Gavel

A new state panel is now accepting appeals in municipal housing-related disputes, following its creation last summer.

The three-member Housing Appeals Board — which can affirm, modify or reverse decisions made by town or city committees — announced in a news release this month that it had begun to accept cases.

Established by Granite State lawmakers in the most recent legislative session, the Concord-based board may adjudicate disputes over planning and zoning board decisions, municipal land-use regulations, and property-related permits and fees, among other housing issues. The Housing Appeals Board is intended to resolve those cases more quickly than superior court, though appellants can still bring their claim to either body but not to both.

“Oftentimes these cases seem to drag on forever, and you’ve got buyers and sellers waiting for the results of these appeals. You have people trying to schedule building projects,” Chairman Gregory Michael told N.H. Public Radio. “I think it’s important that these cases get heard by people who have expertise in these areas, in an effort to allow the process to keep moving in a productive and efficient way.”

Initially proposed in a standalone bill, the board was eventually incorporated into the state’s 2019–20 budget that was passed in September 2019. It was formally established last July.

Board members are appointed by the N.H. Supreme Court and will serve five-year terms, though two of the initial members will serve three and four years, respectively, to stagger the terms. One board member is required by statute to be a licensed attorney, and one must be an engineer or land surveyor.

Michael, an attorney with the Manchester firm Bernstein Shur, will serve as chairman, and Elizabeth Fischer, a real-estate broker, has also been named to the board. The third seat remains unfilled.

Caleb Symons can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1420, or csymons@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @CalebSymonsKS.