New Hampshire House panel votes down Housing Appeals Board plan

But backers see Senate as ‘best course’ for developer-backed proposal

The NH House Judiciary Committee unanimously voted Tuesday to kill a proposed state Housing Board of Appeals, an early setback for one of the top priorities of the NH Association of Realtors and the NH Homebuilders Association.

But the Realtors should get another shot. Sen. Bob Giuda, R-Warren, is sponsoring a Senate bill intended to address some of the concerns raised in the House.

House Bill 104 would have set up a three-member board in the attorney general’s office that would hear appeals of final decisions by municipal boards involving housing and development. Currently, a developer can only challenge such a decision in court. They say the delays can be so long that the developer could lose financing, killing the plan and making any court decision meaningless. The hope is that an appeals board could speed up that process, said Bob Quinn, lobbyist for the Realtors.

“Time is money,” Quinn told NH Business Review. “I’m aware of one appeal that went to Superior Court, and eight months later, no decision has yet to come out.”

But members of both parties said that the proposed board under the House bill was too powerful.

“What we are trying to do is establish a statewide zoning and planning board with undefined authority to overrule local decisions,” said Rep. Kurt Wuelper, R-Strafford.

“What I see is a glaring problem that the mandate is very broad,” added Rep. David Woodbury, D-New Boston. “The (NH) Municipal Association has justifiable fears that local boards would lose control, and if we wanted to amend the problem, the amendments would be so overwhelming that it would have to replace the bill.” He added that “the overall concept might have some merit,” but he had “no qualms” in voting to kill the bill.

On an 18-0 vote, the committee recommended to kill the bill. While the full House will still get a chance to vote on it, it is unlikely that it will overturn a unanimous committee decision.

“We don’t have concerns about the House action,” said Quinn. “Those who are supportive of the concept think that the best course of is to go with the Senate bill. That’s where the debate will occur.”

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