Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The bill to extend the length of wetlands permits is expanded and becomes law

We last looked at Raised Bill 859, An Act Extending the Time of Expiration of Certain Land Use Permits, in March after the Planning & Development Committee of the legislature unanimously passed it out of committee. Its scope continued to expand until it became Public Act 11-5 and was signed by the Governor Malloy on May 9th. The Public Act extends the minimum life of a variety of land use permits in virtually identical ways. We'll just focus on wetlands permits.

The bill originally proposed to lengthen to nine years those wetlands permits issued between July 1, 2006 and July 1, 2011. The Home Builders Association of Connecticut asked that all permits permanently be extended to nine years. I guess even Bill Ethier (of the Home Builders) thought that was a little extreme and alternatively recommended that the period of time for which period are automatically extended reach back to July 1, 2004 and forward to July 1, 2013.

But the Senate took the idea of enlarging the extension and ran with it. The Senate amended the bill by applying the new statutory minimum "to any permit issued under this section [CGS 22a-42a] prior to July 1, 2011, that has not expired prior to the effective date of this section." With no stated effective date in the public act itself, the effective date will be October 1, 2011.

Every permit in effect on October 1, 2011 "shall expire not less than nine years after the date of such approval." The length of a permit issued after October 1, 2011 would be determined by the application of CGS § 22a-42a(d(2)): between two and five years.

This does not mean that permits get this benefit after the municipal agency reviews the permit and recalculates the expiration date. This is by legislative fiat. Whether the permit was originally valid for 2 years or 5 years, or any time in between, any permit in effect on October 1, 2011 will have a length of nine years. Such permit, if renewed by the agency may be valid for up to fourteen years. For a permit issued on September 30, 2011 the permit, with the maximum renewal, would expire on September 30, 2025. This would seem to emphasize the importance of the agency's review of changed circumstances at the time of renewal -- since almost a decade would have gone by.

This Public Act seems to embody the Governor's mantra that the State of Connecticut is open for business, while reducing the business of the wetlands agency in determining the length of permits. But will this cause a mini-spike of business before wetlands agencies by applicants wanting applications acted on by the end of September? Time will tell.

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