State Senate Acts to Restore Some Local Zoning Authority

The Connecticut General Assembly has passed Senate Bill 333 (S.B. 333), aimed at restoring more local control over planning and zoning decisions, the eminent domain process, and the management of municipal property. The bill, now awaiting Governor Ned Lamont’s signature, has garnered bipartisan support.

Introduced by the Planning and Development Committee, S.B. 333 seeks to amend restrictions that have centralized key aspects of municipal governance at the state level. This legislative action is a response to previous laws that imposed state oversight over local decisions.

The bill was authored and championed by Senator Ryan Fazio, who serves as the ranking member on the Planning & Development Committee. Fazio has been a vocal advocate for reducing state interference in local governance, arguing that such measures are crucial for tailored and effective municipal management. “For too long, the state has overstepped, undermining local authorities that better understand the needs of their communities,” Fazio stated during the legislative session.

S.B. 333 had the support of co-sponsors: Representative David Michel (D – Stamford), Representative Tom O’Dea (R – New Canaan), Senator Rob Sampson (R – Wolcott), Representative Christine Conley (D – Groton), Representative Tom Delnicki (R – South Windsor), and Representative William Pizzuto (R – Waterbury). 

Provisions of the Bill

The legislation outlines three key areas of reform:

Planning and Zoning Commissions: It removes state-imposed limitations, granting municipalities the autonomy to adjust their local charter provisions related to zoning and planning.

Eminent Domain: S.B. 333 restores local oversight over the eminent domain process, ensuring that decisions regarding the requisition of private property for public use are made closer to the affected communities.

Disposition of Municipal Property: The bill facilitates easier management and disposal of municipal property, intended to streamline operations and enhance local governance.

After a rapid progression through the necessary committees, S.B. 333 was passed by the Senate on May 3, 2024, and concurred by the House on May 7. 

The public and political reaction to the bill has been overwhelmingly positive. Legislators from both sides of the aisle have praised the move as a necessary step back towards a more decentralized and locally responsive form of governance. “This bill rectifies past mistakes where local voices were sidelined,” remarked Representative Michel, reflecting on the consensus among his colleagues. 

Senator Fazio explained his reasoning for working to write and pass this legislation. “For decades,” he said, “the state has taken more and more powers away from our towns and cities to determine their destiny over zoning, development, and more. And last year, over 100 towns and cities infamously watched as more of their powers over zoning, development on public lands, public hearings, and more were unjustly stripped away without any form of public debate. S.B. 333 corrects some of those wrongs.” 

Rep. O’Dea, who worked closely with Fazio, said, “This session was highlighted by successful attempts to remedy the relationship between the state and our municipalities, especially in regard to local issues of zoning and development. One of those positive steps was S.B. 333.”

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