Rhode Island APA Call for Legislative Committee Members

To: RI APA Membership
From: Executive Board

The Rhode Island Chapter of the APA is putting out a call for members to serve on a legislative committee to work with our Legislative Liaison, Ashley Sweet, the RI League of Cities and Towns (the League), and other partners in order to respond to bills which directly impact municipal or regional planning.  Individuals interested in participating should contact Nate Kelly, Chapter President at nkelly@horsleywitten.com.

Background:

In recent years, legislation affecting municipalities, particularly the Planning, and the Building and Zoning Departments, has been submitted by legislators connected with interests that are in opposition to the process and land use goals of the communities.  In many cases, there has been no outreach to APA or to municipalities before legislation is drafted or submitted.  This legislation has typically involved amendments to the enabling acts (zoning, land development and subdivision), but has also as attempted to address issues of alternative energy siting, accessory agricultural uses, regulation of wetlands, etc.

The changes in legislation affect the way communities implement their regulations, which if recent trends continue, will erode local land use control.  Some legislation is not necessarily detrimental, but is poorly thought out and/or drafted and would not achieve its stated goals, which are usually economic development and more efficient permit review.

In recent years, the planning community has not been well organized in terms of communicating and responding, and there is an inherent bias in many of the legislative committees in how input is received.  In previous years, the Division of Planning was able to play a much more active role.

Membership and Duties of the APA Legislative Committee:

APA RI is looking for approximately eight members with an interest in shaping land use legislation.  Importantly, recognizing that legislative proposals will affect individual communities differently, membership of this committee should represent rural, suburban, and urban perspectives.  The committee, which should include a land use attorney, will be organized and led by Ashley Sweet and Jane Weidman.  Membership will be decided through consultation between Ashley, Jane, and the active APA President pursuant to APA bylaws. Members will need to commit some time during the upcoming legislative season.  Bills are tracked by both the League and the Division of Planning, and the committee is needed to formulate an organized response.  This will require the following:

Review of all relevant legislation and drafting an agreed upon position on behalf of RI APA
• Kick-off meeting to review the bills, identify a committee member who will draft the response to each bill
• Attend follow-up meetings or communicate by email, communicate with and forward position statements to the League.
• Coordinate with other groups as needed: Grow Smart RI, Environment Council of RI, Land Trust Council, etc.

Prepare resolutions to be distributed to the communities
• Responsible committee member to draft resolutions for those bills APA is opposed to, in favor of, or suggesting specific           changes. 
• Legislative committee to approve and the resolutions also to be forwarded to the full membership for use by their planning       boards and city/town councils.

Organize attendance at committee hearings
• Each member who is responsible for tracking a particular bill should be prepared to testify and to identify other parties who     can testify, and to coordinate this testimony with the League.

This will require that the Outreach Coordinator also send out alerts to the full APA membership.
APA would like to identify members who are willing to testify even if they do not join the Legislative Committee.

Other Duties of the APA Legislative Committee:

1.Establish guidelines or principles to help in determining APA RI positions on legislation recognizing the following:
  •That the impact of a given bill may vary among the communities, either due to differing regulations, or to such factors as          rural vs urban or size and staffing of the planning department.
  •That the political climate varies among communities and different regions of the state.

2. Be available to meet either as a group or individually with the Rhode Island Builders Association, legislators, and other organizations to present issues of common interest and encourage cooperation.

3. Recommend a position on other issues, such as the establishment of a new Land Use Commission or Land Use Legislative Review Committee.

4. Work with other groups / review public outreach efforts on the importance of planning and the compatibility of growth management and environmental regulations with economic development.