On April 3, 2020, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020, “An Act to Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities and State Authorities Resulting from COVID-19.”
The Act addresses several issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, Section 17 of the Act tolls and suspends certain local, county, and regional permitting time periods and processes, including the following:
- Any requirement prescribed by law that a hearing be held within any period of time is suspended as of March 10, 2020 until the termination of the state of emergency; provided that the applicable period shall resume 45 days after the termination of the state of emergency (or, if later, as of a date otherwise prescribed by law).
- Effective March 10, 2020, no permit will be automatically granted, approved, or denied because a local permitting authority does not act within a time period required by law; provided that the permit granting authority acts with 45 days after the termination of the state of emergency (or, if later, as of a date otherwise prescribed by law).
- Any permit that is valid as of March 10, 2020 will not lapse or expire during the state of emergency, and any time period for meeting a deadline or for performance of a condition of the permit will toll during the state of emergency.
- During such period of time as the relevant registry of deeds or registry district of the land court is either closed or subject to rules and procedures restricting public in-person access, suspends any requirement to record a permit with the relevant registry of deeds or file a permit with the registry district of the land court, as the case may be; furthermore, states that the failure to record the permit shall not preclude the permit holder from applying for, obtaining and commencing construction activities pursuant to other required permits and approvals, including, without limitation, a building permit.
- Requires local authorities to accept electronic submission of permit applications and associated documentation during the state of emergency.
- Allows local permit granting authorities during the state of emergency to conduct meetings and public hearings remotely, consistent with the Governor’s order entitled “Order 109 Suspending Certain Provisions of the Open Meeting Law, G.L. c. 30A Section 20” issued March 12, 2020.
These changes are useful and necessary interventions in local permitting processes to ensure fairness, mitigate damage to the economy, and protect the public health. In these fluid and fast-moving times, Brown Rudnick attorneys are always available to discuss how the changes in this new law may affect your projects and permits.
The views expressed herein are solely the views of the authors and do not represent the views of Brown Rudnick LLP, those parties represented by the authors, or those parties represented by Brown Rudnick LLP. Specific legal advice depends on the facts of each situation and may vary from situation to situation. Information contained in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice by the authors or the lawyers at Brown Rudnick LLP, and it does not establish a lawyer-client relationship.
 The Act does not apply to state permitting time periods and processes. On March 26, 2020, Governor Baker issued an Executive Order entitled COVID-19 Order No. 17, “Order Suspending State Permitting Deadlines and Extending the Validity of State Permits,” which tolled and suspended certain state permitting time periods and processes. That Executive Order is not discussed in this Client Alert.