I wanted to let you know about emergency action being taken by Connecticut, in case they are useful to you in your own states (or, if you're in Connecticut, so you can spread the word!).Connecticut has adopted sweeping changes to the way local governments deal with historic preservation in two Executive Orders from Governor Lamont, one last week and one this week. The goal of these Orders is to reduce in-person contact, while keeping public business moving forward and balancing the imperative for public input.
Under the Orders, all state and local laws to the contrary are suspended and replaced by the following:- Local preservation commissions CAN MEET virtually or telephonically, as long as they post notice of the meetings and agenda items 24 hours in advance.- Timelines for commission decision-making are EXTENDED by 90 days. This could delay decisions on projects, but it could also mean that projects whose applications are about to expire won't get automatically approved or denied, and won't have to go through a new application process if it takes a commission a little while to get organized.- The second Order eliminates ALL newspaper notice requirements, ALL physical sign posting requirements, and ALL notices required to be filed in the municipal Clerk's office if the municipality posts information that would have been required in the notice (e.g., a meeting date/time and Zoom conference info) on its website.- The second Order eliminates mailed notice, if there's an email address to send the notice to, OR if there's no email address, in two other ways. One of those ways is relevant if local laws require mailed notice to nearby neighbors: an applicant can satisfy the mailed notice requirement by posting a sign.- Petitions by the public can now be signed and submitted electronically.- The demolition delay period for properties within historic districts, which by state law is 90 days, has been extended to 180 days.
All of these changes were vetted by the Connecticut Bar Association's COVID-19 Task Force (on which I sit). I would encourage those in other states to have an attorney advisor/staff member/trustee (or a lobbyist) make contact on your behalf with the chairs of the real estate or planning and zoning sections of your state bar association, and the chairs of the relevant legislative committees, and remind them about any historic preservation laws that must be considered if emergency action is being taken by the legislature or Governor's office. Often, the historic preservation laws are not in the same chapter as the planning and zoning laws on which most attorneys will be focused. Please also pay careful attention to demolition delay provisions, which may be in a building code statutory chapter.If you are in Connecticut or just want to listen in, I am doing two free webinars this week on the Orders (not specific to preservation):
- Tuesday w/ the Connecticut Bar Association (w/other attorneys that worked on the Orders): bit.ly/2xZGf6B
- Thursday w/UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research (solo): bit.ly/3dneHrJ
Stay healthy and well!Sara Bronin
Picking up this important thread that Sara Bronin started last month – we are gathering information on how preservation organizations and city staff are managing local regulatory and policy issues in this time of crisis. Please share any examples you have for facilitating public engagement regarding issues such as designations, demolition permit applications, zoning changes, or new policy proposals. For instance, is your community pushing back review times for Certificates of Appropriateness? Extending demolition delay provisions? Moving to on-line design review? We will summarize and share the results in an upcoming Preservation Leadership Forum blog post. Thank you!
Senior Policy Director
National Trust for Historic Preservation
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