HB1284 (2024) Detail

Relative to the quasi-judicial authority of planning boards.


HB 1284-FN - AS INTRODUCED

 

 

2024 SESSION

24-2061

10/02

 

HOUSE BILL 1284-FN

 

AN ACT relative to the quasi-judicial authority of planning boards.

 

SPONSORS: Rep. Ulery, Hills. 13

 

COMMITTEE: Municipal and County Government

 

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ANALYSIS

 

This bill clarifies the quasi-judicial nature of local planning boards and adds requirements for duties, procedures, and disqualification of board members.

 

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Explanation: Matter added to current law appears in bold italics.

Matter removed from current law appears [in brackets and struckthrough.]

Matter which is either (a) all new or (b) repealed and reenacted appears in regular type.

24-2061

10/02

 

STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

 

In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Twenty Four

 

AN ACT relative to the quasi-judicial authority of planning boards.

 

Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

 

1  Planning Boards.  Amend RSA 673:2 to read as follows:

673:2  Planning Board.

I.  Each planning board is a quasi-judicial administrative agency or body of local municipalities subject to the laws of the state of New Hampshire requiring public meetings, hearings, and access to records of the body as required under RSA 91-A.  Nonpublic meetings shall be noticed and recorded as required by RSA 91-A:3.  As a quasi-judicial body, the planning board shall:

(a)  Ascertain facts from:

(1)  Factual testimony of applicants.

(2)  Professional opinion of expert witnesses.

(3)  Factual testimony of abutters.

(4)  Existing law and implementing local ordinances.

(b)  Hold hearings or meetings which may oblige those appearing to present information under oath.  False information presented in writing may be subject to penalties for unsworn falsification under RSA 641:3.

(c)  Weigh evidence based upon testimony received and personal experience if that experience is made public during a public meeting.

(d)  Make conclusions from the facts as a basis for their official action, and articulate the reasons for the individual as well as a board decision in writing at the time the decision is published.

(e)  Exercise discretion of a judicial nature including, but not limited to, granting of waivers or suspension of deadlines with permission of the applicant.

(f)  Acknowledge that every statement made by a board member is subject to the laws of the state of New Hampshire.

I-a.(a)  In cities, the planning board shall consist of 9 members:

(1)  The mayor of the city, or with the approval of the local legislative body the mayor's designee, who shall be an ex officio member;

(2)  An administrative official of the city selected by the mayor, who shall be an ex officio member;

(3)  A member of the city council selected by the council, who shall be an ex officio member; and

(4)  Six persons appointed by the mayor, if the mayor is an elected official, or such other method of appointment or election as shall be provided for by the local legislative body or municipal charter.

(b)  Alternatively, the local legislative body in a city with a city council-city manager form of government may establish a planning board with membership as provided in paragraph [I-a] I-b.

[I-a.] I-b.  In cities with a city council-city manager form of government, the planning board may consist of the following 9 members:

(a)  The city manager, or with the approval of the local legislative body the city manager's designee, who shall be an ex officio member;

(b)  A member of the city council selected by the council, who shall be an ex officio member; and

(c)  Seven persons appointed by the mayor, if the mayor is an elected official, or such other method of appointment or election as shall be provided for by the local legislative body or municipal charter.

[I-b.] I-c.  In towns which operate under the town council form of government, the planning board shall consist of 7 or 9 members, as determined by the local legislative body or by the municipal charter.  If the planning board shall consist of 9 members, the members shall be the persons listed in paragraph [I] I-a.  If the planning board shall consist of 7 members, the members shall be as follows:

(a)  A member of the town council or administrative official of the town selected by the town council, who shall be an ex officio member; and

(b)  Six persons appointed by the mayor, if the mayor is an elected official, or such other method of appointment or election as shall be provided for by the local legislative body or municipal charter.

II.  In other towns, the planning board shall consist of 5 or 7 members as determined by the local legislative body.  The membership shall be filled by one of the following procedures:

(a)  The selectmen shall designate one selectman or administrative official of the town as an ex officio member and appoint 4 or 6 other persons who are residents of the town, as appropriate; or

(b)  The local legislative body may decide, by majority vote at the town meeting, that planning board members shall be elected according to either the procedure in subparagraph (1) or in subparagraph (2).  The official ballot shall be used on every referendum for the adoption of RSA 673:2, II(b)(1) or (2), and every subsequent rescission of such adoption pursuant to subparagraph (c).  The wording on the official ballot of any referendum for the adoption of RSA 673:2, II(b)(1) or (2) shall specifically state which procedure for electing planning board members is being voted upon.  Following the majority vote at town meeting, planning board members shall be elected as follows:

(1)  The selectmen shall choose one selectman or administrative official of the town as an ex officio member and the remaining planning board positions shall be filled at the next regular town election pursuant to RSA 669:17.  Thereafter, a planning board member shall be elected for the term provided under RSA 673:5, II; or

(2)  The selectmen shall choose one selectman or administrative official of the town as an ex officio member and the remaining planning board positions shall be filled on a staggered basis at the subsequent regular town elections pursuant to RSA 669:17 as the term of an appointed member expires, until each member of the board is an elected member.  The maximum number of elections to occur annually shall be as provided in RSA 673:5, II.  When each planning board member is an elected member, such member shall be elected for the term provided in RSA 673:5, II.

(c)  A local legislative body which has voted to elect planning board members may, by majority vote at town meeting, decide to rescind that action and have the planning board appointed in the manner set forth in subparagraph (a).  The vote to have planning board members so appointed shall take effect upon adoption by the town meeting, and the selectmen shall forthwith appoint members in accordance with RSA 673:5.  The planning board shall, however, continue in existence, and the elected members in office at the time of the town meeting vote to appoint members may continue to serve until their successors are appointed and qualified.

III.  In village districts, the planning board shall consist of either 5 or 7 members as determined by the village district meeting.  The district commissioners shall:

(a)  Designate one district commissioner or administrative official of the district as an ex officio member; and

(b)  Appoint 4 or 6 other persons who are residents of the village district, as appropriate.

IV.  In counties in which there are located unincorporated towns or unorganized places, the planning board shall consist of 5 or 9 members.  The county commissioners shall recommend appointees to the planning board, and the appointees shall be approved by the county delegation.  Planning board members shall be residents of the county, and shall be evenly distributed geographically throughout the county.  The membership of the planning board shall be as follows:

(a)  The chairperson of the board of county commissioners or designee shall be an ex officio member.

(b)  A member of the county convention selected by the convention shall be an ex officio member.

(c)  An administrative official of the county selected by the chairperson of the board of county commissioners shall be an ex officio member.

(d)  Two or 6 persons appointed by the board of county commissioners and approved by the county convention.

(e)  One or 3 alternates appointed by the board of county commissioners and approved by the county convention.

V.  A planning board shall adopt and operate under a set of rules of procedure according to RSA 676:1.

VI.  Members of the planning board shall, upon taking their seat, understand they are engaging in a quasi-judicial board, that decisions are that of the majority of the board and individual members have no separate authority, and that they will faithfully undertake their deliberations without favor, bias, or the like, and shall sign a printed statement to be kept with the records of the board to that effect.

VII.  Any applicant may request the recusal of a specific board member for cause based upon articulable reason offered under the penalties of unsworn falsification at any board public meeting and the board shall immediately suspend further hearings on the matter immediately before the board.  The board shall then schedule a public hearing to discuss the recusal request on a date certain wherein the applicant and board member shall offer factual statements only on the matter.  Board members, other than the member in question, shall then vote publicly on the matter and give reason for their vote.  A delay to hear the recusal request shall stay the determination time schedule for the board to render a decision.

VIII.  Abutters to any project or development being heard before the planning board may request the recusal or disqualification of a specific board member.  Another board member may make that request as provided in RSA 673:14.  The board shall immediately suspend further proceedings on the matter before the board.  The board shall then schedule a public hearing to discuss the request on a date certain wherein the abutter and board member shall offer factual statements only on the matter.  Board members, other than the member in question, shall then vote publicly on the matter and give reason for their vote.

IX.  Conflict of interest disqualification:  If a board member has a direct interest in a parcel under development, the member must disqualify themself from the discussion as provided in RSA 673:14.  If a board member is a non-abutting neighbor or has a work relationship with an applicant, the board member may disqualify themself or make known the relationship if the member believes they can act impartially on the matter.

2  Effective Date.  This act shall take effect January 1, 2025.

 

LBA

24-2061

11/30/23

 

HB 1284-FN- FISCAL NOTE

AS INTRODUCED

 

AN ACT relative to the quasi-judicial authority of planning boards.

 

FISCAL IMPACT:      [    ] State              [    ] County               [ X ] Local              [    ] None

 

Estimated Political Subdivision Impact - Increase / (Decrease)

 

FY 2024

FY 2025

FY 2026

FY 2027

County Revenue

$0

$0

$0

$0

County Expenditures

$0

$0

$0

$0

Local Revenue

$0

$0

$0

$0

Local Expenditures

$0

Indeterminable

Indeterminable

Indeterminable

 

METHODOLOGY:

This bill restates the authority of each planning board as a quasi-judicial entity, outlining its existing powers while adding some.  Notably, it broadens the board's authority to conduct hearings with sworn witnesses.  Furthermore, if someone were to give false testimony, they could potentially face perjury charges under RSA 641:1.

 

The New Hampshire Municipal Association states there could be costs associated with expanding the scope of bodies accepting sworn testimony and conducting investigations. However, the exact amount is indeterminable and contingent upon potential instances of perjury and any ensuing investigation(s).

 

AGENCIES CONTACTED:

New Hampshire Municipal Association

 

Links


Date Body Type
Feb. 13, 2024 House Hearing

Bill Text Revisions

HB1284 Revision: 39786 Date: Dec. 6, 2023, 12:41 p.m.

Docket


Feb. 6, 2024: Public Hearing: 02/13/2024 10:15 am LOB 301-303


Dec. 6, 2023: Introduced 01/03/2024 and referred to Municipal and County Government HJ 1