New Hampshire's Bi-Partisan Usurpation of Local Control - Granite Grok

New Hampshire’s Bi-Partisan Usurpation of Local Control

Gov. Chris Sununu

Michael Kitch’s November 22, 2019 article in the NH Business Review; “Taking on NH’s housing ‘crisis’ – Task force’s recommendations ‘a long time coming’” praises the Governor’s new plan to manage housing in NH. The plan is not an enhancement of local control, but a gross usurpation of it.

And it could have dire consequences for a state that currently stands out from others economically, simply because we have avoided these types of mandates in favor of organic development trends.

We reported on the Governor’s October 30 announcement regarding his bi-partisan plan to mitigate the “housing shortage” in NH. It is a bold plan to defy the voting rights of the townspeople while stealing their money for redistribution to reward developers.

The left-wing Carsey School of Public Policy claims that only 2% of the housing stock in New Hampshire is available for sale or rent. The problem? The government has NO constitutional right to step in and interfere with the ebb and flow of housing availability, specifically with regard to what types should be built and where, and for whom. Nor does it have the right to redistribute our tax dollars to developers as incentives to flood the state with low-income/high-density housing where it is NOT wanted.

Not surprisingly, two of the State Reps who authored the bills related to the plan were ‘graduates’ of the Carsey School.

NH’s “advantage” is that housing trends have developed in communities organically, based on the demand of like-minded consumers. Could this be the reason we have lower unemployment, and less crime than other states, as well as good job market?

The governor assembled a task force that included many ad-hoc appointees and several housing developers as well as other NON-governmental, unelected (and therefore unaccountable) private interest groups and lobbyists, putting the decision making as far from the public as possible. The agenda of executive actions combined with legislative proposals to restore a “balanced market” are 100% unconstitutional and only serve to pad the pockets of the developers at the expense of local control. Queue the lawsuits.

Did we mention that regionalism is unconstitutional?

The article states “there are lots of factors affecting the housing market, some are within the control of the state, but not all of them. We’ve recommended changing what we can.”

We suggest the state has NO RIGHT to change ANY of this, and those in the legislature who sign onto this plan should be voted out in 2020. The filing period for state offices is not until June of 2020 so there will be time to see who supports this Bolshevik-style plan and who helps to stop it.

Behold what is about to happen if this plan is not stopped:

“The 2020-21 state budget includes a $10 million appropriation to the Housing Trust Fund along with subsequent annual increases of $5 million funded with proceeds from the real estate transfer tax. A companion bill to the budget establishes a Housing Appeal Board, a panel of three appointed by the Supreme Court to hear and decide appeals of decisions of local land use boards bearing on housing, providing an alternative to what are seen as costly, cumbersome proceedings in Superior Court.”

The above statement demonstrates the resulting theft of your tax dollars and the usurpation of local control, especially with regard to the Housing Appeals Board (SB 306) which was secreted into the budget because it failed twice in the legislature — whether it was a Democrat or Republican majority.

The article states that “The Legislature also undertook two studies of housing issues. The housing task force’s recommendations…” were based in part on these studies.

“Enhancing ‘local control’” is at complete odds with the plan to usurp it, evidence of which is contained in the fine print of the two bills proposed to shore up the plan. (There are many other bills that promote this effort and we’ll be following all of them)

“Provide greater learning opportunities to local boards” and “Enhance cities and towns’ capacity by providing a toolbox of zoning/planning tools and model ordinances” simply means brainwashing zoning and planning boards in the language of “new urbanism”, an internationally-bred fad cooked up by the United Nations to place everyone in stack-and-pack units in a network of mega-cities. The “toolbox” will come straight from NON-governmental agencies such as the American Planning Association, which takes its orders from other private organizations fringe “urbanism” groups such as CNU.org. Trust us, NO rural town wants to be part of the city next to it.

“Enhance inclusionary zoning opportunities” with new mandates about what must be built.

“Streamline existing approval processes to ensure predictability” and “Create a ‘fair and predictable’ appeals process” is the job of the Housing Appeals Board. It simply means that developers can cry “foul” when their plans are rejected because they do not conform to current zoning rules, and can ask the state to override the towns’ decisions. Thus the HAB is unfair on its face.

“Ensure fairness in housing incentives” refers to the TIFs and other tax breaks that developers would enjoy the more they flood NH with their high-density units, even in defiance of what the locals may have voted for. Since high-density never pays for itself with taxes collected toward the need for extra public services it creates, guess who ends up shouldering the burden? The single-family homeowner.

“Senate Bill 43 charged a commission of 20 members with studying “barriers to increased density of land development” while SB 154 convened a committee to study tax incentives for promoting development of dense workforce housing in community centers. The panels were scheduled to report in November.” We urged the House and Senate to reject both these bills. The “barriers” to increased development are simply the will of the communities who make their own rules to protect property values of current residents. They should continue to make their own rules. “Tax incentives” are merely pandering to greedy developers.

There are many other bills our supposedly anti-tax Governor should have vetoed because they threaten the fiscal health of the state, but did not.

“Advocates also point to the Legislature’s enactment in 2017 of the accessory dwelling unit law requiring municipalities to permit internal or attached housing units, along with an option to allow detached units, in all zones where single-family housing is permitted.” The intention of the accessory dwelling unit law was to allow a single-family homeowner to include an attached, but separate quarter for a family member, but without the appearance of being a separate unit. Allowing detached units would further contribute to the erosion of the value of the homes in established neighborhoods.

“There’s a lot of momentum here,” said Elissa Margolin, director of Housing Action NH, “and really good timing.” Wrong. Communities are waking up to what is being proposed and voting for zoning restrictions on unfettered high-density projects that stand to raise their taxes and ruin the ambiance of their communities. And their decisions should stand despite the constant lobbying of the Governor by predatory developers.

“Some recommendations will be pursued by executive action while others will be contained in two bills — one sponsored by Griffith and the other by Alexander, and both with bipartisan support.” The two bills to which they refer, have just been assigned bill numbers, and are outlined here:

LSR 2020-2414 (HB 1632) is entitled “relative to financial investments and incentives for affordable housing development”. Sponsors are (Prime) Joe Alexander (R), Erin Hennessey (D), Willis Griffith (D), Gates Lucas (R).

This bill will allow for more “tax perks” for developer cronies.

LSR 2020-2552 (HB 1629) is entitled “relative to training and procedures for zoning and planning boards”. Sponsors are (Prime) Willis Griffith (D), Erin Hennessey (D), Joe Alexander (R), Tom Loughman (D), Gates Lucas (R).

This bill will require the state to “re-educate” local zoning boards so that they too, will fall in line with the radical agenda of “new urbanism”, elements of which are specifically mentioned in the “plan”. It also seeks to MANDATE low-income housing and limit the time frame in which boards must accept or reject a plan before it goes to the state to be approved by the Housing Appeals Board.

According to the current intentionally vague “workforce housing law” municipalities “shall provide reasonable and realistic opportunities for the development of workforce housing, including rental multi-family housing.” But it also allows that the final decision on the APPROPRIATENESS of said high-density housing is up to local boards and voters to decide. And towns are well within their right to levy IMPACT FEES on those projects that would not return enough taxes to support the need for the added services their existence would create.

“The task force proposes forming a Joint Housing Resource Council consisting of officials from the Business and Economic Affairs Department, Office of Strategic Initiatives, NHHFA, Community Development Finance Authority, Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Services to partner with municipal land use boards and regional planning commissions.” 
Yet another unelected bureaucracy, dictating to the towns.

“Regional planning commissions” are run by unelected, unaccountable ad hoc-style boards and are UNCONSTITUTIONAL. They can recommend all they want, but they may not mandate. Membership is optional and voluntary. They are not allowed to make or enforce laws.

The following is key: “Currently, municipalities may only adopt voluntary inclusionary zoning, the task force recommends they be granted authority to mandate inclusionary zoning, which would entitle them to require construction of affordable units of developers.” The word mandatory stands out here as chilling. It almost never happens that the character of a community is maintained once it is flooded with high-density construction.

Yes, the homeless shelters in Manchester “are over capacity every night…” Those homeless, many of whom are unemployed addicts, would be unable to afford even the least expensive rental units, so it is doubtful that the plan will help their situation.

Another provision states: “Planning boards would have 65 days and zoning boards, which now are not subject to timelines, 90 days to reach decisions while the court would have 120 days to hear and decide appeals of board decisions.” This means boards will have no choice but to REJECT projects which cannot be vetted for location, abutter complaints, and conservation considerations in the allowed time frame, thus throwing those decisions to the unconstitutional Housing Appeals Board.

“Ari Pollack, a land use attorney and counsel to the New Hampshire Home Builders Association, described the Housing Appeals Board as “very good news for homebuilders.”

Of course! Good news for homebuilders, bad news for the taxpayers.

There are many other provisions mentioned in the article that would encourage and benefit developers on the backs of the taxpayers.

“Griffith said he expected “some pushback” on the proposals, noting that the House rejected the Housing Appeals Board last year and legislation will be filed to repeal it this year.” Pushback? You can bet on it! By the way, Willis Griffiths (D) and Joe Alexander (R) are the two Carsey “graduates”.

Senator Regina Birdsell (R) already has several people from both parties willing to sign on to co-sponsor her bill to repeal the HAB. It has not yet been assigned a bill number:

LSR 2020-2813 (SB) Title: repealing the housing appeals board.
Sponsors: (Prime) Regina Birdsell (R), John O’Connor (R), David Milz (R), Linda Gould (R), Barbara Griffin (R), Jess Edwards (R), Ruth Ward (R), Sen. Tom Sherman (D), Sen. Jeanne Dietsch (D)

To sum up, this plan stinks to high heaven. It is just plain unconstitutional and wrong for NH. No one should be supporting it. As we have pointed out many times before, other states have gone even further, by OUTLAWING single-family zoning. That means people are not just being allowed to place multiple units on lots zoned for single-family, but in many instances, are prohibited from building ANY single-family homes in areas where they once dominated.

Interestingly, the private group “Stay, Work, Play New Hampshire” sponsored a “Boomerang Week” to lure young people back to the state. Sounds like they are trying to create a housing shortage, to support their effort to control housing.

Furthermore, the Governor’s plan, is sending us down the slippery slope to Bolshevik-style management of ALL housing by the government. What’s next besides the outlawing of single-family zoning? Will the state be assigning occupants to our empty bedrooms? (See the American Community Survey in which asked the question “how many extra bedrooms” were in your home: https://www.census.gov/acs/www/about/why-we-ask-each-question/rooms/)
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What can you do? Flood the Governor’s office with your complaints. Some of the plans will depend on legislation, other parts will simply be mandated by “executive action”.

Contact Governor Sununu:

Office of the Governor
State House
107 North Main Street
Concord, NH 03301
(603) 271-2121
(603) 271-7680 (fax)

Email: governorsununu@nh.gov or Sununu.Social@nh.gov

Write to your House of Representatives and Senate when the bills get assigned numbers.

– Ask them to SUPPORT Senator Birdsell’s bill to repeal the Housing Appeals Board (LSR 2020-2813).
– Ask them to OPPOSE the two bills that give perks to developers and make mandates to the towns (HB 1629 and HB 1632).

Is the Governor’s Plan Constitutional | Jane Aitken

Jane Aitken is the Vice-Chair of the Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers