New Rights of Property Owners to Notice of Zoning Changes

The Legislature has recently granted additional rights to receive notice of proposed zoning changes being considered by a municipality’s planning board.  Previously, notice was by publication and posting of a summary of any change and the onus was on a property owner to stay informed of changes that might impact their property or their neighborhood.  RSA 675:7 has been amended in two ways to place the burden of notice to property owners of the consideration of zoning changes on the municipality.

1.   Any person owning property in a municipality may request (presumably in writing) notice of all public hearings on proposed zoning amendments at no cost to the requesting party.  Notice may be accomplished electronically or by first class mail.

2.   Regardless of whether a property owner has requested notice of all public hearings as described above, a municipality is now required to give notice (electronically or by first class mail) to property owners in two additional instances:

a.   Where a proposed amendment would change the boundary of a zoning district and the change would affect 100 or fewer properties, those affected property owners must receive notice of the public hearing(s) on the change;

b.   Similarly, if a proposed amendment would change the minimum lot sizes or the permitted uses in a zoning district that had 100 or fewer properties (presumably determined based on the municipality’s tax map) notice to those owners is also required.

Notice by mail would go to the owner of record in the municipality’s tax records.

For some unstated reason, these notice requirements outlined in 2a and 2b above, apply only to Planning Board sponsored amendments and not to those zoning changes initiated by a citizen petition.

This legislation appears designed to encourage property owner participation in the zoning change process.  Depending on the number and nature of zoning amendments, there will be additional expense for municipalities seeking to revise their zoning ordinance.  There also is potential for some disruption and perhaps litigation as planning boards work through the application of this unique legislation.

Because of this Firm’s long experience in land use matters and municipal law, DTC is well prepared to advise both property owners and municipal clients regarding the application of this legislation.