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Zoning & Permitting - The Basics and Traps for
the Unwary
Bob Fishman, Land Use, Permitting, and Development
March 11, 2008
Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP
World Trade Center West
155 Seaport Boulevard
Boston, Massachusetts 02210
Telephone 617.439.2000
www.nutter.com
DUE DILIGENCE CONSIDERATIONS
FOR A BUYER/DEVELOPER
• Understand the business context, goals and constraints
before undertaking a zoning and permitting analysis.
Relationship to land control documentation.
• Understand the political context
• Understand concerns of abutters, neighborhood groups,
advocacy groups, adjoining cities and towns
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DUE DILIGENCE CONSIDERATIONS
FOR A SELLER
• What permits does buyer need?
• How difficult to obtain?
• How much time is reasonable for buyer to obtain them?
• Will land control allow for prosecuting or defending
appeals?
• Impact of deposit/land control payment structure on
timing and likelihood of a successful closing
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DUE DILIGENCE CONSIDERATIONS
FOR A LENDER AND INVESTOR
• Many of the same considerations as a seller, except that
there are additional considerations since a lender or
investor could become the owner if a default
• Understand the basics of what the zoning allows,
prohibits or allows only by a discretionary permit
• Is the existing use or structure non-conforming?
Implications for rebuilding following a casualty? A future
expansion?
• Cost or operational considerations of all permit conditions
– both on-site and off-site. Is the project budget
adequate?
• Has there been opposition or litigation?
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DUE DILIGENCE CONSIDERATIONS FOR A
LENDER AND INVESTOR (CONT.)
• How discretionary are any permits to be obtained postclosing?
• Risks of closing before all appeal periods have expired
• Understand all private development-related agreements
with third parties.
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ORGANIZATION OF LOCAL
GOVERNMENT
• City form of government versus town form of government
• Key local boards and offices
• Building Inspector
• Planning Board
• Board of Appeals
• Conservation Commission
• Board of Selectmen and Town Meeting
• Open vs. representative Town Meeting
• City Council or Board of Aldermen and Mayor
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BASICS OF A ZONING BYLAW OR
ORDINANCE
• Chapter 40A – The State Zoning Act (except Boston)
• The Zoning Bylaw (town) or Ordinance (city)
• The Zoning Map
• Table of Uses
• Table of Dimensional Controls
• Table of Parking and Loading Controls
• Other Requirements (e.g. signage, landscaping)
• Separate Local Bylaws or Local Ordinances, e.g.
• Wetlands
• Earth Removal
• Hazardous Waste
• Signage
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TYPES OF ZONING RELIEF
• As of Right
• Amendment to the Zoning Map
• Amendment to the Zoning Bylaw or Ordinance (text)
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Process in a town
Process in a city
Required vote
Attorney General approval of town actions
• Special Permits
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Public hearing
Required vote
Time lines
Appeals, standard of review
Proceeding at risk per recent permit streamlining legislation
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TYPES OF ZONING RELIEF (CONT.)
• Variances
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Use (if allowed)
Dimensional
Public hearing
Required vote
Time lines
Appeals, standard of review
• Site Plan Approval
• Different types and appeal procedures
• Reconstruction, Alteration or Expansion of a Non-Conforming
Use or Structure
• Findings
• Statutes of Limitation
• 6-year
• 10-year
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VESTING RIGHTS TO EXISTING
ZONING
• Plan “freezes”
• 3-year Approval Not Required (ANR) plan freeze (use only)
• 8-year definitive subdivision plan freeze
• Special permit freezes and building permit freezes
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SUBDIVISION CONTROL LAW (G.L. c.41,
§§81K-81GG)
• Subdivision Control
• Controls the creation of buildable lots
• Planning Board rules and regulations
• General focus on adequacy of roads and utilities within the
subdivision
• Zoning – lot size and frontage
• ANR Plan – adequacy of frontage – three (3) types of ways qualify
• Definitive subdivision plan
• Public hearing
• Bond or covenant
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MASSACHUSETTS ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT
(MEPA) G.L. c.30, §§61, 62-62H AND IMPLEMENTING
REGULATIONS AT 301 C.M.R. §11.00
• Purpose of the Statute and Regulations
• Applicability and Jurisdiction
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•
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State agency action
State financial assistance
Land transfer by a state agency
State permit or approval
• Review Thresholds
• Mandatory EIR
• Discretion regarding EIR
• Exclusions
• MEPA Office/MEPA Director
• Subject Matter Jurisdiction
• Fail-Safe Review
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MASSACHUSETTS ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT
(MEPA) G.L. c.30, §§61, 62-62H AND IMPLEMENTING
REGULATIONS AT 301 C.M.R. §11.00 (CONT.)
• Anti-Segmentation Rule
• Environmental Notification Form (ENF)
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•
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Environmental Monitor
Review and comment periods
Agency reviews
Decision on ENF and Scope – Secretary’s Certificate
Expanded ENF. Request for a Single EIR, a special review procedure or a
waiver.
• Environmental Impact Reports
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Draft and Final EIR’s (typical sequence)
Single EIR (rare)
Review and comment periods
Secretary’s Certificate
• Waiting Period for Agencies to Issue Permits
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MASSACHUSETTS ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT
(MEPA) G.L. c.30, §§61, 62-62H AND IMPLEMENTING
REGULATIONS AT 301 C.M.R. §11.00 (CONT.)
• Notification of Commencement of Construction for Projects
Requiring an EIR
• Special Review Procedures
• Notice of Project Changes and Lapses of Time
• Material change in a project prior to commencement
• Lapse of time – 3 year and 5 year rules
• Secretary’s consideration of environmental consequences and factors
• Waivers
• Undue hardship caused by strict compliance
• No greater protection of environment
• Phase 1 waiver
• Section 61 Findings by Agency Issuing Permits
• All feasible means used to avoid damage to the environment
• Mitigation minimizes damage to the maximum extent practicable
• Findings made part of the permit
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MASSACHUSETTS ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT
(MEPA) G.L. c.30, §§61, 62-62H AND IMPLEMENTING
REGULATIONS AT 301 C.M.R. §11.00 (CONT.)
• Legal Challenges
• Notice of intent to commence an action
• Statutes of limitation to commence an action
• Issue Preclusion
• Article 80 of the Boston Zoning Code (similar to MEPA)
• PNF; DPIR; FPIR; Article 80 Agreements regarding housing, jobs;
Cooperation Agreement
• Institutional Master Plan
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WETLANDS G.L. c.131, §40 AND
IMPLEMENTING REGULATIONS AT 310
C.M.R. §10.00
• Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act
• Local Wetlands Bylaws
• Role of Conservation Commission
• Role of DEP
• Resource Areas and Statutory Interests
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Eights (8) statutory interests
Inland and coastal wetlands
Buffer zone
Exemptions
• Riverfront Area
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Intermittent v. perennial streams
High water mark
Previously developed properties
Alternatives analysis
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WETLANDS G.L. c.131, §40 AND
IMPLEMENTING REGULATIONS AT 310
C.M.R. §10.00 (CONT.)
• Determination of Applicability
• Abbreviated Notice of Resource Area Delineation (ANRAD)
• Notice of Intent
• Order of Conditions
• Superseding Order of Conditions from DEP (de novo
review)
• Affirm, modify or reverse
• Administrative Appeals within DEP
• De novo; adjudicatory
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WETLANDS G.L. c.131, §40 AND
IMPLEMENTING REGULATIONS AT 310
C.M.R. §10.00 (CONT.)
• Court Appeals
• Problem of appeals when there is also a local wetlands bylaw
• Stormwater Management
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Nine (9) DEP standards
Stormwater Management Handbook (1997)
Best Management Practices (BMP)
Low Impact Development (LID)
Rate and volume
Pre and post development runoff
Infiltrate and detain stormwater
Sometimes, there are separate local bylaws and regulations, too
• Groundwater Impacts
• NPDES program/USEPA
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DEP SEWER REGULATIONS (G.L. c.21, §43
AND IMPLEMENTING REGULATIONS AT 314
C.M.R. §7.00)
• Extensions and connections
• Thresholds
• Usually, only local approval if less than 15,000 gpd
• Private Compliance Certificate if:
– Between 15,000 gpd and 50,000 gpd, or
– An extension of less than 1,000 feet
• DEP Permit required for:
– Discharge of more than 50,000 gpd, or
– An extension of more than 1,000 feet
• Reduction of infiltration and inflow (I/I)
• Still need local sewer extension/connection permit
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CHAPTER 91 TIDELANDS LICENSING G.L. c.91
AND IMPLEMENTING REGULATIONS AT 310
C.M.R. §9.00
• Colonial Ordinances of 1641-1647
• Private Tidelands
• Upland owner owns land between high tide line and low tide line,
subject to rights reserved to the public for fishing, fowling and
navigation
• Commonwealth Tidelands
• Commonwealth retained ownership of tidelands seaward of low tide
line or 100 rods from high tide line, whichever is further landward
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CHAPTER 91 TIDELANDS LICENSING G.L. c.91
AND IMPLEMENTING REGULATIONS AT 310
C.M.R. §9.00 (CONT.)
• Chapter 91 License
• Originally to encourage building of wharves and placement of fill
• Role of DEP
– License and prescribe terms for filling tidelands, construct structures, use
of fill or structures.
– Tidelands = current and former submerged lands and tidal flats lying
below the mean high water mark.
• Substantial change in use
• Regulations contain zoning – like restrictions
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Ground floor to be devoted to “facilities of public accommodation”
Setbacks
Open space
Height
Public access
Requirements can be tailored to local conditions by a Municipal Harbor
Plan
– Designated Port Areas more restricted
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CHAPTER 91 TIDELANDS LICENSING G.L. c.91
AND IMPLEMENTING REGULATIONS AT 310
C.M.R. §9.00 (CONT.)
• Water Dependent and Non-Water Dependent Uses
• Recent Resolution of Landlocked Tidelands Controversy
• Moot decision/North Point, Cambridge. Legislation restored DEP’s
regulatory exemption for existing projects (Pre – 1/1/84 filled
tidelands separated from high water mark by at least 250 feet and
by a public way). In the future, MEPA review, especially regarding
groundwater.
• Municipal Harbor Plans
• Locally developed and state approved
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MASSACHUSETTS ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT
(MESA) G.L. c.131A AND IMPLEMENTING
REGULATIONS AT 321 C.M.R. §10.00
• Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program
(NHESP) within Massachusetts Department of Fish and
Wildlife
• Over 400 plant and animal species listed as endangered,
threatened or of special concern.
• Pre-Construction Review Process
• Prevent a “Taking” of listed species
• Broad definition, which includes alteration of habitat
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MASSACHUSETTS ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT
(MESA) G.L. c.131A AND IMPLEMENTING
REGULATIONS AT 321 C.M.R. §10.00 (CONT.)
• Other Key Definitions and Terms:
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•
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Project
Activity
Priority Habitat
Estimated Habitat (includes wetlands)
Natural Heritage Atlas/Polygon/Priority Habitat maps/MassGIS
online database
• If no exemption, will project give rise to a “Take” - death or injury;
disruption of nesting, breeding, feeding, or migratory activity by
modification of habitat. For plants, picking, killing, transporting or
cutting.
• Appeal of “Take” decisions
• Conservation and Management Permit if a Take
– Meet 3-part test or provide funds to develop a statewide
conservation recovery and protection plan
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ACCESS (CURB CUT) PERMITS G.L. c.81, §21
AND IMPLEMENTING REGULATIONS AT 720
C.M.R. §13.00
• MassHighway – access to state highways
• Recent Regulations (2007)
• Vehicular Access Permits – Minor, Major and Complex
Permits
• Non-Vehicular Access Permits (e.g. discharge of drainage;
utilities within SHLO)
• “Substantial Increase” in or impact on traffic
• Different categories of vehicular access permits and
review timelines for each category
• Appeals to Chief Engineer
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ACCESS (CURB CUT) PERMITS G.L. c.81, §21
AND IMPLEMENTING REGULATIONS AT 720
C.M.R. §13.00 (CONT.)
• Recording of Permits
• Related Types of Permits
• DCR Parkway access permits
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APPEALS
• Types of Appeals
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To local ZBA
To DEP
To Superior Court
To Land Court
• Declaratory Judgment
• Certiorari
• Standing
• Jurisdictional
• Standard for “aggrievement” – a plausible claim of a definite
violation of a private right, a private property interest, or a private
legal interest, supported by credible evidence
• Injury different from that suffered by the public generally
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APPEALS
• Ten Citizens Suits
• Intervention
• Enjoin “damage to the environment”
• Time Frames for Taking Appeals
• Time to appeal is jurisdictional
• Timeframes for Litigating Appeals
• Mediation/Arbitration/Settlement
• Land Court Permit Session
• Threshold of 25 or more dwelling units or the construction or
alteration of 25,000 s.f. or more of gross floor area, or both
• Jurisdiction over a broad range of claims affecting real estate
projects
• Single judge
• One of three time tracks to trial and to decision
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CHAPTER 40B/COMPREHENSIVE PERMITS (G.L.
c.40B §§20-23 AND IMPLEMENTING
REGULATIONS AT 760 C.M.R. §31.00)
• Chapter 40B/Comprehensive Permits
• Create 10% of local housing stock as affordable
• Comprehensive permit issued by local ZBA in lieu of multiple local
approvals. Availability of waivers.
• Consistent with local needs
• Uneconomic conditions
• Appeal to Housing Appeals Committee (HAC) if local denial or
unacceptable conditions
• Problem of conflicting appeals to HAC (by applicant) and to Court
(by third parties)
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CHAPTER 40R SMART GROWTH OVERLAY DISTRICTS;
CHAPTER 40S (G.L. c.40R AND IMPLEMENTING
REGULATIONS AT 760 C.M.R. §59.00)
• Chapter 40R Smart Growth Overlay Districts; Chapter 40S
• Interplay between 40B and 40R regarding affordable housing. 40R
gives municipality more control over location and quality of such
housing
• Encourages dense housing with affordable component as of right in
smart growth type locations. “Eligible locations” definition
• Incentive payments from state (1) upon adoption, and (2) upon
issuance of building permits.
• Encourages early negotiation of project specifics and mitigation
• Build political support for local legislative vote
• Design standards
• Development Agreements – infrastructure, mitigation, community
benefits.
• Assistance with school costs (40S)
• Role of DHCD
• 120 day Plan Approval
• More difficult for opponents to appeal – standard of review; bonds
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CHAPTER 43D
• Chapter 43D – Expedited Permitting
• Local option
• Criteria for Priority Development Sites
• 180 day permitting
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HAZARDOUS WASTE OVERVIEW (G.L. c.21E
AND IMPLEMENTING REGULATIONS AT 310
C.M.R. §40.0000 (MCP))
• Massachusetts Oil and Hazardous Materials Release
Prevention and Response Act - Chapter 21E
• Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP) Regulations
• Licensed Site Professional (LSP) – Privatized System
except for the worst sites
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HAZARDOUS WASTE OVERVIEW (G.L. c.21E
AND IMPLEMENTING REGULATIONS AT 310
C.M.R. §40.0000 (MCP) (CONT.))
• DEP Audits
• Phase 1 Site Assessment (ASTM Standard)
• Urban Fill (TPH; PAH)
• Risk Assessment; No Significant Risk
• Reporting Requirements
• Immediate Response Action
• Release Abatement Measure
• Tier Classification System. Phases I-IV. Time Lines
• Permanent Solution, with or without an Activity and Use Limitation
(AUL). Clean-up to “background” or not. Permitted and prohibited
uses.
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HAZARDOUS WASTE OVERVIEW (G.L. c.21E
AND IMPLEMENTING REGULATIONS AT 310
C.M.R. §40.0000 (MCP) (CONT.))
• Response Action Outcome Statements (RAO) – Class A, B,
and C
• Brownfields (former developed properties that may be
contaminated)
• State Programs to encourage reuse, such as:
– Brownfields Redevelopment Access to Capital (BRAC) program. State-subsidized
environmental insurance.
– Brownfields Redevelopment Fund in Economically Distressed Areas
– Brownfields Tax Credit
• Environmental Insurance
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•
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Pollution Legal Liability Insurance
Stop Loss or “Cost Cap” Insurance
BRAC Program
Amount/Term/Deductible
Negotiation of “manuscripted” coverage with “tailored” endorsements
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