Shoreland act changes to take effect

Developers and contractors will get little more flexibility, and lower fees, when building along the shoreland in New Hampshire when changes to the Comprehensive Shoreland Protection Act take effect on Sunday.

Among the changes in the act:

• Contractors doing maintenance work will get a break on fees. On projects that go through permit by notification process (a relatively new option to speed the permit process up for those that don’t actually expand the footprint of an affected area) a flat fee of $100 for water quality improvement projects and $250 for all other projects. Fees used to cost $100 plus 10 cents per square foot, which added up on larger projects.
• Developers will be able to build multifamily housing on shoreland, provided that they meet septage and zoning requirement. The old shoreland act — with its limit of one household per 150 feet of frontage — ruled that out.
• A number of smaller ponds will no longer be included under the act. That’s because the old law actually named bodies of water covering more than 10 acres that were covered. It turns out many of those bodies were actually under 10 acres. The new law drops the list, and just provides the 10-acre criteria.
• Determination of shorelines will no longer fluctuate based on flowage rights (for dammed-up bodies of water) but be based on single surface area. This might result in other ponds dropping off the list.
• Central business districts have another option in dealing with riverfront projects, giving them more flexibility.

In other laws set to take effect on Sunday, the outdoor lighting efficiency bill is the state’s first effort to counter light pollution, and it will affect those working primarily state projects.

Starting Sunday, state funds can only be used for lighting projects greater than 1800 lumens that are fully shielded and don’t exceed “illuminance level” recommended by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America or the Federal Highway Administration.

There are exceptions covering areas where safety could be compromised, and to allow the illumination of public and historic structures, monuments and flags.
Public utilities working on municipal projects face the same restrictions, though the municipality can grant a waiver. The state also is required to attempt to encourage municipalities to enact local ordinances to conserve energy consumed by outdoor lighting and “to preserve dark skies as a feature of rural character wherever practicable.”

The Public Utilities Commission also was ordered to develop a rate for night or midnight services for unmetered street or area lighting that would be revenue-neutral.

Another new law taking effect Sunday would exempt various volunteers and those serving on boards and commission from having to register as lobbyists, provided they don’t affect policy or help people get contracts.

The new law also allows employees to lobby, provided that they are not paid or forced to do so by their employers and are representing their own interests. It also allows for quarterly — as opposed to monthly — filing, and the filing statements no longer have to be notarized.

The main expansion of the law is that it would cover intangible items and service of economic value under the gift law.

Also, two minor insurance bills go into effect today. One attempts to prevent companies offering short-term accident and health insurance from rolling them over enough to result in long-term policies. Another tightens requirements for insurance companies under investigation to provide documents and requires out-of-state companies to maintain their records and submit to our local insurance laws. — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW