Legislative Update June 4, 2021

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Legislative Update June 4, 2021

House rejects remote meetings for municipalities

Chief Executive Officer

Since March of last year, public bodies have been authorized to conduct virtual meetings under the governor’s Emergency Order No. 12. This authority has been continued as the governor has renewed the state of emergency.

Senate Bill 95 was introduced to allow public bodies to continue to meet remotely, if they so choose, once the current emergency order is no longer extended. Town officials testified at the hearing that participation has increased, and remote meetings have proven to be successful and popular.

This week, the House of Representatives rejected the Senate-approved provision in SB 95 that would enable public bodies to continue to meet remotely until July 1, 2022. Instead, the House voted to study the issue further. Unless a compromise is reached between the Senate and House, remote meetings will no longer be permitted once the Governor’s Emergency Order is rescinded.

Bill passes to alleviate permitting logjam

Senate Bill 129 was introduced to rectify an issue which has hampered development projects around the state and is consequently increasing costs and time in bringing projects to market. This week, the House narrowly approved the legislation and is now headed to the Governor for his signature.

In 2019, the state Supreme Court ruled that the Departments of Environmental Services (NHDES) and Fish & Game were not properly enforcing the section of Alteration of Terrain (AoT) permits that accounts for the presence of threatened and endangered species. The new mandate has placed an administrative burden on the state, which they clearly do not have the personnel to handle. Developers have indicated that AoT permitting is now delayed by months as a result.

The legislation creates a different standard for review, which may allow some projects to bypass a Fish & Game examination while still needing to subject the project to a NHDES review.

SB 129 legislation is a first step in a potentially lengthy legislative, regulatory and budgetary path to alleviate the requirements on both developers and state agencies. NHAR joined other advocates in support of the bill, and all agreed that environmental reviews were needed but that the state should find a way to expedite the process.

New voluntary dock registration process rolls out

Beginning on June 15, 2021, owners of legally existing non-tidal docking structures in need of repairs or maintenance will have an alternative to obtaining a wetlands permit to authorize the work.

As a result of House Bill 1245 in 2020, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) is introducing a new voluntary registration process in which the owners of legally existing non-tidal docking structures can participate, allowing their structures to be exempted from the usual repair permitting requirements.

Owners of seasonal structures frequently lack documentation illustrating that the structures are compliant with RSA 482-A. This can cause delays when buying or selling property while the owner is searching for a historic permit or evidence that the structure was built before 1978.

Registration only requires that the structure has existed since January 1, 2000, and registered structures will, by law, be considered to be in compliance with RSA 482-A.

NH DES has developed an online registration process to facilitate and streamline the use of this new option for those who choose to participate and register their docking structures. Registrations will need to be renewed at the end of their five-year term to remain valid. The renewal process will also be available online.

The NH DES will hold a webinar on June 8 at 7 p.m. for an overview of the new online registration process. Register for the webinar at this link.

If you have questions regarding these or any other pieces of legislation regarding the 2021 New Hampshire legislative session, please contact New Hampshire REALTORS Chief Executive Officer Bob Quinn by email (bob@nhar.com) or 603-225-5549.

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