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Carney signs two bills to ease permitting, planning

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Ready in Six Delaware John Carney

Gov. John Carney signed two bills that aim to advance the Ready in Six initiative to reduce the permitting burden on development in the state. | PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE

DOVER – Half of this year’s push to lessen the regulatory burden on building in Delaware has already been achieved after Gov. John Carney signed a pair of bills that would ease the permitting and planning processes for job-creating projects.

House Bills 102 and 104 expedite the issuance of temporary entrance permits for commercial and economic development projects and exempt certain projects from having to go through the states’ Preliminary Land Use Services process that coordinates state agencies around development.

While HB 102 was passed unanimously by legislators, some did express concern with HB 104 that exempting the PLUS process for some projects could further limit public participation in planning decisions. Three state senators voted against the bill.

On June 20, Carney signed the bills while surrounded by legislative sponsors, construction leaders, economic development advocates and transportation and planning officials.

“These two pieces of legislation strengthen our ability to attract and expand business operations in our state. My thanks goes to the sponsors of this legislation and the business community for their advocacy and leadership,” Carney told Delaware Business Times.

House Bill 102 would specifically require state agencies to review a temporary entrance plan within 10 days for permitting of specific major projects.

House Bill 104 would exempt the PLUS process for projects located in Investment Level 1 or 2 under the Strategies for State Policies and Spending, which are largely constrained to industrial corridors near Wilmington or surrounding Delaware’s major municipalities served by highways. These projects would have to be consistent with local zoning and any local comprehensive plan, create full-time jobs and get approval for the waiver by the local government.

Two more bills, House Bills 101 and 103, are a part of the original bill package put forward by Rep. Bill Bush (D-Dover), who has championed the Ready in 6 agenda for the past few legislative sessions. They have yet to receive a committee hearing though, and are unlikely to pass this session with just a few days left before the legislature adjourns for the year on June 30.

HB 101 would direct the Delaware Department of Transportation and Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to co-develop an expedited project approval process for entrance plans and stormwater and sediment plans associated with new development by working with pre-approved consultants. HB 103 would create a transportation impact fee for planned high-growth areas that would help the state invest in local transportation upgrades.

These proposed measures sprung from the Ready in 6 initiative, which is devoted to improving permitting and fast-track project approval for employer prospects. The movement started in 2019 after the Delaware Business Roundtable and other key state leaders heard from site selectors that Delaware takes up to 24 months to issue permits. The industry gold-standard is six months.

A report issued later that year made many key suggestions in improving the permitting process, including creating a project concierge. Carney has already signed into law one measure that sprung from the report: the Site Readiness Fund.

Subsequent legislative pushes have been slow to gain support though, often garnering exasperation from state business leaders and developers who see the lengthening permitting process as one of Delaware’s biggest obstacles in job attraction.

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