New shore rules in effect … but

By GEOFF CUNNINGHAM Jr.
Article Date: Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Tougher shoreland protection laws took another step into a state of confusion on Tuesday when the Department of Environmental Services was forced to enact a stricter version of the law even as the Legislature continues to mull an amendment that would delay its enactment.

DES officials say they are ready to accept permit requests for projects under the new version of the Comprehensive Shoreland Protection Act, but throngs of developers remain frustrated and confused about its changes and what will happen if permits are requested and state lawmakers vote to delay its enactment until Oct. 1 — a proposal that was approved by the Senate and is currently being sent to a House committee for review.

On Monday the DES issued a statement indicating that the new CSPA is in effect and builders with new, yet-to-be approved projects will need to have an accepted permit request to begin work.

A law passed last summer requires state permitting for shoreline work and places tighter restrictions on what can be done in an attempt to preserve shoreline areas on New Hampshire’s water bodies.

In recent months DES has been working to establish the rules and regulations to implement the law, but many developers remained confused about the changes as the April 1 enactment date approached.

State senators have moved to delay the bill’s enactment until Oct. 1 to allow DES more time to educate the public about the new law and related procedures, but until they act on the proposed amendment they will need to enforce a law that spelled out April 1 as the enactment date.

A Senate committee initially proposed delaying the enactment to July 1, but a vote in the full Senate saw members pushing it to Oct. 1. It will need House approval to pass muster.

A DES release indicates that the department has “no ability to ignore the new requirements” and indicates it intends to apply the law as established in a manner that will provide the building community with alternatives in an effort to minimize confusion.

Projects begun after April, or a subsequently enacted effective date will require a permit under the revised CSPA.

If someone chooses to apply for a permit after April 1 and before any change in the effective date, DES will promptly process such a permit application.

However if a party desires to delay commencement of a project to see if the effective date will be extended, that would be at the party’s prerogative, according to DES spokesman Jim Martin.

Martin said it will be up to developers to decide whether they want to apply for permits now or await a ruling from the Legislature on the proposed delay in the law’s enactment. He said projects approved before April 1 are grandfathered or “vested” under the former version of the law, which requires no permit.

“We are just giving people the alternative of waiting and seeing what happens with the legislature,” said Martin.

However, those who wait will not be allowed to begin projects that weren’t approved by a local planning board and begun before April 1.

Another complicating factor is that the state is also reviewing legislative changes that could also impact the issue of which projects are grandfathered.

Martin said that builders who move forward with a permit request now and get approved could find themselves following the previous law if lawmakers do vote to delay its enactment later.

Paul Goodwin, the owner of Watermark Marine Construction in Gilford, has been involved in the lawmaking process for the amended Comprehensive Shoreland Protection Act and said the new law has sparked a great amount of confusion among developers and builders across the state who remain unsure of how to proceed.

He said the enactment of the law by DES on April 1 will likely further confuse people who see that the legislature is considering delaying it.

“I would say it’s going to be very confusing, but their (DES officials) hands are tied,” said Goodwin.

Goodwin serves as the president of the newly-formed New Hampshire Shorefront Association — a new, nonprofit corporation dedicated to organizing support and lobbying for the State Legislature to keep its interests in mind during the lawmaking process.

He said it is now critical for the state legislature to act fast on an amendment whose proposed delay is seeking to give DES time to clear up some of the confusion that is out in the building community.

“I just hope they use prudence in moving forward (because) now it falls on the legislature to clarify some of these issues … that’s the whole idea behind moving the date back,” said Goodwin.

Rep. Judith Spang, D-Durham, chairs the House’s Resources, Recreation and Development Committee, which is the panel the proposed Senate amendment has been forwarded to.

She said the full house will vote on the proposed Senate amendment on April 16 but noted that her panel has yet to bring it up for discussion.

Spang said members of her committee have discussed the proposed delayed enactment in the past, figuring they would eventually have to take it up. She said she didn’t hear any mention of support for pushing the enactment as far forward as Oct. 1, though she acknowledged that date had yet to come forward in the Senate amendment when they were discussing it.

The chair herself said she doesn’t support a delay, noting that the law was passed in July of 2007, thus giving people plenty of notice about the changes.

“My personal feeling is that I’m comfortable with April 1. The agency (DES) has implemented it and they have all their people in place,” said Spang.

Spang said, short of being given plenty of good reasons to delay it, she will likely not support putting it off until Oct. 1, noting that she has heard no “convincing” arguments supporting such a delay.

However some say the confusion over the issue is reason enough to hold off on enacting the law.

Goodwin noted that many builders and shoreline property owners remain in limbo concerning projects.

“I’ve been involved with this since day one and I’m kind of confused about what I need to do. What we have here is a confusing mess, for a lack of a better term,” said Goodwin.

Martin acknowledged that many parties appear frustrated with the process and DES has its Shoreland Protection Outreach Specialist, Jay Aube, assigned to answering calls and responding to concerns.

When asked if DES is getting a lot of inquiries about the new law, he responded: “yes”.

“We are getting a lot of calls and we have somebody hired on to do the permitting, who is dedicated to answering these questions,” said Martin.

DES will be posting information on the status of any possible changes to the effective date of the revised CSPA as it becomes available on the DES website at www.des.nh.gov/cspa. For further information or clarification, please call Jay Aube, Shoreland Protection Outreach Specialist, at 271-8176.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: