Norm Needleman


Norm Needleman



May 28, 2021

Senator Needleman Co-Leads Senate Passage of Zoning Legislation Seeking to Expand Access, Availability of Affordable Housing

State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) today co-led the Senate’s passage of House Bill 6107, “An Act Concerning The Reorganization Of The Zoning Enabling Act And The Promotion Of Municipal Compliance,” legislation designed to address issues with Connecticut’s housing availability including zoning reforms giving local communities, zoning boards and planning staff increased power and ability to expand housing availability statewide. Sen. Needleman is Senate Vice Chair of the Planning and Development Committee and joined State Senator Steve Cassano (D-Manchester) on the Senate floor to lead the bill’s passage.

The legislation is designed to reorganize and amend the state’s land use statutes, providing greater clarity and tools for local Planning and Zoning boards. Towns and cities will have stronger abilities to facilitate economic growth, ensure their communities can be inclusive and add energy and environmental protections to their zoning codes. Towns will need to submit affordable housing plans to the state by June 2022.

“Our communities have evolved over the last hundred years, but our state’s zoning laws have not changed to reflect where our state is today,” said Sen. Needleman. “Tonight, we took steps to change that. This legislation will provide opportunities for change, and it allows for different approaches in different locations. No two towns and cities are the same and they all have different needs. By passing this bill tonight, we allow them to make the changes best for them.”

The legislation makes a number of key changes to state statutes, including:

  • Allows Accessory Apartments (often known as in-law suites) on lots with single family homes, unless a municipality chooses to opt out of the provision.
  • Authorizes municipalities to charge technical consultant fees for evaluation of development projects and limits their ability to charge more for projects that are affordable housing developments.
  • Requires municipal Zoning Enforcement Officers to receive and maintain certification.
  • Allows Water Pollution Control Authorities to add information about sewer system capacity in certain areas to municipal WPCA plans.
  • Requires communities to submit to the state’s Office of Policy and Management by June 1, 2022 the Affordable Housing Plan required by 8-30j.
  • Requires member of local land use boards to receive 4 hours of training biennially.
  • Reorganizes aspect of the 8-2 statute, known as the Zoning Enabling Statute. 8-2 applies to municipalities which exercise zoning powers under the statutes.
  • Allows communities to expand the renewable energy and conservation provisions that can be required or promoted for development.
  • Removes the use of the word “Character” and instead requires that regulations be drafted with reasonable consideration as to the “physical site characteristics” of the district with a view toward encouraging the most appropriate use of land throughout a municipality.
  • Specifies that a community may regulate to explicitly protect the state’s historic, tribal, cultural, and environmental resources.
  • Confirms that that regulations may provide for floating zones, overlay zones, and planned development districts. (Connecticut courts have held that CGS § 8-2 implicitly grants municipalities the power to use these techniques.) This codifies court rulings.
  • Authorizes municipalities to use a vehicle’s miles traveled and vehicle trips generated standard instead of, or in addition to, a “level of service” traffic calculation. This is a municipal option.
  • Requires regulations consider the impact of permitted land uses on contiguous municipalities and the planning region; address significant disparities in housing needs and access to educational, occupational, and other opportunities; affirmatively further the purposes of the federal Fair Housing Act; and promote efficient review of proposals and applications.
  • Allows “cottage food” operations in residential zones – what some might refer to as home bakers.
  • Prohibits regulations from requiring more than one parking space for each studio or one-bedroom dwelling unit or more than two parking spaces for each dwelling unit with two or more bedrooms unless the municipality opts out. Opt-out provisions are outlined in the statute.
  • Establishes a Commission on Connecticut’s Development and Future to evaluate policies related to land use, conservation, housing affordability, and infrastructure.

This legislation does not restrict towns and cities’ planning and zoning departments or their actions, and it doesn’t force towns to build specified housing. It also does not reform laws governing affordable housing. It’s aimed to counter narratives that have harmed Connecticut residents too long. A lack of affordable housing prices out seniors from the communities they’ve invested in. It prevents young people from taking opportunities to continue to live in their hometowns and prevents them from taking jobs that could be the start of their careers. When narratives continue about Connecticut residents being priced out of the state, the solution should be to prevent that root issue. This legislation provides every resident with increased opportunities to live and thrive where they wish.

The bill contains significant improvements designed to directly benefit the state. The Commission of Connecticut’s Development and Future has the power to create model codes for municipalities to potentially, voluntarily adopt, saving towns the cost and time of creating codes themselves. It expands training opportunities for local officials already dealing with planning and zoning. Communities will have the freedom to choose to add energy and environmental considerations to their zoning codes and gain training for local officials. It will strengthen the state’s economy and provide a roadmap toward better solutions statewide in future years.