End of Legislative Session Update
With the House and Senate adjourning after 1 AM on Wednesday August 1, the 2017-2018 Massachusetts Legislative Session came to an end with some positive results, yet disappointing in the fact that the clock ran out on hopes for passage of the Governor’s
Housing Choices bill,
. Nevertheless, the HBRAMA and its Governmental Affairs Committee were pleased with what was both accomplished and defeated at the end of this session. We thank Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito for making housing production a priority and we will continue to work with their administration, as well as Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka to advance needed pro-housing legislation
Zoning Reform Defeated
We are pleased to report that legislation pushed by the planning and smart growth community to radically rewrite the Zoning Act, entitled,
An Act Building for the Future of the Commonwealth,
, was once again defeated. Due to the work of our lobbyists, Ben Fierro and Patricia Lynch of Lynch & Fierro LLP, a coalition of real estate groups joined together to educate legislators about the significant flaws in the bill, including the elimination of approval-not-required (ANR) plans, the imposition of development impact fees, mandatory inclusionary zoning, and the reduction in zoning freeze protections, all of which are critical to housing production. We also thank Mark Kablack, Esq., Chair of the Zoning and Chapter 40B Subcommittee, for his extensive efforts to educate lawmakers and others on the pitfalls of this poorly written and misguided bill.
Housing Choices Ran Out of Time
The Housing Choices bill appeared to be gaining momentum in the waning hours of the legislative session, but due to a number of other major legislative priorities, became bottle-necked as time ran out on the session. The bill would have allowed municipalities to adopt certain pro-housing zoning changes with a mere majority vote, rather than the 2/3rds super-majority currently required by the Zoning Act. In the HBRAMA’s view, the Housing Choices bill would have been the most significant housing and zoning enactment since the passage of Chapter 40B. A broad coalition of real estate groups, the Massachusetts Municipal Association, and other business organizations and civic leaders all supported the bill. Rep. Kevin Honan (D-Boston), the House Chairman of the Joint Committee on Housing, and Governor Baker have raised the possibility that the bill may yet be passed during an “informal” session of the Legislature later this year.
Bills to Weaken, Repeal Chapter 40B Defeated
As it has since its enactment in 1969, the HBRAMA successfully opposed efforts to weaken or repeal Chapter 40B, the Comprehensive Permit Law. Nearly fifty bills were filed in this legislative session by opponents to Chapter 40B. HBRAMA President Gary Campbell and Government Affairs Chairman John Smolak, Esq., joined Ben Fierro in testifying at the State House about the importance of the law to the production of both affordable and market rate apartments and homes.
Fire Sprinkler Bills Once Again Thwarted
In the face of intense lobbying by the state’s fire chiefs, the firefighters union and the fire sprinkler industry, the HBRAMA has once again thwarted legislation to mandate fire sprinkler systems in newly constructed single and two-family homes. Due, in part, to emotional testimony by both fire victims and the families of injured firefighters, support has increased among lawmakers for this legislation. Indeed, the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security recommended several of these bills for passage. However, the HBRAMA–which is often alone in testifying against these measures at public hearings–was able to refute anecdote and emotion with facts regarding the negligible benefit of such systems and their substantial impact on housing affordability.
Water Banking Fees Defeated
The HBRAMA had also actively opposed
, An Act providing for the Establishment of Sustainable Water Resource Funds
, which would have authorized municipalities to assess a “water-banking” fee on development projects to address environmental impacts and fix municipal infrastructure.
Proposed Condominium Law Changes Defeated
Two bills proposing changes to condominium laws that would have impacted housing developers using the condominium form of ownership were defeated this session. First,
, An Act Relative to Anti-Litigation Provisions in Condominium Documents
, would have eliminated certain protections for condominium developers by preventing master deeds from including protections for developers from lawsuits by condominium associations and unit owners.
H. 4236, An Act relative to Construction Defect Claims by Condominium Owners
, would have extended the running of the statute of limitations and statue of repose for construction defect claims (i.e., claims for damages arising out of any deficiency or neglect in the design, planning, construction, or general administration of an improvement to a condominium) against developers until the developer turns over control of the association to the unit owners. Fortunately, both bills failed to advance in the current legislative session, but will surely be reintroduced next year.
Amendments to Railroad Right of Way Law Adopted in Economic Development Legislation
As a part of an omnibus economic development bill approved at the close of the legislative session, important modifications clarifying the railroad right of way law were enacted. See
Section 10 of H. 4592, An Act Relative to Economic Development in the Commonwealth
. The changes bring clarity to the little known railroad right of way law (G.L. c. 40, sec. 52A) that requires a MassDOT hearing and consent prior to the issuance of a local building permit for properties that abut or were formerly part of a railroad right of way in the Commonwealth. Amendments to the law require MassDOT to establish an application process, review timeframes and construction review guidelines to a process that currently takes months to complete. We thank Rep. Joe Wagner (D-Chicopee) for supporting this important change to the railroad law.
Look for a complete wrap-up of the legislative session in the fall edition of
Bay State Builder coming out in October
We would like to thank our volunteer members who take the time to serve on a subcommittee, testify before legislative committee, meet with individual legislators, meet with agency leaders, or who otherwise contribute their time to the many issues facing our industry. We particularly thank our Subcommittee Chairs for their tremendous work, leadership and dedication to the Association, including:
- Jeffrey Brem, P.E., Meisner Brem Corp., Chair, Wetlands and Water Resources Subcommittee;
- Mark Kablack, Esq., M.A. Kablack & Associates, P.C., Chair, Zoning and Chapter 40B Subcommittee;
- Emerson Claus III, Allegiance Construction & Development LLC, Chair, Energy and Building Codes Subcommittee; and,
- Mark Leff, SVP, Salem Five, Chair, Natural Gas Subcommittee.
We also thank other Members who are always
there for us over the years, including:
Andrew Crane of A. Crane Construction; Russ Leonard of Leonard Electric
Jeff Rhuda of Symes Associates
Brian Lussier of Comfort Homes; Mike Duffany of Duffany Builders; Lillian Montalto of Lillian Montalto Signature Properties; Marc Ginsburg of Mark P. Ginsburg & Sons,
and many others who play a significant role in keeping our Association active and
effective. We also thank our lobbyists,
Ben Fierro, Esq., and Patricia Lynch, Esq., of Lynch & Fierro, P.C.
for the extraordinary efforts on behalf of our Association, and whose voices continue to be one of the most effective voices on Beacon Hill.
We also welcome new volunteers who do not have to be an expert in any one area, but who might be willing to learn and participate in one of the many Association efforts.
To find out how you might participate, please contact our State Executive Officer, Joe Landers, at email@example.com, or by phone at 617-773-3305, or GAC Chair, John Smolak at jsmolak@ smolakvaughan.com.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of our Association, so we are counting on you for your continued support.
Many thanks to our volunteers working for your association. Without your efforts, much of the progress we have made this year would not have been possible.
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