Legislative Update May 21, 2019

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Legislative Update
May 21, 2019

Closer to stricter arsenic standards 

By BOB QUINN
Vice President of Government Affairs

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:

New arsenic standards take another step forward

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted last week to amend and pass House Bill 261, which requires the Department of Environmental Services (DES) to lower the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for arsenic in public water systems from the current EPA recommendation of 10 parts per billion to no more than five parts per billion. New Hampshire would join New Jersey as the only states with an enforceable level below 10 ppb.

The amendment pushes back the effective date of the stricter arsenic standard, to be no sooner than July 1, 2021.

A public water system is defined as having at least 15 service connections or regularly serves an average of at least 25 individuals daily at least 60 days out of the year. So certain homeowner’s associations fall under the definition.

The amendment also provides for grants or loans from the Drinking Water and Groundwater Trust Fund to assist with the capital costs of compliance. However, ongoing maintenance costs, which are significant, are not eligible for funding. And it is not clear how much money will be available through the Trust. NHAR had asked for additional funding for both capital costs as well as maintenance.

The final vote on HB 261 will be later this week.

New definition of a prime wetland clears Senate

House Bill 326 allows for an existing prime wetland to be expanded to an area less than 50 feet in width if the municipality can demonstrate that these narrower portions provide a significant contribution to the primary wetland functions of the prime wetland. Currently, a prime wetland must have a width of 50 feet.

To qualify as a significant contribution, the narrower portions must contain four or more primary wetland functions. The municipality must also consider any potential adverse effects on the landowner of the narrower portion.

The vote in the Senate was 16 to 8 in favor. The House will need to agree to the changes made by the Senate before the bill can be sent to the Governor.

Commission on barriers to density in land development
passes despite vocal opposition

Senate Bill 43 creates a Commission to Study Density of Land Development in New Hampshire in order to look at barriers to increased density of development. NHAR will be one of 14 entities with a seat on the Commission.

A Commission is charged with looking at how government might lower obstacles to developing residential and commercial property more efficiently while preserving more open space. That goal might not seem controversial – nor should it be – especially with our state experiencing historic inventory issues.

However, after a lengthy debate on the House floor, over one-third of the House of Representative voted against even studying the issue. Opponents argued on the House floor that housing
density would increase violent crime and drug use – no evidence was offered to support these claims.

Of course, many local officials responsible for creating those barriers to housing are not inclined to have a study commission review their rationales or seek alternatives to housing sprawl.

The debate on HB 43 demonstrates that not all elected officials are on board with seeking viable solutions to New Hampshire’s housing shortfall. The Governor is expected to sign the bill. The first meeting of the Commission should occur this fall.

To view the most recent legislative chart, click here or view the attachment. If you have questions regarding these or any other pieces of legislation from the 2019 New Hampshire legislative session, please contact New Hampshire REALTORS Vice President of Government Affairs Bob Quinn at bob@nhar.com or 603-225-5549.

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