Dan Bailey Testifies Before Massachusetts Legislature on House Bill No. 1112, “An Act Improving Housing Opportunities and the Massachusetts Economy”

The Massachusetts Legislature is considering a bill that seeks to reform zoning law and simplify the process for developers to build housing. Pierce Atwood real estate partner Daniel J. Bailey appeared on behalf of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board and Massachusetts Association of Realtors to provide testimony on some key aspects of the bill known as “The HOME Bill.” Appearing before the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Municipalities, Dan offered testimony on these aspects of the bill:

Reducing Red Tape on Existing Permits: This would protect special permit holders so that special permit decisions “run with the land,” just as variance decisions do under current state law. It would prohibit a special permit granting authority from imposing conditions on a special permit based on the continued ownership or occupancy of the land or structures. This change mirrors existing law that prohibits a zoning board of appeals from conditioning the grant of a variance on the continued ownership of the property by a particular person.

Establishing Uniform Standards and Limiting the Scope of Review to Physical Features of Projects:  This would create uniform site plan review procedures and would limit the scope of site plan review to the review of the proposed improvements on the development site in connection with a use allowed by right under the local zoning ordinance or bylaw.

Allowing a Majority Vote for Variances and Special Permits: This proposed legislation replaces the supermajority vote requirements with a “majority of the members then in office” standard. It would also establish that the granting of a variance or the reversal of any order or decision of any administrative official would require a majority vote of the members of the board then in office.

Judicial Review of Land Use Decisions: The proposed legislation would require that judicial review of any decision of a zoning board of appeals or any special permit granting authority be limited to a review of the record created before that body. If passed this could drastically reduce the amount of time it takes for court decisions on special permit and variance appeals.