From the CT Post: Builders: Over-regulation poses threat to economyMarch 3, 2017
Over-regulation of the building industry at the municipal level is holding back the economy, industry leaders told local and state legislators Wednesday night.
Skepticism about the future of Connecticut’s business climate was evident in the questions legislators fielded from members of the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Fairfield County, or HBRA, at the trade organization’s annual legislative night hosted in Norwalk. But frustration with expensive and time-intensive zoning regulations and permits that vary by municipality comprised the bulk of concerns raised by architects and builders.
“The biggest issue is over-regulation,” South Norwalk-based architect Chris Pagliaro said during a question-and-answer period, to applause and shouts of support from the audience. For example, Pagliaro said, it took two years to gain approval to work on a property in Westport, which elicited some gasps from around the room.
“People don’t have the stomach for this anymore. It’s driving away people,” he said. “(Building) every house has, conservatively, 50 companies working on it. Think how much a single-family house moves the local economy.”
In response, Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling said he’s been working to streamline the permitting process in Norwalk, and he encouraged people to reach out to him with ideas about how to improve the process further.
State Rep. Tom O’Dea, R-New Canaan, said he believes the best way to solve the problem is for industry experts to volunteer on local zoning boards. State Rep. Terrie Wood, R-Darien, agreed, and said those bothered by the process should take a note from outcries following the presidential election.
“This election has galvanized people,” she said. “Get on the local level and get involved in streamlining the process.”
After the meeting, HBRA’s senior vice president, Anthony DeRosa, who owns Greenwich-based DeRosa Builders, said over-regulation is an ongoing issue.
“It continues to be a problem in our industry,” he said, suggesting a possible solution would be to standardize the permitting process across towns.
“As it stands, each town regulates differently and operates under its own processes and requirements,” he said. “Research which towns have the quickest turnaround and lowest regulation but a sound working system and use that model across every town in the state. This would help streamline the process.”
Faster approval processes would increase the number of homes built, which ultimately helps drive local economies, DeRosa said, adding that building new single-family homes creates hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in wages and tax revenue. Information HBRA dispersed at the meeting cited drastically declining numbers of permits issued to build homes in Connecticut, with 2016 marking the lowest number since 1997.
“It’s a reflection of the things that are not positive in Connecticut,” said HBRA CEO Bill Ethier in a letter sent to the state and shared with HBRA members. Connecticut “really needs major reform to its regulatory, tax and fee structure to gain business’ attention and interest, build business confidence once again, and ensure (Connecticut) is and will be a great place to start and grow businesses of all types.”
Conversations about paid sick leave, the minimum wage and the state’s pension woes also headlined the evening. State Sen. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, said he and his legislative colleagues were sensitive of their impact on the state’s business climate.
“There’s no one here who doesn’t want to make Connecticut better. We just have a little bit of different ideas of how to do that,” he said.