Municipal Land Use Approvals Extended 

October 21, 2021 

By: Zachary A. Kohl 

It has been a busy year for land use legislation in Connecticut. In addition to the extensive changes to the zoning code under Public Act 21-29 (see discussion herehere, and here), the General Assembly passed Public Acts 21-34 and 21-163, which provide additional time for completing projects under approved land use applications.  

  1. Concurrent Land Use Deadlines 

Under existing law, inland wetland approvals are valid for the same period as the related planning and zoning approvals but not more than 10 years, whichever is earlier. Legislation passed this year and effective July 1, 2021, delays the effective date for inland wetland approvals until the time that necessary planning, zoning, incentive housing or affordable housing approvals take effect for the same project. This aligns the deadlines to complete a project under these different approvals.  

  1. Extensions of Land Use Deadlines 

Governor Lamont suspended certain land use deadlines during the COVID-19 pandemic under Executive Order 7JJ. However, the executive order did not extend the time to complete projects after the emergency declaration is lifted or that portion of Executive Order 7JJ pertaining to such deadlines is rescinded. In the most recent legislative session, the General Assembly enacted specific, extended deadlines for land use approvals obtained prior to July 1, 2021. Accordingly, there is no change in the land use deadlines for projects approved after July 1, 2021. 

a. Extension of Land Use Approvals Granted Prior to July 1, 2011

i. Site Plan and Subdivision Approvals of Less Than 400 Units and Inland Wetland Approvals

The legislature extended to 14 years the length of site plan and subdivision approvals, other than those with 400 or more dwelling units, and inland wetland approvals granted prior to July 1, 2011. These approvals also must not have expired prior to July 1, 2021. Any extensions granted cannot exceed 19 years. 

For such site plan and subdivision approvals, local land use bodies may grant one or more extensions to complete all or part of work. 

Such inland wetland approvals extensions shall be renewed upon request of permit holder unless the agency finds that there has been a substantial change in circumstances that requires a new permit application or an enforcement action has been undertaken regarding the regulated activity for which the permit was issued. These deadlines do not apply to projects with inland wetland approvals under section 1 of this blog post. 

Each of these deadlines also applies to approvals granted under Special Acts. 

ii. Special Permit, Special Exception, and Subdivisions of More than 400 Dwelling Units 

Special permits and special exceptions granted prior to July 1, 2011, are extended to 19 years if not expired prior to July 1, 2021. An agency may grant one or more extensions to complete all or part of the work in connection with the special permit or exception. 

Subdivisions of more than 400 dwelling units approved prior to July 1, 2011, that had not expired prior to July 1, 2021, are extended to 19 years. The commission’s endorsement of approval of the plan shall state the date on which the 19-year period expires. 

Each of these deadlines also applies to approvals granted under Special Acts. 

b. Extension of Land Use Approvals Granted on or after to July 1, 2011 

The General Assembly similarly extended the deadlines for land use approvals granted on or after July 1, 2011, but before July 1, 2021, that had not expired prior to March 1, 2020. The length of the deadlines and possibility of extension are the same as described previously in section 2 of this blog post. These deadlines also apply to approvals granted under Special Acts.

If you have any questions about these changes, or your own land use project, please contact the Kohl Law Firm, PLLC at (860) 865-0101. 

6 Zoning Law Changes to Take Effect in Connecticut on October 1, 2021 – Cottage Food Businesses, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in Zoning, Definition of “Character” and New Fees 

September 29, 2021 

By: Zachary A. Kohl 

On October 1, 2021, many new laws take effect in Connecticut. I will be sharing a series of blog posts discussing six zoning law changes that may impact you in the coming week. 

The Connecticut General Assembly passed more changes to the state’s zoning laws this year than any in recent memory. Many of those changes can be found in Public Act 21-29 (the “Act”). 

My last post focused on the legalization* of accessory use apartments. Previously, my first post discussed efforts under the Act to make zoning laws more equitable. This post will cover: 

  • The allowance of “cottage food businesses”; 
  • Energy efficient development and renewable energy measures permitted under the Act; 
  • The requirement of a more objective definition of character in zoning regulations; and  
  • New land use fees permitted under the Act. 
  1. Allowance of Cottage Food Businesses 

Zoning regulations must now allow the operation a “cottage food operation” in a residential zone.  

Under Connecticut consumer protection law, a cottage food operation produces baked goods, jams, jellies and other “nonpotentially hazardous foods” in the home kitchen of an individual’s private residential dwelling and only for sale directly to the consumer. Such products do not include maple syrup and honey. Additionally, the operation cannot also operate a food service establishment, or be a food retailer, distributor or manufacturer as defined and regulated under state law. 

  1.  Energy Efficient Development and Renewable Energy 

The Act also allows municipalities to require or promote energy efficient patterns of development, use of distributed generation or freestanding solar, wind and other renewables, combined heat and power, and energy conservation. Furthermore, incentives may be provided for 

  • solar and other forms of renewable energy;
  • combined heat and power;
  • water conservation, including demand offsets; and 
  • energy conservation techniques, including, but not limited to, cluster development, higher density development and performance standards for roads, sidewalks and underground facilities in the subdivision. 
  1. More Objective Definition of Character 

As discussed in my post on equity in zoning, the Act moves toward a more objective definition of “character” in zoning regulations. Character has been a basis for denying any project that a zoning body may disfavor but finds difficulty in articulating another legal basis for its decision. In the Act, the term character has been replaced with “physical site characteristics” as a consideration drafting zoning regulations. Additionally, a zoning decision may be based on a district’s character only if the term is expressly articulated in the regulations by clear and explicit physical standards for site work and structures. Both of these changes should result in more objective and articulable bases for zoning decisions.

  1. New Land Use Fees 

The cost of some land use applications will increase under the Act. The Act allows municipalities to charge land use applicants for the reasonable cost of any necessary review of any technical aspect of the application by expert consultants, such as traffic or stormwater for the benefit of the commission or board. A municipality have to adopt a zoning regulation to implement such fees.

As can be seen from this series of blog posts, the legislature brought many changes to zoning law this year some of which I have not covered in these posts. Nonetheless, the Act is a watered-down version of the many proposals brought before the General Assembly and advocacy groups are likely to continue to push additional changes that did not make it into law. 

The Act also sets up a commission of land use experts and political appointees that will (1) develop model design guidelines for streets and buildings that towns may adopt to promote equitable, sustainable development; (2) study alternative on-site sewage treatment systems; (3) explore guidelines and incentives for towns to comply with state law to submit affordable housing plans; and (4) recommend statutory changes to the state’s plan of conservation and development. 

Accordingly, more changes to land use law in Connecticut are likely to follow in the coming years.

Stay tuned for my next blog post that will address changes Connecticut made to land use deadlines largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you have any questions about these changes or your own land use project, please contact the Kohl Law Firm, PLLC at (860) 865-0101. 

6 Zoning Law Changes to Take Effect in Connecticut on October 1, 2021 – Accessory Apartments 

September 27, 2021 

By: Zachary A. Kohl 

On October 1, 2021, many new laws take effect in Connecticut. This is my second in a series of blog posts discussing six zoning law changes that may impact you. 

The Connecticut General Assembly passed more changes to the state’s zoning laws this year than any in recent memory. Many of those changes can be found in Public Act 21-29 (the “Act”). 

My last post focused on efforts under the Act to make zoning laws more equitable. This post will address the legalization* of accessory apartments. 

Legalization* of Accessory Apartments 

The Act legalizes accessory apartments, which it defines as a separate dwelling unit located on the same lot as a principal dwelling unit of greater square footage containing cooking facilities and complying with applicable building code, fire code, and health and safety regulations unless exempt. Municipal regulations must do the following. 

  • Allow accessory use apartments “as of right” on single-family lots without requiring a public hearing be held, a variance, special permit or special exemption be granted, or some other discretionary zoning action be taken. A determination may be required that the site plan conforms to the zoning regulations. 
  • Allow attached and detached accessory apartments. 
  • Allow accessory apartments of at least 1000 square feet or 30 percent of the principal dwelling, whichever is less. 
  • Not set age or familial, marital or employment relationship requirements to the occupants of the principal dwelling.
  • Not set a parking requirement greater than one spot per accessory apartment 
  • Not require periodic renewal of permits.
  • Not require a passageway between the dwellings, an exterior door except as required by building or fire code, or separate utilities.

A municipality may prohibit or limit the use of accessory apartments for short term rentals or vacation stays. 

Notably, however, a municipality may make accessory apartments illegal by a vote of its zoning commission in compliance with the Act. Additional requirements are set forth in the Act.  

My next and final post on the Act will discuss (1) the allowance of “cottage food” businesses; (2) provisions for energy efficient development and renewable energy; (3) the definition of “character”; and (4) new fees that may be charged for land use applications. 

If you have any questions about accessory apartments or your own land use project, please contact the Kohl Law Firm, PLLC at (860) 865-0101. 

SIX ZONING LAW CHANGES TO TAKE EFFECT IN CONNECTICUT ON OCTOBER 1, 2021

Equity in Zoning

On October 1, 2021, many new laws take effect in Connecticut. I will be sharing a series of blog posts discussing six zoning law changes that may impact you in the coming weeks.

The Connecticut General Assembly passed more changes to the state’s zoning laws this year than any in recent memory. Many of those changes can be found in Public Act 21-29 (the “Act”).

This post will focus on the efforts taken to address equity in zoning.

Equity in Zoning

Many of the measures found in the new zoning laws aim to address racial and economic disparities often reinforced by zoning regulations.

  • The Act removed considerations of “character,” “overcrowding of land,” and “undue concentration of population” from state law as standards for drafting zoning regulations. “Character” is instead replaced with a consideration of “physical site characteristics”. Additionally, zoning bodies cannot base a zoning approval on a district’s “character” unless the term is expressly articulated in the regulations by clear and explicit physical standards for site work and structures.
    • Why this matters: Subjective definitions of character and these density considerations have been used by zoning bodies to block multi-family development, which furthers the racial segregation of Connecticut municipalities.
  • To proactively address equity issues, zoning regulations must:
    • Consider the impact on contiguous municipalities and the planning region;
    • Address significant disparities in housing needs, access to educational occupational and other opportunities; and
    • Affirmatively further the purposes of federal Fair Housing Act
  • In order to prevent the use of zoning regulations that have a discriminatory effect, zoning regulations cannot
    • Establish a minimum floor area for a dwelling unit that is greater than the minimum floor area required by any applicable building, housing or other code;
    • Cap the amount multifamily housing permitted in a municipality;
    • Require more than one parking space for each studio or one-bedroom unit or more than two for each with two or more unless the municipality opts out of this requirement;
    • Base a zoning approval on the immutable characteristics, source of income, or income level of any applicant or end user other than age and disability when age-restricted or disability-restricted housing may be permitted; or
    • Impose conditions or requirements on mobile manufactured homes or parks which are substantially different from those for single-family dwellings or lots, or multi-family dwellings lots, cluster developments, or planned unit developments.
  • The Act also sets up a commission to study and recommend further changes to Connecticut law including exploring guidelines and incentives for towns to comply with state law to submit affordable housing plans.

Although these are significant changes to Connecticut zoning law, the Act remains a watered-down version of the many proposals brought before the General Assembly. Legislators and advocacy groups are likely to continue to push additional changes to make housing in this state more equitable.

My next post will discuss the legalization of accessory apartments.

If you have any questions about these changes, or your own land use project, please contact the Kohl Law Firm, PLLC at (860) 865-0101.