The 2009 legislature passed a number of initiatives aimed at improving boating safety, preserving agricultural lands and sites of cultural significance, and expanding the bottle bill.
An Act Concerning Boating Safety (Public Act 09-149) toughens Connecticut’s existing boating operation laws by making reckless operation of a vessel while intoxicated a class C felony punishable by a fine of up to $10,000, a prison term of up to 10 years, or both.
Preserving State-Owned Agricultural Land
The legislature sought to preserve state-owned agricultural land by a special act that requires the Farmland Preservation Advisory Board to review any state-owned agricultural land, and to evaluate ways to preserve it including conservation easements or transfers of interest. Projects of Regional Significance
Public Act 09-221 requires that each regional planning organization establish a voluntary process for applicants to state or local agencies, departments, or commissions to request a pre-application review of proposed projects of regional significance. Under the act, a project of regional significance is an open air theater, shopping center, or other development to be built by a private developer that is planned to create more than (1) 500,000 square feet of indoor commercial or industrial space, (2) 250 housing units in a one-to-three-story building, or (3) 1,000 parking spaces.
In addition, Public Act 09-221 authorizes state entities to take certain actions in “Connecticut Heritage Areas” and defines these areas as places the legislature identified as having significant historic, recreational, cultural, natural, and scenic resources forming an important part of the state’s heritage.
The act requires state agencies, departments, boards, and commissions to consider these areas when developing planning documents and processes. It specifically requires OPM to consider how to protect and conserve them when revising the State Plan of Conservation and Development after October 1, 2009. The act allows state entities to collaborate with those managing the areas on environmental protection, heritage resource preservation, recreation, tourism, trail development, and similar projects.
Lastly, the act recognizes the Quinebaug and Shetucket Rivers Valley National Heritage Corridor and the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area as Connecticut Heritage Areas.
Expanding the Bottle Bill to Include Water
New legislation expands the beverage container redemption law, the Bottle Bill, to include noncarbonated water. It requires starting April 1, 2009, that noncarbonated water containers indicate a refund value of five cents. It requires distributors to pay dealers and redemption centers a handling fee of two cents for each redeemed container of a noncarbonated beverage.
It allows small manufacturers of noncarbonated beverages to seek an exemption from the act’s requirements, and authorized the governor to delay implementation of the requirements for noncarbonated beverage containers until October 1, 2009.