Planning & Zoning Notice Registry
Public Act 06-80, Raised Bill ("RB”) 5290, An Act Concerning Notice Requirements for Land Use Applications (In the face of strong opposition from municipal planners, who requested the Governor to veto this bill, the HBA wrote to Governor Rell and urged her to sign this important legislation. She signed the bill on May 30 and this new law will be effective on October 1, 2006). The HBA strongly supported this top priority bill. This legislation addresses the wide array of public notice requirements on land use applicants. It also helps to make sure local land use boards operate in the open and, like many new laws, grew out of a long history of local ordinance changes adopted without adequate public notice. The bill makes the following two changes:
First, when developers, homeowners or anyone else apply to a local planning and zoning commission (PZC) for permission to use their land, typically PZCs require the applicant to publish notices about the public hearing on the application. The legislation makes these requirements more uniform and removes some of the procedural pitfalls in current notice requirements. Under the new law, local authority to require notice of the public hearing on the application is clearly limited to newspaper notice, mailing adjacent owners (but not occupants) and posting of a sign on the land that is the subject of the hearing. Adjacent owners are to be identified from the tax assessor’s map or on the last completed grand list and proof of mailing to adjacent owners shall be evidenced by a certificate of mailing (not certified mail). Local governments must revise their PZC ordinances to comply with these changes by October 1.
Second, when a PZC proposes itself to make a change in its local zoning or subdivision ordinance, the zoning map or the local plan of conservation and development, the PZC under current law typically provides only newspaper notice of the public hearing on the proposed change. Since ordinance changes adopted by PZCs can significantly impact the rights of property owners and newspaper notices are largely ineffective to inform the general public, this legislation requires PZCs to provide some minimal additional notice to certain people who want it. This is good government. PZCs must set up a "public notice registry” with the name and address of landowners, electors and legitimate nonprofit organizations who affirmatively choose to have their name on the registry. Then, when PZCs initiate ordinance, map or plan changes, they must provide to those names on the registry a notice of the public hearing on such proposed changes no later than 7 days prior to the hearing. The registry does not require any special software and the notices are to be sent to those on the registry by regular mail or email, as chosen by the person signing up. The registry does not (and by law cannot) apply to hearings on applications since applicants have their own, more extensive but specific notice requirements. The registry applies to only PZC initiated ordinance, map or plan changes, which occur only once or twice per year.