Gareth Orsmond is a seasoned real estate attorney with special expertise in land use, environmental, municipal, real estate financing, affordable housing, and large-scale development matters. Gareth’s practice includes permitting, providing general counsel, handling commercial transactions, and engaging in litigation in administrative tribunals and in court.

An attorney in Pierce Atwood's Boston and Portsmouth offices, Gareth has successfully represented towns, regional agencies, developers, manufacturers, retail businesses, nonprofit entities, condominium associations, and individuals for more than 18 years, and has appeared in hundreds of adjudicatory hearings and public meetings before local and state permitting authorities, as well as before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the Appeals Court, and trial courts.

His transactional practice often involves resolving complex matters such as air rights, shorefront development constraints, affordable housing, tax incentives, tax increment financing, ongoing hotel operations, and environmental remediation.

Gareth is a graduate of Yale University and the Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark in Portland, Oregon, where he first focused on environmental and land use law through the school’s nationally recognized program.

Prior to joining Pierce Atwood, Gareth was a partner in the Real Estate Group at Rackemann Sawyer & Brewster in Boston. Gareth began practicing law after earning his Masters in Jazz Studies from the New England Conservatory of Music. As a jazz musician, Gareth has performed at the Village Vanguard in New York City, Ronnie Scott's in London, and at clubs locally and around the world.

Honors & Distinctions

  • Super Lawyers "Rising Star" 

Professional Activities

  • Adjunct professor, Land Use Law and Land Use Clinic, New England Law|Boston, 2012-present
  • Guest lecturer on affordable housing topics, American Planning Association (Massachusetts Chapter) and Boston University's Metropolitan College of City Planning and Urban Affairs
  • Member, Boston Bar Association - Environmental Law Section
  • Member, New Hampshire Bar Association- Environment and Natural Resource, Municipal and Government, Real Property, and Telecommunications, Energy and Utility Sections
  • Past member of the Housing and Economic Development Council of the Urban Land Institute, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Massachusetts Bar Association, and American Bar Association's Natural Resources, Energy & Environmental Law Section


  • “Enforcement of Zoning Requirements,” The Massachusetts Zoning Manual (MCLE 2002, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2015)
  • Solving Waterfront Property Disputes (MCLE 2008, 2011, 2014)
  • The Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan: Applying the Lessons of Land Use to the Development and Use of the Ocean’s Resources (ABA presentation 2010)
  • Contributing author, Massachusetts Land Use Monitor (legal blog, 2010 through 2015)
  • Commentary, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Reporter (Landlaw, Inc., 2003-2013)
  • “Eligible Person and Downgradient Property Liability Exemptions of the Brownfields Bill,” Section Review (MBA 2000)

Civic Activities

  • Leadership New Hampshire, Class of 2018
  • Board of Trustees, Concord Community Music School
  • Treasurer, Board of Directors, Yale Club of New Hampshire
  • Mentor, Association of Yale Alumni Alumni-Student Pilot Mentoring Program
  • Delegate, Assembly of Delegates, Association of Yale Alumni
  • Clerk, Board of Directors, Westwood Land Trust, 2003-2006. Gareth also represented the Land Trust pro bono to complete its first land purchase in 2011

Practice Areas

Representative Experience

  • Performed due diligence for one of the largest power generation companies in the U.S. in connection with its bid to obtain several power plants in New England
  • Represented a major Massachusetts company affected by the layout of a gas pipeline and intervened in a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission proceeding to help bring the dispute to an amicable resolution

Representative Experience

  • Extensive experience in disputes concerning the development of waterfront properties under the public trust doctrine and its statutory and regulatory codifications, and has obtained favorable rulings in proceedings before the Department of Environmental Protection.
  • As counsel to the board of trustees of a condominium in Somerville, Mass, resolved difficult legal issues arising from indoor air quality concerns due to groundwater contamination.
  • Represented a number of families whose homes were built on old municipal landfills, in each case obtaining a settlement agreement for the payment of high six-figure damages.
  • Represented Fortune 500 companies in addressing environmental cleanup obligations, obtaining approvals to expand facilities in Massachusetts, and securing dismissal of lawsuits challenging those approvals. 

Representative Experience

  • Helped to secure a waterways license for Cronin Holding’s 150 Seaport Boulevard project, a 250-foot tall, 22-story mixed use development in Boston’s Innovation District.  Gareth defended Cronin in multiple lawsuits brought by the Conservation Law Foundation and worked with former Massachusetts Governor William Weld to reach a settlement.  The project, built around an iconic building designed by Elkus Manfredi, will break ground in the spring of 2018 and will bring about significant public benefits, including 46 units of deeply subsidized senior housing and long-term funding to provide waterfront and Boston Harbor experiences to disadvantaged children from the City of Boston. 
  • Handled transactional, zoning and land use matters for many developments in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, including the subdivision and sale of a Skating Club of Boston land off Soldiers Field Road; the purchase of a 129-room extended stay hotel in Meredith, NH; the purchase of land and air rights for a 326-room microhotel in Boston’s Seaport district; the purchase of a 246-room hotel in Needham, Mass.; the construction of 392-unit planned development in Cambridge, Mass.; the construction of an 82-unit two-phase condominium in Boston’s Fenway district; the refinancing of 165,000-square foot multitenant retail development in Newburyport, Mass.; and the permitting of a 200-unit affordable housing development in Plymouth, Mass.
  • Serves as outside general counsel to the Cape Cod Commission, providing advice on conflicts of interest, open meeting law requirements, public records law, permitting issues, and land use law developments in general. Drafted and introduced legislation and helped develop regulatory and planning initiatives.
  • Represented the City of Somerville, Mass. in its much-publicized dispute over the potential environmental and health impacts of a large resort casino proposed in close proximity to Assembly Square and Somerville City Hall. Successfully pursued changes to the casino's waterways license through an administrative appeal and subsequently helped the city reach an impact-mitigation agreement.
  • On behalf of a national nonprofit organization, negotiated an innovative conservation restriction as a means of resolving a difficult land use dispute.

Representative Cases

  • Matter of Wynn MA, LLC, Office of Appeals and Dispute Resolution (DEP) Docket No. 2016-004 (2016)
  • Palitz v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Tisbury, 470 Mass. 795 (2015) (amicus)
  • Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, Inc. v. Energy Facilities Siting Board, 457 Mass. 663 (2010)
  • Arno v. Commonwealth, 457 Mass. 434 (2010)
  • Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Canton v. Housing Appeals Committee, 76 Mass. App. Ct. 467 (2010)
  • Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Canton v. Housing Appeals Committee, 76 Mass. App. Ct. 467 (2010), 451 Mass. 158 (2008),
  • Allen Homestead Development, LLC v. Town of Sturbridge Cons. Commission, 20 Mass. L. Rptr. 564 (2006)
  • Zuckerman v. Town of Hadley, 442 Mass. 511 (2004) (amicus)

Representative Experience

  • Serves as special town counsel to the Town of Westwood, Mass., in connection with University Station, a 2.1 million-square-foot multiphase mixed-use project. His work includes drafting zoning bylaws and regulations, overseeing the town’s use of eminent domain powers to help turn an old industrial park into a vibrant development, and leading efforts to secure affordable housing. Successfully advised town officials on conflict of interest matters on several occasions.
  • He has led permitting efforts for affordable housing developments ranging in size from 8 to 200 units, and has counseled clients on low-income tax credits and other funding mechanisms.