The Closing Bell: Legislature Passes NAIOP-WI’s Top Legislative Priorities
On March 15, 2012, the Wisconsin Legislature concluded the 2011-12 legislative session, which will be regarded as “historic” for many reasons. While most people will remember this legislative session for resolving the state’s budget deficit or making major changes to the state’s collective bargaining law, this legislative session will be remembered also for the many changes benefitting the commercial real estate industry.
|Tom Larson, NAIOP WI Lobbyist|
As reported in prior legislative updates, the legislature previously passed several of NAIOP-WI’s legislative priorities including prevailing wage law reform, elimination of the farmland conversion fee, freezing property taxes, and modifying the law regulating distressed tax increment districts. During the last few weeks, the legislature passed numerous other legislative priorities including:
Wetland Regulation Reform (SB 368) – Allows for greater utilization of wetland mitigation program by, among other things: (a) requiring mitigation to be considered at the beginning of the permit process so that the permit decision can be based upon the “net environmental benefit” after mitigation; and (b) limiting “practicable alternatives” analysis to substantially similar activities on the same or adjacent site (i.e., this would exclude “not doing the project”, “doing a similar project on a different site,” etc.). Signed into law on February 29, 2012.
Presumptive Approval/Deadlines for DNR Permits (SB 326) — Creates greater certainty for property owners applying for permits near navigable waterways by (a) shortening the current permitting timelines by over 30 days, (b) giving the DNR 1 opportunity to request additional information from permit applicants, (c) deeming permits to be improved if the DNR does not make a decision within statutory timelines, (d) requiring the DNR to provide, in writing, reasons for denying permits, and (e) shifting the burden of proof in contested case hearings to the person challenging the DNR decision.
Nonconforming Structures and Substandard Lots (SB 472) – Protects the ability of property owners to perform unlimited maintenance and repair on nonconforming homes and commercial buildings; Prohibits counties from enacting regulations that are more restrictive than the regulations found in NR 115 with respect to (a) expanding nonconforming structures, and (b) building on substandard lots.
Development Moratoria Framework (SB 504) — Creates a regulatory framework for local development moratoria by establishing (a) who can enact moratoria (cities, villages and towns; not counties), (b) the purposes for which moratoria can be enacted (comprehensive planning, health, safety, and overburdening of public facilities), (c) the procedure that must be followed (public notice, hearing, and adopted by ordinance), and (e) allowable duration (maximum of 18 months).
Variances (expiration date) (SB 300)–Establishes that variances do not expire unless an expiration date has been established by local ordinance or by the board of zoning appeals/adjustment at the time the variance was granted.
Indirect Air Source Permits (SB 111) – Permanently suspends DNR’s administrative rules which required indirect source air permits for large commercial and mixed-use development projects that will attract a large number of automobiles (shopping malls, entertainment facilities, large employers, highways and roads, etc.). Signed into law on March 7, 2012.
Finally, in addition to passing the above legislation, a numerous legislative proposals opposed by NAIOP-WI were successfully defeated, including SB 83, legislation that would have significantly reduced the ability to use eminent domain for economic development purposes by (1) narrowing the definition of “blighted property”, (2) requiring municipality to provide more written documentation that property is blighted, and (3) making it easier for property owners to challenge ED actions in court.