Section 18B: Secretary as administrator of tidelands; duties; public benefit review and public benefit determination; appointment of public information officer
Section 18B. (a) The secretary shall serve as the administrator of tidelands. The secretary may appoint an individual or individuals to assist him in carrying out the duties of his office. The duties of this office may be exercised in combination with other duties, as the secretary shall see fit.
(b) The secretary shall conduct and complete a public benefit review for any proposed project that is: (i) subject to the licensing provisions of section 13 or 18; or (ii) geographically located on landlocked tidelands, and in either case is required to file hereafter an environmental impact report pursuant to chapter 30. The secretary may conduct and complete a public benefit review for any proposed project that is: (i) subject to the licensing provisions of said section 13 or 18; or (ii) geographically located on landlocked tidelands and in either case is required to file hereafter an environmental notification form pursuant to chapter 30. The public benefit determination of the secretary shall not supersede said chapter 30 or this chapter or any rules or regulations promulgated pursuant thereto and shall not delay the issuance of a license pursuant to this chapter or the completion of a review or any step thereof pursuant to said chapter 30. At the completion of said review, the secretary shall make a public benefit determination, the goal of which shall be to publish on the public record a written public benefit determination of the project.
In making said public benefit determination, the secretary shall consider the purpose and effect of the development; the impact on abutters and the surrounding community; enhancement to the property; benefits to the public trust rights in tidelands or other associated rights, including, but not limited to, benefits provided through previously obtained municipal permits; community activities on the development site; environmental protection and preservation; public health and safety; and the general welfare; provided further, that the secretary shall also consider the differences between tidelands, landlocked tidelands and great ponds lands when assessing the public benefit and shall consider the practical impact of the public benefit on the development.
The secretary shall promulgate regulations that may, among other things, exempt from the public benefit determination process the development of certain parcels of land, or certain activities, uses and structures on the land that are determined to be of de minimus impact. The regulations shall also establish timelines and procedures for the public benefit review, and the regulations may combine the public benefit review with the environmental review under chapter 30.
Any state or local agency holding a public comment period pursuant to chapter 30 or this chapter shall provide copies of all written testimony submitted during said public comment period to the secretary.
The secretary shall provide the determination of public benefit to the department, and if there is an appeal of a decision or license issued by the department, to the division of administrative law appeals.
The department shall incorporate the public benefit determination of the secretary in the official record.
(c) The secretary shall designate an individual to serve as the chapter 91 public information officer. The chapter 91 public information officer shall answer questions about the chapter 91 process, providing history and context regarding chapter 91 and the public benefits process as it pertains to this chapter.