PA 95-340-sHB 6763
Planning and Development Committee
Public Safety Committee
AN ACT ESTABLISHING A NEIGHBORHOOD REVITALIZATION ZONE PROCESS AND
CONCERNING DISPOSITION OF LAND BY THE METROPOLITAN DISTRICT
SUMMARY: This act allows towns to set up a process through which groups of residents, property
owners, and business organizations in particularly distressed neighborhoods ("revitalization zones")
can develop strategic plans and work with local, state, and federal governments to revive the area.
The act gives these groups and local governments three new powers to help implement these plans:
(1) to request waivers of state and local codes and regulations that impede plan implementation, (2)
to take property in a designated neighborhood by eminent domain, and (3) to ask the courts to
appoint rent receivers to bring deteriorated buildings up to health and safety code standards.
The act makes the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) the lead agency for coordinating
state agencies in the delivery of services in the zones. This role must be performed within available
Finally, the act eliminates the ability of the Metropolitan District Commission's (MDC) board to
sell nonreservoir land without the approval of its member towns. And it sets up a process for
notifying town officials when such properties are to be conveyed, and giving them an option to
EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 1995 for the revitalization zone process; upon passage for the MDC
Revitalization Zone Designation and Planning Process
Zone Designation. Zone designation is a two-step process. First, a town's legislative body must
pass a resolution encouraging neighborhood groups to develop collaborative processes for local, state,
and federal governments to revitalize neighborhoods where a significant number of properties are
deteriorated, foreclosed, abandoned, blighted, substandard, or public safety hazards. The act defines
deteriorated property as those in serious noncompliance with state and local health and safety codes
The resolution must establish a process for determining zone boundaries and direct the town's
chief executive officer (CEO) to assign municipal staff to make information available to
neighborhood groups and to modify local procedures to implement zones. Town public buildings
must be available to local groups for zone revitalization purposes, as determined by the CEO.
Once the resolution is passed, a neighborhood revitalization planning committee may form to
develop a plan.
Planning Committee Membership and Bylaws. The planning committee's membership must
reflect the neighborhood's composition. It must include tenants, property owners, representatives of
businesses located or owning property there, and community groups. The town's CEO can appoint a
town official as a voting member. A majority of the committee's members must live in the
The committee must adopt bylaws that include a process for making decisions by consensus. It
must publish notice in a local newspaper within seven days of adopting or amending bylaws.
Zone Strategic Plan
Contents. The committee must develop a strategic plan for short- and long-term neighborhood
revitalization. The plan's goals must be to build the neighborhood's capacity to act for itself
("self-empowerment"); to promote self-reliance, home ownership, property management, sustainable
economic development, effective landlord-tenant relations, and comprehensive and coordinated
delivery of services to the neighborhood; and to raise capital from sources outside the neighborhood.
The plan may analyze health, safety, and environmental codes and regulations at all government
levels that affect the neighborhood's revitalization. It must include recommendations for waivers of
state and local codes that unreasonably jeopardize the plan's implementation, as long as the waivers
do not create a substantial threat to the environment, health, safety, or welfare of the zone's
residents or occupants.
The plan may contain an inventory of abandoned, foreclosed, and deteriorated property in the
zone. It may consider: (1) ways to obtain public and private funds, (2) traditional and new ways to
finance development, (3) property use and management, (4) neighborhood design, (5) marketing and
outreach, (6) use of town facilities, (7) recreation, and (8) the environment and may include public
safety, education and job training, youth and elderly, and arts and cultural components.
The plan may contain recommendations to the town for (1) establishing collaborative,
multi-agency delivery teams, including teams to enforce codes and (2) authorizing the CEO to make
tax agreements and allocate town funds to achieve its ends.
The plan must assign responsibility for implementing each of its components. It must include
committee members' names and the committee's bylaws.
Adoption. The committee must hold a public hearing on its proposed plan. First, it must publish
at least two notices in a local newspaper, one between 10 and 15 days before the hearing, the other
at least two days later and not less than two days before the hearing. It must also send a copy of
the proposed plan to the OPM secretary for his review and comments. The committee must follow
its bylaws in adopting the plan.
After it adopts the plan, the committee must submit it to the town's legislative body. The plan
cannot be implemented until that body adopts an ordinance approving it. The ordinance must create
a neighborhood revitalization zone committee to implement the plan and must establish its powers.
That committee must have the same membership categories as the planning committee had.
Implementing the Strategic Plan
The act provides three powers that a neighborhood zone committee and a town government can
use to implement the strategic plan: (1) asking state and local officials to waive codes (e.g., Public
Health Code, State Building and Fire codes, local housing codes); (2) taking property in
revitalization zones by eminent domain; and (3) asking the courts to appoint receivers who can use
tenants' rents to bring buildings up to code. It also specifies that the use of buildings in a zone is not
to be considered changed just because they are abandoned or vacant. This potentially subjects them
to fewer code and regulatory requirements if they are rehabilitated.
Code Waivers. The act allows any town with a revitalization zone to establish a process for
asking state and local officials to waive health, safety, and environmental codes and regulations that
unreasonably jeopardize the strategic plan's implementation. But they may not ask for a waiver of
any code or regulation that is necessary for compliance with federal law. Waivers may not create a
substantial threat to zone residents' health, environment, safety, or welfare. A waiver request must
include requirements for alternative measures to the standards in the waived codes or regulations.
The law already permits the state building inspector and the state fire marshal to grant
variances or exemptions from their respective codes. They can also approve equivalent or alternate
compliance with those codes where strict compliance would create practical difficulties or
unnecessary hardship or be otherwise unwarranted.
A zone committee can decide to request a waiver by a majority vote of the members present at a
meeting in the zone, if possible, called for that purpose. The committee must notify the town's CEO
who, within five days of receiving this notice, must forward a copy of the committee's decision to any
local official responsible for enforcing the code proposed to be waived and the OPM secretary. The
secretary must, within five days, notify the state official responsible for enforcing that code.
The state or local official must hold a public hearing on the waiver with 10 days of receiving the
request. The hearing must be at a place the CEO chooses. The official must notify the town's CEO
in writing of his decision within five days of ending the hearing. The decision is final. (The law
governing building code exemptions and variances allows the state building official's decision to be
appealed to the Codes and Standards Committee and then to Superior Court.)
Continuous Use. Under the act, any abandoned or vacant property located in a zone is deemed to
be in continuous use for purposes of enforcing state and local codes and regulations. The law
provides that the use of a building or premises is not deemed to have changed because of a
"temporary" vacancy but it does not define temporary. The State Building Code provides that if a
building's use does not change, it does not need to meet new codes, except as required by that code
or to meet Fire Safety and Property Management codes, or if a local code official determines it is
necessary for the occupants' or public's safety or welfare. The Building Code also contains separate
requirements for rehabilitation that do not require full compliance with the code.
Eminent Domain. The act allows a town to take property located in a revitalization zone by
eminent domain and provides findings to justify a town's taking this action. A town must follow
existing statutory procedures governing redevelopment agencies' taking of property that include (1)
filing a description of the property, the names of people with an interest in it, and the proposed
compensation in Superior Court along with a deposit equal to the proposed compensation; (2)
recording the proposed compensation with the town clerk; (3) notifying each interested party; and
(4) filing a return with the court clerk. The clerk then issues a certificate of taking, which, when
recorded on the land records, vests title in the town. The owner can accept the compensation (which,
if over $10,000 must be approved by a state referee) or appeal it in Superior Court.
The act requires a town that reuses or resells residential property it takes in a zone to give
preference to people who intend to live in it. It allows towns to penalize people financially if they do
not live in the property after they make a declaration to do so. But the town must consider
mitigating factors in establishing these penalties.
Rent Receivership. The act allows towns to ask the Superior Court to appoint a rent receiver for
deteriorated properties in a revitalization zone. The receivership is to assure that state and local
health and safety code standards are met and that affected properties do not deteriorate further.
The town must follow the revitalization zone plan in asking for the receivership.
The law already allows rent receiverships in other situations. Tenants can ask for a rent receiver
when there are housing code violations; lack of heat, water, electricity, or sewage facilities; vermin
or pest infestations; or other conditions dangerous to life, health, or safety. A town-appointed
authority can ask for a rent receiver when a building owner has not complied with a board of health
order to abate a nuisance. The act gives these receiverships (and receiverships under the Unfair
Trade Practices Act) priority in the use of rents.
Under the act, when the court receives the petition for a rent receiver it must issue a show cause
order why one should not be appointed and have it served on the building's owner, agent, lessor, or
manager. A hearing on the order must be held between three and 10 days of its being issued. The
hearing's purpose is to determine the need for a receiver, the property's condition, and how much it
will cost to bring it into compliance with applicable codes and regulations or approved waivers. The
court determines the amount to do this, assigns rents in that amount, and records it on the land
records. The receivership has priority over any other rights to receive rent.
The court appoints the receiver to collect rents and use them to bring the property into code
compliance. Any remainder is used to pay taxes and utility bills, the receiver's costs, and the town's
legal fees. Any money left goes to the owner, lessor, manager, or agent. The court can order an
accounting whenever it determines it is reasonable and necessary. If an owner, agent, manager, or
lessor is found, after notice and a hearing, to have tried to or to have collected rents on a building in
receivership, he is in contempt of court.
When the amount the court determined was needed for code compliance has been paid, the town
must discharge the assignment and record the discharge on the land records. The court ends the
receivership when it finds that the property complies with state and local codes and waivers.
Plan Implementation Report. The zone committee must report on the plan's implementation to
the town's legislative body and chief executive officer and the OPM secretary. It must report every
six months in its first year of operation and annually thereafter.
The act makes OPM the lead agency for coordinating state services to revitalization zones. It
permits the OPM secretary, by January 1, 1996, to develop guidelines for state agencies to provide
technical assistance to the zones. The guidelines may cover multi-agency collaboration and a process
to make state funds and technical assistance and support available to zones. They may recommend
models for community outreach, job training and education, conflict resolution, environmental and
health performance standards, new technologies, and public safety strategies.
The act eliminates the ability of the MDC district board to sell nonreservoir property on its own
resolution. Repealing this authority means that the decision to sell such property must be made
under the same conditions as other MDC property. The MDC charter requires a vote of residents in
member towns to approve the sale of most reservoir land.
When the district board proceeds to sell or convey any nonreservoir land, the act requires it to
notify simultaneously the CEO of each town in which the land is located. The notice must be by
certified mail, return receipt requested. The CEO has 90 days to notify the board by certified mail,
return receipt requested, of the town's desire to acquire the property. The reply constitutes
acceptance of the MDC's terms and conditions. If two or more towns wish to acquire the property,
the first to reply receives the opportunity.
A town's failure to reply constitutes a waiver of its right to acquire the property.