Land Use

For more than 40 years, Pierce Atwood's interdisciplinary Land Use attorneys have been advising regional and national developers, retailers, utilities, and property owners on complex issues related to their real estate development projects. We help our clients turn their renderings and plans into profitable, tangible development projects by providing guidance at every stage in the process from initial planning through permitting, construction, and occupancy.

Each development project presents a unique set of challenges and potential solutions, and many “land use” issues are not confined to traditional planning and zoning considerations. Our relationships with local planning boards and state and federal regulators, as well as our in-depth knowledge of state and federal land use laws, allows our lawyers to simplify and expedite the land use permitting process. We have successfully obtained federal, state, and local approvals for significant development projects in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and throughout New England.

Our land use attorneys are skilled at identifying potential synergies and business considerations, and we draw upon the depth of the firm, as needed, to meet client objectives. For example, a significant commercial development may involve our land use team, and our state and local tax attorneys for advice on tax increment financing, our real estate attorneys for advice on title, transactional, or ownership documentation, our environmental attorneys for guidance on site assessment, remediation, and technical licensing issues, our construction attorneys to address the bidding process, and our litigation attorneys in judicial appeals.

Pierce Atwood Attorneys Co-author MCLE Book, "A Practical Guide to Land Use in Maine"

Matt Manahan, Cathy Connors, Tom Doyle, Ken Gray, Brian Rayback, Bill Taylor, and Elizabeth Frazier authored chapters in this comprehensive resource.


Calpine Acquires Fore River Generating Station for $530 Million

Firm client Calpine Corporation has acquired the North Weymouth, Mass. Fore River Generating Station from Exelon Corporation for $530 million. This acquisition further extends Calpine’s New England presence.

Installation of Meteorological Towers

In a very challenging regulatory environment with significant opposition, we assisted our client in obtaining the necessary permits and approvals to install meteorological towers in two communities in northern New Hampshire. Our efforts included representation before town zoning, planning, and select boards and successfully defending the approvals in Superior Court.

Waste Disposal Facility Approval

We helped Casella to amend the solid waste license held by its subsidiary, NEWSME Landfill Operations, to allow it to accept up to 93,000 tons of municipal solid waste per year at the Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town, Maine. 


Areas of Expertise

Administrative & Judicial Appeals

We represent our clients in all types of administrative and judicial appeals to both challenge and defend agency decisions. We have successfully represented clients on land use issues before administrative agencies such as the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, as well as hundreds of local boards of appeals.

While the goal is always to achieve the desired result without litigation, our lawyers have the expertise and experience to advise clients during the agency process on ways to improve the odds of success on appeal, such as by building an adequate record during the permitting process and preserving legal arguments that pay dividends later in court.

More information on our real estate and land use litigation experience >>
Development Permitting & Site Planning

Once a site is chosen, we help our clients design a strategy for efficient project approval by local, state, and federal regulators. We then work with clients to obtain the permits required for a project, including, for example, site plan, zoning, subdivision, wetland, and shoreland approvals. Having reviewed thousands of site plans and successfully managed the permitting process for major commercial, residential, and industrial development projects throughout New England, we regularly identify permitting needs, issues, and solutions. We work closely with consultants to help manage the permitting process from start to finish, avoiding delays and delivering positive results for our clients by saving time and money up-front in the process.

Government Relations & Rulemaking

Zoning or otherwise, environmental and land use policy decisions directly affect our clients. We understand the intricacies of both existing land use laws and the legislative process. Whether seeking to advance a client's own legislation or respond to legislation proposed by others, we develop an overall strategy to achieve favorable legislative results. This may involve counseling a client through the legislative process, actively working with legislators and legislative committees, and forming coalitions.

We also represent clients in rulemakings conducted at the national and state levels, including under the Superfund Law, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Federal Power Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and state land use, air, natural resource, water, solid waste, and superfund laws.

Project Development Public Relations

Projects requiring environmental permits are closely scrutinized by regulators and often by other interested parties. We assist clients in dealing with project opponents, selecting appropriate professional consultants, and developing effective public relations campaigns. We have close relationships with a number of public relations specialists who handle regional and national accounts.

Property Acquisition

We work closely with our clients to manage the risks of their development projects even before a site is chosen. Our pre-acquisition due diligence process involves reviewing prospective sites to identify the regulatory requirements that would need to be met and to outline the permits required to develop a given location. We also work with our environmental attorneys to review environmental site assessments on contaminated properties to help clients identify risks and seize opportunities for redevelopment.

Real Estate & Land Use Litigation

Pierce Atwood’s attorneys have exceptional breadth and depth of experience in all aspects of real estate and land use litigation.  Our clients include local, regional, and national real estate developers, lenders, retailers, manufacturers, utilities, schools and high net worth individuals that own, buy, sell, and develop residential and commercial property. Collectively, our attorneys have handled thousands of real estate disputes, ranging from hearings before local land use boards, to administrative appeals at state and federal agencies, to complex cases in the state and federal courts, both at trial and on appeal.

More information on our real estate and land use litigation experience >> 


Working closely with our real estate attorneys, we help our clients identify, analyze, and comply with the zoning codes that govern their development sites. Sometimes a development project calls for contract zoning or zoning amendments to existing zoning codes. In these instances, we represent our clients before local planning boards and, when necessary, propose zoning changes that support economic development, urban planning, and conservation goals, while still preserving the experience of a community.

125 Years