Staunch opponents became supporters Tuesday of two replacements for Sen. Al Mansell's controversial land-use bill, SB170.

The replacement bills, SB267 and SB268, received unanimous approval Tuesday by members of the Senate Business and Labor Committee. The first, SB267, tightens current law to require timelier zoning decisions and better accounting of impact fee collection.

The second, SB268, allows property owners and cities to request mediation of zoning conflicts through the state property rights ombudsman. The bill has a $304,600 fiscal note for added staff to assist in the process.

"Really the object here is to try and help us move the process along, keep out of court and make things happen at a fair rate," said Mansell, R-Sandy, speaking about the second bill.

While some city planners have expressed concern about the ombudsman bill, saying it would give a lot of power to one man, representatives from the League of Cities and Towns said it was written narrowly enough that they could support it.

"Sometimes you need to have a third-party review," said Ken Bullock, executive director of the league.

Sen. Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse called the mediation process with the ombudsman a "conflict avoider in the long run." Slight changes to the bill, dealing with how the ombudsman is employed, will be made before the measure hits the Senate floor.

For the past month, local leaders have waged war against Mansell and SB170, which severely restricted local governments' zoning authority and was backed by developers and home builders. City councils passed resolutions opposing the bill, and lobbying efforts were undertaken.

Mansell admitted two weeks ago that the measure was "over the top." His replacement bills were scheduled to be heard last week but were postponed until Tuesday because he was in Torino, Italy, for the Winter Olympics.

League lobbyist Jodi Hoffman said Tuesday that she has "received assurance that SB170 is dead." Some local planners fear, however, the effects of that bill will linger into the next session.

Mansell's replacement bills will now go to the Senate floor for further debate.


E-mail: nwarburton@desnews.com