PA 08-182—sHB 5324
Program Review and Investigations Committee
Planning and Development Committee
AN ACT IMPLEMENTING THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE PROGRAM REVIEW AND INVESTIGATIONS COMMITTEE STUDY OF REGIONAL PLANNING ORGANIZATIONS
SUMMARY: This act expands the capacity for state and regional planning. It requires the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) secretary to (1) rank the state's policies for developing and conserving land and (2) track the extent to which the state's principles for managing growth are being implemented. These policies and principles are specified in the State Plan of Conservation and Development (Plan of C&D), which serves as the basis for state agency decisions whether to fund major physical development projects.
The act also requires the secretary to reassess the boundaries of the state's planning regions at least once every 20 years and change them if necessary. The law allows towns within these regions to form three types of regional planning bodies. The rules governing these bodies vary. The act gives them largely the same powers and duties and refers to them collectively as regional planning organizations (RPOs). It also makes many conforming technical changes regarding RPOs.
By law, most RPOs must prepare a 10-year regional plan of development. These plans do not have to be consistent with the state plan, but the law requires the secretary to review them. The act requires him to develop uniform criteria for doing so.
Lastly, the act expands the range of projects eligible for regional performance incentive grants, which are available for delivering an existing municipal service on a regional basis. The act extends eligibility to new services that are not being provided anywhere in the region. It also drops the requirement that proposed projects increase local purchasing power or lower tax rates but requires the secretary to give priority to those that do.
EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2008, except for the changes affecting the regional performance incentive grants, which take effect July 1, 2008.
§ 10 — State Plan of C& D
By law, the OPM secretary must prepare the Plan of C& D and revise it every five years. The plan contains policies and growth management principles for managing the state's physical development. State agencies must consider them when deciding whether to fund sewers, roads, public facilities, and other large-scale infrastructure that could affect where private developers build homes, stores, and office parks.
The act expands the plan's capacity as a decision-making tool. It requires the secretary to rank the plan's policies and adopt standards for determining if they are being met. Specifically, he must:
1. assign a priority to each policy,
2. estimate how much it would cost to implement it and identify potential funding sources,
3. identify the entities that must implement it, and
4. specify the schedule for doing so.
The secretary must also track the extent to which the plan's principles are being met. He must do so by developing three standards or benchmarks for each principle. Each set of benchmarks must include one that measures the principle's financial effects.
§§ 8 & 9 — Designating Planning Regions
By law, the OPM secretary must divide the state into logical planning regions. Specifically, he must designate and redesignate the region's boundaries, but the law neither specifies the number of regions he must designate nor the times for reconsidering the current designations. The 15 existing planning regions were designated during the late 1950s.
Starting by January 1, 2012, the act requires the secretary to analyze regional boundaries at least once every 20 years and redesignate them if necessary. Before doing so, he must develop criteria to evaluate how urban centers affect neighboring towns. At a minimum, the criteria must evaluate environmental and economic development trends, including housing, employment levels, commuting patterns for the most common types of jobs, traffic patterns on major roads, and changes in how people see social and historic ties. The criteria must also specify a minimum size for logical planning areas based on the number of municipalities, total population, and total square mileage.
The act requires the secretary to notify municipalities about the revisions he proposes before January 1, 2012 and specifies the process he must follow for notifying them. The notice must go to the chief executive officer (CEO) of each municipality in a region affected by the revisions. If a municipality's legislative body objects to the revision, the CEO must petition the secretary to attend a meeting with the legislative body to hear its objections. The CEO must do so within 30 days after receiving the notice. The petition must specify the meeting's place, date, and time.
The CEO must propose holding the meeting no later than 45 days after submitting the petition. The secretary or his designee must make every reasonable effort to attend this meeting or a meeting held on another date, which must also fall within 45 days of the petition. If the secretary cannot make this meeting, he and the CEO may schedule the meeting for another date and time, which must fall within 120 days of the secretary's notice to the CEO.
The legislative body must use the meeting to inform the secretary about its objections. The secretary must consider the legislative body's oral and written objections. Within 45 days after the meeting, he must notify the CEO about his decision regarding the proposed boundary changes. In doing so, he must state his reasons for the decision.
Any changes to the regional boundaries take effect on July 1 following the date when the secretary finished analyzing or modifying the boundaries.
§§ 1, 6, & 7 — REGIONAL PLANNING ORGANIZATIONS
Just as the law requires the secretary to prepare the Plan of C& D, it requires RPOs to prepare similar plans for their respective regions. The law allows towns to form three types of RPOs: (1) regional planning agencies (RPAs), (2) regional councils of elected officials (RCEO), and (3) regional councils of governments (RCOGs). Their powers and duties vary, and so do the rules for forming them.
Towns can establish an RPA to prepare the statutorily required regional plan of development. Their representatives on the RPA's board are not limited to each town's chief elected official (CEO). Consequently, the CEOs may form an RCEO where they can air mutual concerns and interests. This council may perform the RPA's duties if the region does not have one.
Lastly, the towns can put the policymaking and planning functions under their chief elected officials by establishing an RCOG that automatically supplants and assumes the duties of the RPA. This council includes a regional planning commission consisting of one representative from each local planning commission.
The act places RCEOs on the same footing as the other RPOs. By law, two or more towns in a region can form an RCEO. Consequently, they are easier to form than RPAs and RCOGs, which require the approval of at least 60% of the region's towns. The act gives RCEOs the same powers as RCOGs in regions where the latter do not exist. This allows them to acquire real estate (CGS § 4-124r), advise the transportation commissioner about alternative standards for roads and bridges (CGS § 13a-13a), and advise the economic and community development commissioner about strategic economic development plans (CGS § 32-1o).
Under the act, RPAs' bylaws must include provisions requiring the RPA and the chief elected officials of the RPA's member towns to hold quarterly meetings on regional issues. By law, each participating town gets two seats on the RPA's board, and those with more than 25,000 people get an extra representative for each 50,000 people. But, as noted above, the representatives need not be the towns' chief elected officials (CGS § 8-31a).
REGIONAL LAND USE COORDINATION
§ 12 — Regional Plans of Conservation and Development
The act requires the OPM secretary to adopt regulations for reviewing regional plans of development, which the act renames regional plans of conservation and development. The law requires RPAs and RCOGs to prepare a regional plan at least once every 10 years. RCEOs must comply with this requirement if they choose to exercise regional planning powers.
In either case, the law requires these bodies to submit the plan to the secretary at least 65 days before the hearing on the plan. The secretary must determine the degree to which a regional plan corresponds to the State Plan of C&D and the state strategic economic development plan. The regional plan must be consistent with the state plans in how they define and address mutual issues and concerns. But a regional plan may also address other issues without being inconsistent with those plans. By October 1, 2011, the act requires the secretary to adopt regulatory criteria for reviewing these plans and issuing his findings.
§§ 3, 4, & 5 — River Protection Plans
The act includes RCEOs exercising regional planning powers in the review of river protection plans. By law, the OPM secretary must coordinate the review of these plans and related documents, which are prepared by organizations that manage river resources. These organizations are river committees, which the Department of Environmental Protection commissioner may establish for state- designated river corridors, and river commissions, which two or more towns may establish for a river that forms their boundaries or flows through them (CGS §§ 25-203 and 25-232).
The act requires the secretary to include RCEOs exercising regional planning duties in the reviews he coordinates of river management plans. Prior law limited the RPOs' participation to RPAs and RCOGs.
§ 11 — FUNDING FOR REGIONALLY DELIVERED SERVICES
Grants for New Services
The act makes new services eligible for regional performance incentive grants. The law allows the secretary to provide grants for delivering an existing municipal service on a regional basis. Only RPOs may apply for the grants. Under prior law, a service qualified for a grant only if a town in the RPO's region delivered the service alone and not with other towns on a regional basis. The town did not have to be a member of the RPO.
The act limits the grants to services provided only by towns belonging to the RPO. As under prior law, the service qualifies only if (1) it is not already being delivered regionally and (2) two or more towns will jointly deliver it. The act makes planning studies eligible for grants. A study may examine delivering an existing or new service on a regional basis.
The act also opens the grants up to more proposals in other ways. It does so by dropping the requirement limiting proposals only to those that increase the participating towns' purchasing power or that lower costs to the point where towns can reduce tax rates. Although the act eliminates this requirement, it requires the secretary to give priority to proposals that will produce these effects.
The act changes the grant application requirements. Under prior law, an RPO had to submit a proposal to the secretary describing:
1. at least one service currently provided on a municipal rather than a regional basis;
2. how the service would be delivered regionally, including which entity would deliver it and how the population would continue to be served;
3. how the service would achieve economies of scale and how much would be saved; and
4. the mill rate reduction for each municipality due to the resulting savings and how this reduction would be implemented.
The proposal also had to include:
1. a cost/benefit analysis of providing the service on a regional versus municipal basis,
2. a plan for implementing the service regionally,
3. an estimate of the savings for each municipality, and
4. any other information the secretary requested.
Under prior law, the proposal had to include an attachment certifying that there are no legal obstacles to regionally delivering the service. The act drops this provision and the one requiring each town to estimate cost savings and other information the secretary requires. It requires the proposal to explain the need for the service and the potential legal obstacles to delivering it regionally.
By law, each participating town's legislative body must adopt a resolution endorsing the proposal, and the resolution must be attached to it. The act specifies that the legislative body is the board of selectmen in towns with a town meeting form of government.
The act changes the criteria for awarding the grants. Under prior law, the secretary had to give priority to proposals that involved at least half of an RCOG's member towns. Under the act, he must give priority to those that involve all of an RPO's member towns.
The act also requires the secretary to give priority to proposals that increase the municipalities' purchasing power or that cut costs and consequently lower tax rates. As mentioned above, prior law allowed RPOs to submit only proposals that produced these effects.
Starting in 2008, the act pushes back the deadline for submitting grant applications from December 1 to December 31.
The law requires the secretary to report annually about the grants to the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee. Under prior law, the report was due February 1. The act pushes back the deadline to March 1 and requires the reports to identify the extent to which the grants helped reduce property taxes.
Regional Planning Organizations
Table 1 shows the types of RPOs operating in the state.
Table 1: Regional Planning Organization
Regional Councils of Governments
Regional Planning Agencies
Regional Councils of Elected Officials
Capitol Region Council of Governments
Central Connecticut Regional Planning Agency
Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials
Council of Governments of the Central Naugatuck Valley
Connecticut River Estuary Regional Planning Agency
Litchfield Council of Elected Officials
Northeastern Connecticut Council of Government
Greater Bridgeport Regional Planning Agency
South Central Regional Council of Governments
Midstate Regional Planning Agency
Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments
Southwestern Connecticut Regional Planning Agency
Valley Council of Governments
Windham Region Council of Government
OLR Tracking: JR: JM: JL: dw