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Rules of Procedure

A.    Rules of Procedure

Connecticut’s LHD and LHP enabling statute requires HDCs or HPCs to adopt rules of procedure consistent with the provisions of the statute. Rules of procedure govern the internal affairs of an HDC or HPC and set forth the application and review mechanisms for a certificate of appropriateness.

Adopting the rules of procedure is the first task of the new HDC or HPC, since it cannot function legally without them. Failure to adopt and follow the rules of procedure may jeopardize decisions by an HDC or HPC, since any appeal would be based almost entirely onits written records.

Developing and adopting the rules of procedure should be the first order of business for any newly established HDC or HPC. Once members have gained some experience, the rules of procedure can be amending by an action of the HDC or HDP. Rules of procedure should always be reviewed by the legal counsel of a municipality prior to being adopted by theHDC or HPC.

Certain elements of rules – such as membership, jurisdiction, and the application process – must reference and be consistent with the state statute and the local ordinance that established the HDC or HPC. However, rules should be far more specific in defining the internal procedures of an HDC or HPC, with special attention to:

Place and time of regular meetings
Procedure for calling a special meeting, consistent with the Freedom of Information Act
Election of officers
Duties of the chair, clerk, and any standing committee
Role of alternates
Number of commissioners constituting a quorum (CGS, Section 7-147e: a quorum is a majority of the members of the HDC or HPC, three out of five)
Areas of jurisdiction, as set forth in the enabling statute
Method of obtaining an application for a certificate of appropriateness
Pre-application consultation, if allowed (Pre-application consultation is an informal discussion with a property owner or resident held by an HDC or HPC at a public meeting to discuss general plans and identify potential areas of concern in advance of a formal application.  Opinions expressed by the commissioners in the pre-application consultation are not binding on the eventual application.)
Requirements for a public hearing, including notice, conduct, the order of the hearing, minutes, procedures for recording the meeting, and policies on media access consistent with provisions of the state Freedom of Information Act (The rules for conduct at a public meeting may reference Robert’s Rules of Order.  This should be consistent with other town bodies.)
Policies concerning the application process over and above those imposed by the enabling statute (For instance, the rules of an HDC or HPC may require that one or more of the commissioners personally visit the property that is the subject of an application. Some HDCs or HPCs require notice of a public hearing to be posted on the property itself in addition to placing legal notices in the local newspaper.)
Policies concerning certificates of appropriateness (HDCs or HPCs may set a time limit or expiration date on certificates, requiring that work be completed within a fixed period or else a new application must be submitted. They may also allow the transfer of a certificate of appropriateness from the applicant to a new property owner, subject to the rules of procedure of the HDC or HPC.)
Procedures for enforcement and appeal, as set forth in the enabling statute (An enforcement officer should be designated.)
Conflict of interest policies, defining the procedures for recusal of a seated commissioner and replacement with an alternate member, consistent with the town’s conflict of interest policies
Coordination with other town agencies, particularly the procedures for simultaneous or consecutive review of projects with the building official or the planning and zoning authorities
Adoption of the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Restoration or Rehabilitation as the basis for review by the HDC or HPC

Rules are adopted not merely to satisfy a legal requirement or to establish orderly internal processes for an HDC or HPC, but also to inform the public of the body’sprocedures, particularly with regard to the process of applying for a certificate of appropriateness.

The rules of procedure must be easily available to property owners and the public, both in print and electronically on the town web site. Some HDCs or HPCs distribute copies of rules to property owners within the LHD or LHP every few years. New residents should receive a copy as soon as they move in. A courtesy visit by a member of the HDC or HPC or an invitation to attend a public meeting of the body can contribute greatly to a property owner’s understanding of the responsibilities of living in an LHD or LHP, and help ensure a cooperative attitude.           

Coordination with other government officials can aid an HDC or HPC in educating the public, since a property owner’s initial contact concerning that body’s jurisdiction and procedures will likely be through the building inspector. Copies of rules should be available at HDC or HPC meetings and in the offices of the building inspector, town clerk, or other municipal official where the application for a certificate of appropriateness may be obtained. If design criteria are published, the rules of procedure should be included as well.