March 20, 2018
DES May Be Asked to Speed Things Up
By BOB QUINN
Government Affairs Director
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:
Bill would reduce turnaround time on certain DES permits
House Bill 1104 would reduce the time the Department of Environmental Services (DES) has to respond to fill and dredge permitting applications. DES would have 10 days, as opposed to the current 14 days, to provide initial notice of an application’s completeness. And for DES to request additional information from an applicant under the new law, it would have 50 days (as opposed to the current 75 days) for projects under one acre of impact, or 75 days (as opposed to 105) for all other projects. The bill also changes deadlines to hold a public meeting. NHAR supports these changes.
Additionally, the bill also proposed to alter deadlines for certain other state agencies to respond to applications, petitions or requests. The bill is currently making its way through the House of Representatives.
Voting on variances bill gets major overhaul
Last session, the only bill the Governor vetoed dealt with mandating that a Zoning Board of Adjustment must vote on each of the five standards for approving a variance under RSA 674:33 as separate votes, as opposed to simply approving the variance with just one vote. NHAR applauded the Governor’s veto.
This session, House Bill 1215 contained the exact same language as the bill which the Governor vetoed. However, this year NHAR and others were able to convince the House that the bill would create unnecessary and expensive delays. The bill was significantly amended and now simply requires a municipality to state in its rules which voting method will be used. The amended version of the bill has passed the House and is now in the Senate.
House variance legislation: Use it or lose it
What happens when a property owner is granted a variance by a local Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) but then does not exercise that right? For instance, a property owner is granted a variance from a town setback requirement in order to build a deck but then doesn’t build the deck. Should that variance remain in effect forever?
Most towns already limit the time an applicant can exercise a variance, but some communities have not. House Bill 1533 would allow a path for a town to extinguish a variance which was never been acted upon. For any variance granted prior to August 2013, a town would be allowed to adopt an amendment to the zoning ordinance, and the planning board must post notice of the termination at the town hall. The notice must be posted for one year. Once that one-year notice period ends, the variance is still valid if exercised within two years of the expiration date of the notice or as further extended by the zoning board of adjustment for good cause.
The House has passed the bill and the Senate will be consider the issue in April.