare structures. Currently there is a need to implement an affordable alternative to nursing homes for the elderly or temporarily disabled individuals. The cost of which to house an individual for only a few months can quickly drain an individual's life savings. Temporary health care structures are modular structures similar to in-law apartments that can be placed on a caregiver's property and then removed when the cared for individual recovers or passes away. The added benefits of these structures are that they allow for increased independence for the recovering individual and are often built with medical recovery in mind such as having a wheel chair lift and padded flooring in the event of a fall.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
The Department of Public Health (DPH):
DPH supports the effort to reduce the cost of healthcare for recovering or temporarily disabled individuals. They do state concerns with the lack of specifics regarding both references to Public Health code. They are also concerned with that the department would be asked to regulate the standards of these structures.
The Commission on Women, Children, and Seniors (CWCS):
The CWCS provided testimony in support SB 922. They state that between 2010 and 2040 there will be an estimated 57% increase of people aged 65 or older. Cumulatively declining birth-rate, mortality rates, and increased longevity is resulting in an overall older population with an increased need for senior and disabled housing. They point out that with 70% of CT's housing is zoned as single family houses which will provide barriers for making new types of housing that are equipped to provide safe living conditions for older residents. They considered this legislation as a means of alleviating this growing need.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Senator Cathy Osten 19th Senatorial District:
Senator Cathy Osten stated in written and spoken testimony that she chaired a task-force in the summer and fall of 2016 and studied this issue in-depth. She stated that the bill before the committee was a reflection of the recommendations of that committee with the exception of lines 21 to 23 as well as 185-191 which would allow a municipal “opt-in” she stated that it was the intent of the task-force to craft a state-wide ordinance to increase access to any disabled or elderly persons seeking to live in one of these structures and for them not to be penalized because of the municipality in which they live.
She finished by stating that this bill's passage would have CT join the four other states that already passed similar laws and would create an industry capable of reducing healthcare cost in CT. It would also allow elderly and recovering individuals maintain their quality of life here in CT.
Center for Disability Rights (CDR):
The CDR supports SB 922 with changes. They state that there will likely be a large influx of elderly to Connecticut population structure in the next several years. This will be coupled with a great increased demand for elderly and disabled housing. They point to SB 922 as one part of the possible solution to this issue. In their written testimony they state that there are three major barriers preventing elderly and disabled from staying in their community of origin. These are access to affordable housing, lack of adequate healthcare/health workers, and lack of handicap accessible infrastructure. They state that this bill would be a solution for these issues while also potentially saving the state money in Medicaid cost, rental voucher, ect.
The CDR does state that, as written, they believe the bill provides too much indulgence to zoning commissions and imagine various ways restrictive zoning practices will make it nearly impossible to install these structures. They would like to see these structures and associated in-law apartments exempt from some zoning regulations to promote the building of these structures.
CT Conference of Municipalities (CCM):
CCM takes issue with lines 37-39 of the original language of the bill which would prohibit municipalities from denying a permit if the applicant is in compliance with all set standards in this legislation. They do however support the enabling language of the bill in general and its provisions that requires that these structures comply with all zoning setbacks and local zoning rules.
The AARP supports SB 922. They stated that the AARP has taken to supporting family caregivers. They state that there is an estimated 459,000 unpaid family caregivers in CT alone. These care-givers provide an enormous service to the state and country through their care. The AARP believe that this bill would facilitate family care-givers by providing them the freedom to have their elderly parent or disabled adult live close by on their property. They also believe that temporary health-care structures provide a degree of privacy, independence, and autonomy for the individual in need.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF NEUTRAL TESTIMONY:
Connecticut Chapter of the American Planners Association (CCAPA):
The CCAPA stated that two of their members worked on the task-force to study the zoning of the temporary health-care structures. They however had some severe issues with the bill as written due to the deviations from the task-force recommended language. They point out that this bill would allow for a unprecedented carve out of land use law by allowing boards of selectman or town councils to bypass normal zoning processes. The CCAPA asked that the committee revisit the task-force recommendations.
The issue presented in this testimony was addressed in substitute language.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
The Connecticut Council of Small Towns (COST):
COST supports the intent of the bill however they state that they have not been able to fully vet the bill with their members. They are mainly concerned with the flat rate permitting fee which does not allow for municipal discretion to set a permitting fee. They also echo CCM's concerns with line 37-39 which would prohibit municipalities from denying permits that have met all set forth qualifications. Finally they have concerns they state that as an example Deep River CT has already adopted an ordinance and this would conflict with what they have already adopted. COST stated that they are willing to work with the proponents of the bill to work through any issues.
Town of Lebanon Board of Selectman:
The Town of Lebanon stated that they are sympathetic to the intent behind the bill however they oppose the language contained in SB 922. They stated with the bill would put much of the responsibility of adopting this ordinance on the towns legislative body which may put the board in conflict with the towns planning and zoning commission. This bill would also put in jeopardy a long standing precedent of Zoning Commissions being responsible for the zoning ordinance of a community. The town also brings several other concerns with the bill listed below.
● Lack of a public hearing provision, which a zoning commission is required to hold prior to permitting new land uses;
● FOI and HIPAA issues related to public requests for copies of physician notices claiming a person is mentally and/or physically impaired in order to retain occupancy;
● The additional of the word “temporary” in the bill whereas all human beings, including those physically and/or mentally impaired, live out their years in structures which are not temporary as these structures will remain in place indefinitely;
● The overriding of Historic District Regulations and Village District Zoning which were put in place to regulate the design and placement of structures compatible with existing or desired land uses;
● Applicant notification requirements for neighbors that will provide no avenue for discussion; and,
● Ancillary land use issues/conflicts such as access (emergency and otherwise) and the need for additional driveway space, impervious surface coverage and accessory tenant storage.
Reported by: Wade Packer