March 21, 2023

Volume XIII, Number 80


March 20, 2023

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Real Estate Development in the Time of Coronavirus: Massachusetts – Update 3/26/2020


On March 25, 2020 the Land Court issued guidance regarding approvals by title examiners while the court remains open for emergency business only. The guidance, linked here, notes that title examiners are presently working remotely, so materials are no longer to be mailed to the court. If emergency approval is required, an email should be sent to Chief Title Examiner Christina Geaney with the reason emergency relief is needed and copies of any relevant documents. If the Chief Title Examiner finds there is an emergency, the matter will be referred to one of the other title examiners now authorized to provide remote approvals. While not always easy, there are several PDF-making applications for mobile phones that allow users to make a high-quality copy of any oversize plans.


Boston City Hall is presently closed for most services. The Boston Planning and Development Agency is still not holding public meetings, but staff members continue to work on existing matters remotely. BPDA staff are encouraging the public to reach out to them by phone or through the website if they have questions. A link to the BPDA contact page is here.  


Governor Baker’s March 12, 2020 order regarding open meeting law changes was not directly affected by his broad March 23, 2020 order, but the March 23 order did limit in-person public meetings to 10 people. This lower number makes it far less likely that any public meetings will be held in a meeting room. Applicants should expect virtual meetings to be the rule until the number of people who can gather in person is increased. As described below, there is also legislation in the works that would extend statutory permit deadlines for public boards and applicants.


The Legislature rapidly pushed through a bill earlier this week extending the date for local elections to June 30, 2020 if they were scheduled to take place before May 30, 2020. The bill, linked here, allows incumbents to continue serving until a successor is elected. The Legislature has not yet acted on Governor Baker’s bill that would allow municipalities to more easily postpone their annual Town Meetings. That bill was amended to provide relief regarding land use permits. The current version of this municipal relief bill is linked here. We will provide a further update if and when this or related legislation passes.     


The Division of Administrative Law Appeals has updated its hearing procedures. A link to the relevant webpage is here. DALA is no longer accepting in person filings. All filings must be made by fax or mail. DALA also will not hold any in-person hearings until further notice. Remote hearing options are potentially available.


The Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act office updated its processes on March 23, 2020. A link to the relevant webpage is here. The MEPA office no longer requires copies to be mailed. All copies to the MEPA office can now be sent by email or by emailing a cloud storage link that is generally accessible. The MEPA office may require a mailed paper copy for inclusion in the file at a later date. All site visits will now be conducted remotely. The site visit proponent “will be responsible for providing a call-in/weblink to host the remote consultation session with the capability to share files (i.e., “screen share” capability) and host at least 25 participants through a telephonic or video dial-in feature.” Requests for pre-filling meetings, requests for advisory opinions, and other inquiries can still be directed to [email protected].


On March 23, 2020, the Housing Appeals Committee issued a regulatory waiver requiring all filings to be made by email. The Housing Appeals Committee also stated that the “Committee is in the process of establishing specific requirements for electronic filing by Standing Order and reviewing SJC's court e-filing rules for guidance.” Until these requirements are in place all filings should be sent to the following staff members: Veronica Barros at [email protected] and Shelagh Ellman-Pearl at [email protected]

©2023 Pierce Atwood LLP. All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 87

About this Author

Dan Bailey environmental, land use, real estate, and municipal law.

Dan Bailey has more than 30 years of experience in environmental, land use, real estate, and municipal law. He prides himself on offering pragmatic solutions to complicated legal matters. While Dan’s “sweet spot” is the redevelopment of commercial property, he has a strong background in all aspects of environmental and regulatory law. Dan also handles all types of real estate transactions.  

Dan has helped facilitate development of a wide range of commercial real estate projects, ranging from mixed use (retail, office, and housing), multifamily housing, athletic facilities, marinas...

Paula M. Devereaux Partner Boston Commercial Real Estate Law Real Estate Land Use Environmental

Paula Devereaux is an experienced commercial real estate and land use attorney, focusing her practice on development, zoning, permitting, planning, and environmental regulatory compliance. Paula serves as real estate counsel for a number of clients in the Greater Boston area, ranging from smaller organizations to large corporations, medical centers, retailers, and real estate firms. She regularly advises clients on Boston permitting matters, waterfront development issues, and in sales, acquisitions, and financings.

Paula is active in the real estate community, serving in leadership...

Donald R. Pinto, Jr., Pierce Atwood, litigation lawyer

Don Pinto has more than 30 years of experience as a civil litigator, with a focus on complex real estate and land use disputes. He handles cases at the trial and appellate levels in the state and federal courts and before administrative agencies. Outside the courtroom Don has successfully resolved many disputes through negotiation, mediation, and arbitration.

Don is also the founder, editor, and one of several contributors to Massachusetts Dirt and Development Law, the firm's real estate blog.


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Joel Quick Real Estate Attorney Pierce Atwood

Joel Quick focuses his practice on land use and real estate law, providing a full array of legal services for any commercial or residential development project, including analyzing land use and local environmental regulations and appearing before public bodies to seek needed relief. Joel also negotiates and drafts any restrictions, easements, and covenants required by a municipality as a condition of approval, and, if needed, will seek amendment of affordability, conservation, and preservation restrictions. With experience acting as counsel for a number of municipalities and municipal...