MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING
CONNECTICUT NEIGHBORHOOD REVITALIZATION PARTNERSHIP
The purpose of this Memorandum of Understanding is to encourage and facilitate cooperation among Federal, State and local entities to promote economic development and neighborhood revitalization in Connecticut's neighborhoods and to improve outcomes for Connecticut's residents. This special partnership will serve as a demonstration of principles and practices which may serve as a model for improvements nationwide.
Short term action plans or project agreements will supplement this Memorandum of Understanding as the partners work together on specific issues identified as barriers to economic development and neighborhood revitalization. Examples of areas where Connecticut would like to begin working together include: exploring innovative financing structures; developing a common property disposition agreement to dispose of abandoned and foreclosed property through a coordinated approach; modification of historical preservation requirements in low-income neighborhoods; reviewing lead paint abatement, asbestos removal, and urban site remediation procedures and regulations to develop ways to reduce the barriers yet retain necessary safeguards of public health and welfare .
A six-year recession with the loss of more than 200,000 jobs, from which Connecticut is only now emerging, has caused Connecticut to completely reshape the landscape of community development and neighborhood revitalization. Public Act 95-340, An Act Establishing a Neighborhood Revitalization Zone Process was developed to articulate a new paradigm and vision. The Act represents the integration of three policy documents:
o Connecticut's Goals and Benchmarks for the Year 2000 and Beyond
o The Conservation and Development Policies Plan for the State of Connecticut
o Consolidated Plan for Housing and Community Development
The goals, objectives and strategies embraced by Connecticut represent an innovative approach to community development requiring a major shift in roles and responsibilities for local, state and federal stakeholders -- one which moves all levels towards working together to solve problems and achieve results rather than focusing on specific rules.
These efforts led Connecticut, with overwhelming bipartisan support, to pass an extremely innovative law, "An Act Establishing a Neighborhood Revitalization Zone Process," Public Act No. 95-340, which took effect on October 1, 1995. This Act creates a new model for economic revitalization of deteriorating neighborhoods -- the creation of Neighborhood Revitalization Zones (NRZ's) and a process for communities and governments to work together to support them. The law aims to empower local communities to make decisions; provide relief from burdensome state and local regulations and systems barriers, and provide for federal, state and local collaboration to coordinate governmental functions and personnel to develop and implement locally-driven strategic plans for neighborhood revitalization.
Numerous Connecticut State and local officials and the entire Congressional delegation approached the Vice President asking the federal government to partner with Connecticut in these efforts. This Memorandum of Understanding establishes the parameters for that partnership.
Principles to Guide Partnership
The following principles should guide the parties' cooperation in this undertaking. The partnership will:
o Be structured, managed, and evaluated on the basis of results (i.e., progress in achieving Connecticut's stated goals or benchmarks). Moves toward measurement of results rather than micro-management and red tape.
o Focus on customers.
o Shift the impetus of planning and service design and delivery to the local level. Empower municipalities, neighborhood leaders, regional entities, and community constituency groups to foster neighborhood development.
o Maximize use of federal, state, local and private resources through enhanced coordination and communication. Encourage a problem solving approach between communities and government (local, state and federal) based on mutual trust, collaboration and consensus decision making, where creative solutions to provide flexibility to achieve better results are negotiated and implemented, while streamlining the government's bureaucracy.
o Integrate planning to account for the social, economic and physical development strengths and needs of communities.
Responsibilities of the Parties
The Community Empowerment Board, the National Performance Review, and federal agencies will work together to support this federal-state-local partnership with Connecticut in the following ways. Federal partners will showcase Connecticut as a national model, to furnish information to Connecticut and federal agencies about related efforts, to provide maximum flexibility, to ensure interagency involvement, to designate staff to work with the federal representatives and Connecticut as needed, and to inform and involve the Vice President as needed.
National Model: Federal partners will promote and highlight Connecticut as a national model for innovative community revitalization and will share lessons learned from this partnership with federal agencies and other States and localities. As part of this effort, Connecticut officials will be invited to address other States at national forums. Federal partners will share available information with Connecticut on potential resources in conjunction with this effort.
Single Point of Contact and HUD Support: As the Connecticut Plan focuses on neighborhood revitalization, economic development, and housing issues, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will take the lead on this partnership and assign a field representative as the ongoing single point of contact with Connecticut for purposes of this partnership. The State and HUD single point of contact will meet at least quarterly to review the progress in implementation of this Partnership. Additional HUD staff will partner with Connecticut as specific issues arises. The HUD single point of contact will serve as an interagency representative and will serve as convener on interagency issues to bring together other federal representatives as needed. Intergovernmental Project Teams will be formed to work through specific issues.
EPA Support: Connecticut is also focusing on environment, health and safety codes and regulations, as well as using "Brownfields" and other foreclosed and abandoned properties as a primary tool to revitalize neighborhoods. Therefore, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will also assign one person as a primary EPA liaison for the Connecticut partnership with additional EPA staff support as relevant issues arise. EPA's Region I Office will provide the primary EPA liaison for the Connecticut partnership with support from EPA headquarters. The EPA staff will collaborate with the HUD contact to work regularly with Connecticut on this partnership.
Interagency Support: Other federal agencies will participate as needed throughout this partnership to support Connecticut and its communities.
o The single point of contact (from HUD) will serve as convener on interagency issues.
o Through the Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Community (EZ/EC) Task Force, the HUD lead will notify other agencies of waiver/barrier removal requests affecting their agencies and will process these requests.
o Through the Community Empowerment Board (CEB) Working Group, HUD and EPA will notify other agencies of policy and other issues affecting their agencies. CEB Working Group Members will identify appropriate experts and staff from their agencies to work with Connecticut as needed.
o Connecticut will be able to access the technical assistance being provided to the EZ/EC cities.
Flexibility: To the fullest extent feasible in terms of authority and available resources and without compromising public health and welfare, the federal partners will help provide flexibility to Connecticut by processing waiver requests, removing barriers, using regulatory discretion, and providing technical assistance to identify possible alternatives to enhance local flexibility.
o The HUD and EPA liaisons will process waiver/barrier removal requests that fall within their respective jurisdictions.
o The HUD single point of contact for Connecticut will work with the Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Community task force to ensure that flexibility requests from Connecticut that impact agencies other than HUD and EPA are processed by the relevant agencies.
o The HUD liaison will present to the Community Empowerment Board working group any interagency policy issues or requests for assistance as they arise.
Information and Technical Assistance: To the extent feasible, the federal partners will provide Connecticut and its municipalities information and technical assistance as needed (e.g., benchmarking, performance measurement, data, capacity building, community development financing, negotiated environmental strategies, public safety strategies).
Single Point of Contact: The Connecticut Office of Policy and Management will provide a single point of contact between the Neighborhood Revitalization Zones (NRZs) and the federal government.
Coordination: The State will process waiver requests from municipalities and will look systematically across NRZs to analyze, synthesize, determine common requests, and coordinate waiver/barrier requests from the NRZs. The State will negotiate creative solutions which overcome barriers to community development. The State will help NRZs determine which flexibility requests require federal action and will then notify federal partners through the HUD single point of contact. To allow federal partners to address the State's most pressing needs and achieve the greatest results, the State will prioritize requests for flexibility based on the priority needs and the degree to which the alternatives offered by neighborhoods are likely to lead to superior results. The State will also identify common or "generic" requests to eliminate duplication.
Measure Results: The State will work with NRZs to help them meet the requirement of the law that they monitor and evaluate the progress of their plan. This will include the use of outcome and performance measures. The State will work with NRZ's to develop measures to track performance towards established goals.
Flexibility: The State will process waiver/modification requests from municipalities. The state official responsible for code enforcement will hold a public hearing after notification from the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) and must notify the municipal chief executive after the hearing of the decision regarding the waiver request.
Interagency Support: The State will review all NRZ Committee plans and provide feedback. The Connecticut Office of Policy and Management will coordinate multiagency collaboration to provide services, fund reallocation, technical support and training to neighborhoods. For example, the State may recommend models for community outreach, job training and education, conflict resolution, environmental and health performance standards, new technologies, and public safety strategies.
Local (Municipality) Role
Create Neighborhood Revitalization Zones: Through municipal resolutions, municipalities may create Neighborhood Revitalization Zones (NRZs) -- in areas where a significant number of properties are foreclosed, abandoned, blighted, substandard, or pose a public safety hazard. The municipalities will jointly determine zone boundaries with neighborhood committees.
Support NRZs: Municipalities will facilitate neighborhood planning processes, assign municipal staff, provide information to neighborhood committees, and modify municipal procedures to assist NRZs.
Planning: Municipalities will hold public hearings prior to the adoption of a neighborhood committee's strategic revitalization plan. Municipalities will submit proposed plans to the State (Secretary, Connecticut Office of Policy and Management) for review and comment. The municipality will then adopt the plan through municipal ordinance
Flexibility: Municipalities will review requests for waivers/modifications of local codes and regulations and forward relevant requests for waivers/modifications to state officials. Upon receipt of waiver requests from the neighborhood committees, the municipal chief executive official must notify the local official responsible for code enforcement and the Secretary of Connecticut's Office of Policy and Management. The local official will hold a public hearing and provide to the municipal chief executive after the hearing a decision regarding the waiver request and a reason if the waiver is denied.
Interagency Support: Municipalities will establish multi-agency collaborative delivery teams and will collaborate to identify regional solutions to achieve community development results.
Strategic Planning: Neighborhoods will form Neighborhood Revitalization Planning Committees (tenants, property owners, community organizations, businesses with property in neighborhood, municipal official) to create and approve the neighborhood strategic plan for short term and long term revitalization of the neighborhood. The strategic plan:
o will promote self-reliance in the neighborhood, home ownership, property management, sustainable economic development, effective relations between landlords and tenants, coordinated and comprehensive delivery of services to the neighborhood and creative leveraging of financial resources and shall build neighborhood capacity for self-empowerment;
o will include provisions for obtaining funds from public and private sources;
o will consider provisions for property usage, neighborhood design, traditional and nontraditional financing of developing, marketing and outreach, property management, utilization of municipal facilities by communities, recreation, and the environment;
o will include recommendations for waivers of state and local environment, health and safety codes, and regulations that unreasonably jeopardize implementation of the plan;
o will assign responsibility for implementing each aspect of the plan;
o may contain an inventory of abandoned, foreclosed and deteriorated property;
o may analyze federal, state and local environmental, health and safety codes and regulations that impact revitalization of neighborhoods;
o may include components for public safety, education, job training, youth, the elderly, and arts and culture; and
o may contain recommendations for establishment of municipal multi-agency collaborative delivery teams, including code enforcement teams.
Flexibility: Neighborhood Committees may request waivers and/or barrier removal regarding rules and regulations that impede the plan, particularly state and local environment, health and safety codes and regulations that unreasonably jeopardize implementation of the plan. Neighborhood Committees may also request local and state government to reallocate funds and personnel to the NRZs.
Measure Results: Neighborhoods will monitor and evaluate the progress of the plan. Neighborhoods will report on the plan's implementation to the local legislative body, municipal chief executive official, and the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management -- every 6 months during the first year; annually thereafter.
The principles and responsibilities covered in this memorandum are intended to improve the process of communities and government working together to revitalize neighborhoods. This memorandum does not commit any of the parties to a particular level of resources; nor is it intended to create any right or benefit or diminish any existing right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law by a party against the United States, State of Connecticut, any state or federal agency, any state or federal official, any part of this agreement, or any person. While significant changes to the intergovernmental system are anticipated as a result of this effort, this is not a legally binding or enforceable agreement. Nothing in this memorandum alters the responsibilities or statutory authorities of the Federal agencies, or State or local governments.