2022 Housing Legislation
SB400 Omnibus Housing Bill
SB400 will significantly limit local authority relating to development projects. SB400 is a bill incompletely titled relative to training and procedures for zoning and planning boards and relative to financial investments and incentives for affordable housing development. The bill actually contains several provisions which reduce the authority of local land-use boards as well as the Board of Selectmen. This bill was narrowly passed the NH Senate on 3/17/2022. It is supported by development lobbyists and special interest groups, who are expected to continue to push for passage. I will describe the problematic aspects that are specific to each board below.
Loss of Freedom to Regulate
Senior Housing Independently
SB400 states that if towns offer incentives for senior housing, such as increased density, reduced lot size, expedited approval, or other dimensional or procedural incentives, then it “shall” offer these incentives for Workforce Housing. Many towns have prioritized senior housing and their voters have approved these developments on smaller lot sizes. For towns dependent on well water, smaller lot size increases water demand. Senior housing incentives have been approved with the assumption that one to two residents would occupy a smaller lot. Workforce housing will not be limited to one to two people, and the demand on ground water is greater. In summer 2020 we experienced a significant drought, and some local wells went dry. If family housing development requirements are automatically linked to senior housing development requirements, this will create a burden on water demand.
Local planning and zoning boards are in the best position to determine the specifics of their community. This bill improperly inhibits of these boards and unreasonably links two separate and distinct types of housing. If enacted, this portion of the bill would take effect sixty days after passage, and towns would not have time to amend their zoning ordinances accordingly. In essence, passage means that workforce housing will be allowed wherever housing for older persons is currently allowed until the 2023 zoning amendment cycle. It is important that local land-use decisions are made by town residents who have a vested interest in the decisions.
Automatic Reversal of Local
Land-Use Board Decisions
SB400 states that if a land-use board fails to provide specific written findings of fact, which are supportive of their decision with regard to developers’ application disapprovals, it shall be grounds for an automatic reversal of the board's decision. This language is vague. How will the Housing Appeals Board determine what is or is not “supportive”. A disapproval is not an appropriate action for a technical problem.
Unreasonable Time Constraint Added for Planning and Zoning Boards
SB400 imposes a new time, ninety-day time constraint on local zoning boards. It also imposes a sixty-five day limit on planning boards, thus eliminating the present methods for extension. Projects before land-use boards vary in size and scope greatly. How could the same deadline be appropriate for the constriction of a single house and for the construction of a 200-unit complex? Large projects involving many housing units require additional technical review time. The engineering work, including stormwater and roadway design, demands commensurate attention. How could a strict deadline serve to allow local boards to make careful, informed decisions?
Resubmital of Applications
SB400 would allow the same developer to resubmit a denied application. Present case law known as the Fisher Doctrine holds that a the denial of a local project is final. SB400 would allow resubmittals if the case were dismissed without prejudice. This process would put a financial burden on the local community and residential abutters, who would now have to oppose the same project multiple times to prevent its approval. It is important to protect the finality of local land-use board decisions by opposing this bill
Restriction on the Select Board
SB400 changes the procedures and timelines currently used by Planning Boards, City Councils, and Select Boards to consider a development application. The current procedures allow Select Boards an important role. The amended language removes the ability of City Councils and Select Boards to identify non-compliance with local ordinances and regulations. This reduces local oversight and only serves the interests of the developers.
Please take time to contact the House Municipal and County Government Committee and express your displeasure with this legislation. The committee will vote on this bill on 4/27/2022, so your input is needed urgently.
Email the committee now to KILL SB 400: (ask them to vote it ITL -- Inexpedient To Legislate) HouseMunicipalandCountyGovt@leg.state.nh.us
The development lobby is using the levers of government and your tax dollars to force the construction of high-density housing throughout the state. Hollis needs your help to protect the rural attributes we all cherish. High-density is inconsistent with Hollis's rural character and will permanently degrade the town we love. The effects will be dramatic and immediate.
Contact Your State Representatives
Ask that your elected representatives fight to keep local control of zoning.
State Senator: Kevin.Avard@leg.state.nh.us
Contact Town Officials
Ask that zoning and planning boards tell the state legislature not to usurp their authority.
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