Gareth Orsmond is a real estate lawyer with expertise in land use, environmental and municipal law, real estate financing, affordable housing, and large-scale development. Gareth’s practice encompasses commercial transactions, permitting, resolving property disputes, providing general counsel on a wide range of subjects, and litigating matters in administrative tribunals and court.

For more than 20 years, Gareth has represented diverse clientele, including developers, non-profit organizations, and governmental agencies. He has handled hundreds of hearings and meetings with government agencies and permitting authorities and has appeared before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the Appeals Court, and trial courts. His transactional practice often involves complex matters such as air rights, shorefront and climate-sensitive development, affordable housing, tax incentives, tax increment financing, and environmental remediation.

Gareth is a graduate of Yale University and the Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark in Portland, Oregon, where he attended on a public interest scholarship and focused on environmental and land use law through the school’s nationally recognized program. He remains committed to legal education and, since 2012, has been on the faculty at New England Law|Boston.

Prior to joining Pierce Atwood, Gareth was a partner in the Real Estate Group at Rackemann Sawyer & Brewster in Boston. Gareth began practicing law full time 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, Ronnie Scott's in London, and other clubs locally and around the world.

Honors & Distinctions

  • Recognized as a top-rated attorney by Super Lawyers seven times 

Professional Activities

  • Adjunct professor, Land Use Clinic and Land Use Law, New England Law|Boston, 2012-present
  • Lecturer on affordable housing topics, American Planning Association and Boston University's Metropolitan College of City Planning and Urban Affairs
  • Member, New Hampshire Bar Association – Environment and Natural Resource, Municipal and Government, Real Property, and Telecommunications, Energy and Utility Sections
  • Past Member, Housing and Economic Development Council of the Urban Land Institute, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Boston Bar Association, 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, 2017)
  • 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 Dirt & Development Law, Massachusetts Land Use Monitor (legal blogs, 2010 through present)
  • Legal 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 in its first land purchase in 2011

Practice Areas

Representative Experience

  • Served as lead counsel for Cronin Holdings, LP and its consultant team on waterfront permitting issues for a project known as 150 Seaport Boulevard, a 250-foot tall, 22-story mixed-use development in Boston’s Innovation District; obtained a waterways license and defended Cronin in multiple lawsuits brought by the Conservation Law Foundation; worked with former Massachusetts Governor William Weld to settle disputes in favor of the project, which features an iconic design by Elkus Manfredi and will bring significant public benefits to Boston, including 46 units of deeply subsidized senior housing and long-term funding to provide Boston Harbor experiences to disadvantaged children; Cronin Holdings CEO Jon Cronin said, “Gareth treated all of our challenges as if they were his own and provided clear, thoughtful legal counsel and strong advocacy.”
  • Represents the developer of a large, proposed redevelopment of land located in the center of town for mixed residential and retail use.
  • Serves as special town counsel to the Town of Westwood, Mass., in connection with several matters, including (i) University Station, a 2.1 million-square-foot multiphase mixed-use project for which Gareth prepared zoning bylaws and regulations, oversaw the town’s use of eminent domain powers, and led efforts to secure affordable housing to turn an old industrial park into a vibrant development, and (ii) the redevelopment of Islington center, which included drafting a 99-page land disposition agreement to govern complex land swaps essential to redevelopment efforts.
  • On behalf of a national nonprofit organization, negotiated an innovative conservation restriction as a means of resolving a difficult land use dispute with a land trust.

Representative Experience

  • Represents the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency in several financing and subsidizing efforts, including improvements to Union Station in Springfield in connection with redevelopment spawned by the casino and a 70-unit mixed-use development in Beverly, Mass., with workforce housing.
  • Represented a hotel business in the purchase and refinancing of a 129-room extended stay hotel in Merrimack, NH.
  • Represented The Skating Club of Boston in the subdivision and multi-million dollar sale of land off Soldiers Field Road.
  • Represented hotel developer in complicated title insurance matters arising from the purchase of land and air rights for a 326-room micro hotel in Boston’s Seaport District.
  • Represented an affordable housing developer in the purchase of apartments at Bersani Circle in Quincy, Mass., and the conversion of these apartments to affordable, workforce housing using numerous subsidies and funding sources, including a $1.2 million grant from Quincy’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
  • Counseled purchaser of a 246-room hotel in Needham, Mass., on due diligence matters arising from an unusual and complicated zoning history.
  • Represented developers of a 392-unit planned development in Cambridge, Mass., and an 82-unit two-phase condominium in Boston’s Fenway district in financing efforts.
  • Led permitting efforts for numerous affordable housing developments ranging from 8 to 200 units; counseled clients on low-income tax credits and other funding mechanisms.

Representative Experience

  • Long-time outside general counsel to the Cape Cod Commission; advises the Commission on conflicts of interest, open meeting law requirements, public records law, permitting issues, and land use and environmental matters generally; drafted and introduced legislation; helped develop regulatory and planning initiatives.
  • Represents the trustee of a custodial trust that holds land within a major superfund site in the discharge of its fiduciary duties.
  • Extensive experience in disputes concerning waterfront development under the public trust doctrine and the Public Waterfront Act, M.G.L. c. 91; secured favorable rulings in several proceedings before the Department of Environmental Protection.
  • 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 City Hall; successfully challenged the casino's waterways license through an administrative appeal that, among other thing, led to a condition requiring water transportation to mitigate traffic impacts; negotiated an impact-mitigation agreement.
  • Resolved legal issues arising from indoor air quality concerns due to groundwater contamination from the past use of a condominium building in Somerville, Mass, as a manufacturing facility.
  • Represented families whose homes were built on old municipal landfills, obtaining settlement agreements for high six-figure damages in each case.
  • 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

  • Represents a clean energy company in transactions involving battery storage facilities.
  • 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 technology company impacted by the layout of a gas pipeline; intervened in a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission proceeding to resolve the dispute.

Representative Experience

  • Warren Place LLC v. City  of Quincy Zoning Bd. of Appeals, Docket No. 2017-0 (Housing Appeals Comm. 2018)
  • Matter of Wynn MA, LLC, Docket No. 2016-004 (Mass. Dep’t of Environmental Protection 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, 451 Mass. 158 (2008)
  • Allen Homestead Development, LLC v. Town of Sturbridge Cons. Commission, 20 Mass. L. Rapt. 564 (2006)
  • Zuckerman v. Town of Hadley, 442 Mass. 511 (2004) (amicus)