PR Development: Amendments to the Puerto Rico Permit Process Reform Act

PermisosLast week, the current administration presented Senate Bill 310 (the “Bill”) for the reform of Puerto Rico’s Permitting Process. More specifically, the Bill proposes a series of amendments to Act 161-2009, as amended, known as the “Puerto Rico Permit Process Reform Act”.

The Bill intends to improve Puerto Rico’s competitiveness, attract investment and jumpstart the recovery of the economic development through modifications that would further streamline, and make more agile and efficient the process to evaluate permits for the development and use of land and structures in Puerto Rico. Furthermore, some of the proposed amendments are focused on bringing additional transparency and certainty to the permitting process.

Among other things, the Bill:

  • Establishes the use of the Unified Information System for the filing and processing of permits, authorizations, licenses and certifications for land uses and operation of businesses by the Autonomous Municipalities with Hierarchy I to V (Autonomous Municipalities) and the Authorized Professionals. This system would have access to the governmental databases necessary for the processing of such permit applications;
  • Gives jurisdiction to OGPe or the Adjudicative Board, as applicable, over discretionary matters, permits and siting consultations (Consultas de Ubicación);
  • Establishes the Office of Permits Management (“OGPe” by its Spanish Acronym) Adjudicative Board to be composed of a President (the OGPe Executive Director), 2 Associate Members (one would be the President of the Planning Board or a duly authorized representative) and an Alternate Member [The other Associate Member and the Alternate Member would be appointed by the OGPe Executive Director];
  • Introduces the Single Permit (Permiso Único) to be issued by OGPe to commence or continue the operation of a business, a construction and/or activity incidental to the same in which all permits licenses, authorization or certifications would be consolidated;
  • Introduces the Administrative Review Division which would have jurisdiction to review the actions and the determinations issued by the OGPe, the Adjudicative Board, the Authorized Professionals and the Autonomous Municipalities;
  • Establishes that the determination of environmental compliance with Article 4(C) of Act 416-2004, as amended, would be a component of the final determination of the proposed activity;
  • Creates the Permits Auditing Officer, who would be appointed by the Planning Board and would manage the Audits and Complaints Division. This Officer would review the compliance of the final determinations issued by OGPe, the Autonomous Municipalities and the Authorized Professionals with applicable laws and regulations.
  • Authorizes the automatic issuance of a Use Permit or certain cases;
  • Requires the Puerto Rico Appeals Court to give priority to administrative review petitions under Act 161-2009; and
  • Requires the Planning Board to review the zoning nomenclature used in the Joint Regulation, Land Use Plans, Special Regulations and Territorial Ordinance Plans to address in a uniform manner the uses of land and structures in Puerto Rico.
  • Establishes an amnesty period (six months from the enactment of the Bill) for the legalization of construction commenced, the use of land or structures for residential uses without a permit.

by Lillian Mateo-Santos, Esq., Ferraiuoli LLC