Integrated Land Development Permit and More

In June 2013, the New Hampshire Legislature passed SB 124, which created an Integrated Land Development Permit (“Integrated Permit”) pursuant to new RSA chapter 489. As designed, the Integrated Permit will be sought, at the discretion of the applicant, as an alternative to the process of seeking various individual land development permits or approvals from the Department of Environmental Services (“DES”).

People who desire to conduct an activity requiring a permit or other approval from DES under two or more of the “affected programs” (namely the terrain alteration , the subdivision and individual sewage disposal systems , the wetlands, and the shoreland water quality protection programs) may choose to apply for the Integrated Permit in lieu of seeking individual program permits and approvals otherwise required.

The Integrated Permit application process formally begins when the applicant conducts certain activities, including, among other things, inquiry or consultation with the various state agencies and communications with the local municipality.

After conducting these initial activities, the applicant will submit a formal application to DES for an Integrated Permit along with an initial payment (up to 30 percent of the expected final application fee). Next, the applicant will participate in a technical review with DES staff. At this stage in the process, DES will review all preliminary information to include design plans, supporting information, and advisory input.

Once the technical review is complete, the applicant will submit a final application together with the remaining application fee, if any, and make necessary notifications to abutters and the local municipality.

People aggrieved by a DES decision on an Integrated Permit application will have 30 days after the decision to file a notice of appeal. A hearing before a joint water-wetland council (“Joint Council”) will be convened. The burden of proof will be on the party seeking to set aside the DES decision, who must prove that the decision is unlawful or unreasonable. Any party aggrieved by the Joint Council’s decision may appeal to the Supreme Court.

While designed to streamline the permitting process, it has yet to be seen whether the Integrated Permit will do so. The majority of the legislation becomes effective on January 1, 2015.

This bill also clarified an issue created by the Legislature two years ago. Now both Planning Boards and ZBA’s cannot require that a State and/or Federal Permit be issued for a project before acting on an application before such municipal boards. This means that these boards can require such State and/or Federal Permits as conditions of approval. Moreover, this means that a Planning Board can require a local permit be issued (such as a variance or other permit from the ZBA) before taking up an application. These latter provisions become effective September 22, 2013.