Effective December 1, municipal boards must follow the usual permitting deadlines following a COVID-19 statute enacted last week.

Towns and cities had been operating under Section 17 of Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020, which tolled the deadlines for commencing public hearings and issuing decisions while the Governor’s COVID-19 state of emergency remained in effect, and for 45 days after the end of the emergency. Chapter 201 of the Acts of 2020 eliminated this indefinite tolling period as of December 1, 2020.

While many municipal permitting boards have continued holding hearings and issuing decisions during the COVID-19 emergency using in-person or remote meetings, others have pushed out matters – without the risk of constructive approvals. That relief ends on December 1, when the usual timelines to hold a hearing and issue a decision resume.

The new statute allows boards to appeal to the Department of Housing and Economic Development for relief from permitting deadlines if the board:

  • is unable to conduct meetings and public hearings remotely due to a lack of access to broadband or other technical limitations; and

  • is unable to conduct such meetings or hearings in person in accordance with applicable public health orders regulating gatherings during the state of emergency.

Mirick O’Connell will continue to keep clients up to date on legislation addressing the COVID-19 emergency.