Legislative Update June 5, 2018

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June 5, 2018


Variances, Exceptions could be Extinguished

By BOB QUINN
Vice President of Government Affairs

As the 2018 Legislative Session winds down, here are a few items being explored in the New Hampshire legislature that are of potential interest to the real estate community and being watched closely by your New Hampshire REALTORS government affairs team:

Variance and special exceptions: Use it or eventually lose it

The Governor has signed HB 1533 into law last week. The bill grants local municipalities the ability to extinguish variances or special exceptions that have not been exercised, as long as they were granted prior to August 2013.

While many, if not most, communities already placed time limitations on variances and special exceptions, some towns allowed the right to exercise the variance to exist in perpetuity.

Under the new law, a town could extinguish the variance/special exception by adopting an amendment to their zoning ordinance and then posting a notice in the city or town hall for one year. Once the year is up, property owners must be given at least two additional years to exercise the variance or special exception.

If a property owner had a variance or special exception granted prior to August 2013, the earliest the town could extinguish that right would be 2022, giving the property owner at least nine years before he or she would be required to seek an extension.

If a property owner’s variance or special exception was granted after August 2013, then HB 1533 will not apply.

Chapter Law 75 goes into effect on July 24.

Agritourism gains protections 

The Governor has also signed into law Senate Bill 412 (now Chapter Law 56) which makes it clear that a municipality cannot adopt an ordinance or policy regarding agritourism activities that conflicts with the definition of agritourism in state statute (RSA 21:34-a). The intent is to give farms greater ability to attract visitors to attend events and activities that are accessory uses to the primary farm operation.

The new law gives the Agriculture Commissioner jurisdiction to determine whether or not a municipality’s ordinance, conflicts with RSA 21:34-a, and is thereby restricting agritourism.

The bill will go into effect on July 15.

Legislature decides to review stormwater enforcement authority, eventually

Senate Bill 450 establishes an advisory commission, which includes NHAR, to review the costs of delegating authority for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stormwater permitting program to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES).

Concerns have been raised that if the state DES assumes authority from the EPA, New Hampshire developers would have to foot the entire program costs, leading to significantly higher permitting fees. Advocates argue that DES will be more responsive to municipal concerns, leading to overall lower development costs.

The Senate authorized $350,000 to hire consultants to assist the Commission to prepare a report, but the House rejected that funding. The final language in the bill will now leave it up to the Governor to decide if funding for the Commission will be included in the next state budget, which means the Commission will not even meet until next October and may not have any funding to conduct its study. The bottom line: Any delegation of authority from EPA to DES on stormwater permitting is years away.

For the most recent legislative chart, click here.

If you have questions regarding these or any other pieces of legislation from the 2018 New Hampshire legislative session, please contact Bob Quinn at bob@nhar.com or 603-225-5549.

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