PA 10-152—sSB 201

Planning and Development Committee

AN ACT MAKING TECHNICAL REVISIONS TO THE PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT STATUTES, DELAYING REVALUATION FOR CERTAIN MUNICIPALITIES, MAKING SUBSTANTIVE CHANGES TO STATUTES CONCERNING HOUSING BLIGHT AND AUTHORIZING THE MODIFICATION OF CERTAIN ELECTRICITY PURCHASE AGREEMENTS

SUMMARY: This act adds to municipal powers by authorizing municipalities to (1) remediate, not just prevent, housing blight and (2) designate agents to enter property for that purpose. It allows municipalities to exercise these powers under the ordinance they must adopt if they choose to impose a special assessment on blighted property. Under prior law, the revenue the assessment generates could be used only to cover enforcement costs. Under the act, the revenue can also be used to cover remediation costs.

The act permits Middletown, Guilford, and Madison to delay a revaluation that is scheduled to occur prior to the 2013 assessment year with the approval of their respective legislative bodies. In other words, these municipalities may continue taxing property based on its value as of the date of the decision to delay, after which each must revalue the property. The subsequent revaluation must re-commence at the point in the schedule that the municipality was following prior to the delay. In the event of a delayed revaluation, the act allows the person or entity authorized by law to prepare rate bills in these three municipalities to prepare new rate bills based on the delay, notwithstanding any law or municipal charter, special act, or home rule ordinance to the contrary.

By law, electric companies are required to enter long-term power purchase contracts with certain renewable energy producers, subject to the Department of Public Utility Control's (DPUC) approval. The act permits a fuel cell project with an electricity purchase agreement that meets certain criteria to request a change to the agreement.

Finally, the act makes minor, technical, and grammatical changes to municipal and planning and development laws.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2010 for the blighted housing provisions and technical changes and upon passage for the revaluation delays and the electricity purchase agreement provision.

BLIGHTED HOUSING

By law, municipalities have the power to make and enforce regulations preventing housing blight, to which the act adds the power to remediate it and authorize agents to enter property, but not a house or structure, to do so.

By law, a municipality with regulations to prevent housing blight may adopt an ordinance under certain conditions and impose a special assessment on blighted housing. The law specifies the elements that must be included in such an ordinance and the conditions that must be met before establishing the special assessment. Money received from a special assessment goes into a special fund or account dedicated for the municipality's expenses related to enforcing the blight regulations and state and local health, housing, and safety codes and regulations, including police expenses. Any unpaid assessment is a lien on the real estate, similar to a tax lien.

The act allows a municipality to include in such an ordinance authority to designate an agent with the right to enter “property,” but not any dwelling house or other structure, during reasonable hours to remediate blighted conditions. Any ordinance must specify (1) standards for determining whether the municipality has the right to enter the property and (2) procedures for notifying the property's owner that the municipality has determined it has the right to enter the property. The board designated in the ordinance that determines when the special assessment should be imposed on a specific property also authorizes a right of entry. The act adds remediation costs to those for which money in the special assessment fund can be used.

FUEL CELL PROJECT

The act permits a request for modification of a purchase agreement for electricity from a fuel cell project with a generating capacity of up to five megawatts that is located within 50 feet of a natural gas transmission facility operating at pressures above 150 pounds. The project administrator can request a change allowing the project to move to another location and adjust the contract's pricing provision to account for a change attributable to the move. The DPUC has 30 days after receiving such a request to open a docket to review it, and may approve it within 120 days. Under the act, factors affecting a modification are limited to location, contract pricing, and the schedule attributable to the relocation. An electric company cannot cancel an agreement or deem it out of compliance until the modification is approved.

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