Municipal Law News

Legislative Update: Governor Baker Signs New Cannabis Legislation, S.3096

On August 11, the Governor signed cannabis legislation into law, in part, that would have significant impacts municipal host community agreements, among other things.  MMLA had raised concerns with several aspects of the legislation, S.3096, and expressed those concerns in a letter to the Governor on August 4th.  The Governor vetoed only one section of the bill relative to medical marijuana use in K-12 schools.

Governor Baker Letter to Legislature regarding S.3096

Signed Cannabis Last Parchment with Section 26 Veto

DHCD Issues Final Compliance Guidelines for Section 3A of Zoning Act

On August 10, 2022, DHCD and EOHED issued final Compliance Guidelines for Multi-Family Zoning Districts under Section 3A of the Zoning Act.  These guidelines are the end result of a process that began in December 2021 when draft guidelines were released and after subsequent outreach and collection of public comment earlier this year, including substantial input from MMLA members and an ad hoc committee our organization formed to help address the concerns of our organization and our clients.  The final Guidelines require the 175 MBTA communities to adopt multi-family zoning where multi-family is allowed “as of right” near a transit station if there is one.  Cities and towns with no transit stations are still required to adopt zoning, but have flexibility in the location.  In a letter to the 175 MBTA Communities, DHCD/EOHED summarized the following changes in the guidelines from draft to final:

  • Revised Community Categories: MBTA Communities are now categorized as rapid transit, commuter rail, adjacent, or adjacent small town. The “bus service” category has been eliminated.
  • Significant Adjustments for Small and Rural Towns with No Transit Stations: The final guidelines eliminate the minimum land area requirement and reduce the multi- family unit capacity requirement for communities with a population of less than 7,000 or less than 500 residents per square mile.
  • Changes to the Reasonable Size Criteria: The guidelines establish “circuit breakers” that prevent multi-family unit capacity from exceeding 25% of a community’s existing housing stock, or the minimum land from exceeding 1.5% of its total developable land area.
  • Tailored District Location Requirements: The portion of a multi-family zoning district that must be located within a half mile of a transit station now varies based on the amount of developable station area within each MBTA community. Communities with more developable station area land will be required to have more of their multi-family districts within a half mile of transit stations. A community with less than 100 developable acres within a half mile of a station will be free to choose any appropriate location.
  • Multi-family Unit Capacity Tool: To help communities calculate multi-family unit capacity in a consistent, transparent, and data-driven way, DHCD/EOHED built a compliance model workbook tool. The compliance model will provide a GIS land map for each municipality and calculate a zoning district’s multi-family unit capacity and gross density based on inputs provided by each community. This tool will be widely available for use in the fall.

DHCD will be presenting an explanatory webinar on September 8, 2022 at 1:00 p.m.  You can find the guidelines and related materials, including a registration link for the webinar, here on DHCD’s website.

Legislative Update: MMLA Outlines Concerns About Cannabis Committee Report Enacted & Laid Before Governor

Report of the committee of conference on the disagreeing votes of the two branches, with reference to the House amendments to the Senate Bill relative to equity in the cannabis industry (Senate, No. 2823) (amended by the House by striking out all after the enacting clause and inserting in place thereof the text of House document numbered 4800),– reports, a “Bill relative to equity in the cannabis industry.” (Senate, No. 3096).  Click here for the text of S3096.  This bill was enacted and laid before the Governor on August 1st.

MMLA has concerns about the impacts of certain provisions of the committee report, including as outlined in a letter sent on August 4th to the Governor’s office.

MMLA’s Annual Half-day Luncheon and Seminar: Municipal Shared Services 

MMLA’s Annual Half-day Luncheon and Seminar: Municipal Shared Services
Thursday, August 11, 2022, 11:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Publick House, 277 Main Street (Route 131), Sturbridge

The August Half-day Luncheon and Seminar is back this year. This annual event is returning to the Publick House in Sturbridge on Thursday, August 11, 2022, beginning at 11:30 a.m. Chaired once again by Mark G. Cerel, Franklin and Medway Town Counsel, this year’s program will focus on municipal shared services, such as intermunicipal agreements (IMAs), regionalization, and mutual aid. Additional program details, including the schedule, topics, and speakers, can be found on the MMLA website.

Registration is open to both MMLA members and non-members. The program charge for a MMLA member or local official whose legal counsel is a MMLA member is:

  • $90 for the Luncheon Buffet and Program, including Electronic Materials
  • $75 for only the Program, including Electronic Materials

 There is a $10.00 surcharge for MMLA members not current on their dues or other non-members.

Thanks to the generous donations of our membership, grants are available to attorneys (whether they are members of MMLA or not) who are new to the practice of municipal law and want to see what MMLA and our programming is all about. If you or a colleague wish to inquire about financial assistance to attend this program through MMLA’s grant program, please contact Jim Lampke at jlampke@massmunilaw.org or 617-285-4561 

 

Please share this information and invite colleagues who may be interested in this topic, including your town managers/administrators and others.

To register in advance for this in-person program, please go to this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MMLA2022AugHalf-day 

Governor has signed into law a bill extending remote meeting participation to March 31st

On July 16, the Lt. Governor, as Acting Governor, signed legislation that simply extends certain COVID-related amendments to the Open Meeting Law, as modified by Chapter 22 of the Acts of 2022, including permitting remote meetings and participation until March 31, 2023.   The legislation was amended to include an emergency preamble thereby giving immediate affect to these changes.  At MMLA’s urging, and as previously reported, no additional changes were made to the Open Meeting Law.  See related coverage below.  A link to the signed legislation will be added here shortly.

Legislative Update! Bill extending remote meeting participation advanced to Governor’s desk.

Earlier this evening, at the urging of MMLA, in partnership with MMA and other stakeholders, the House and Senate agreed to simply extend remote meeting participation options under current COVID-related relief measures until March 31, 2023, which is set to expire tomorrow.  I am pleased to report that this extension bill was enacted by both branches a short time ago and emergency preambles were added thereby giving immediate effect upon the Governor’s signature, which may occur as early as tomorrow.

–See following link:  www.malegislature.gov/Bills/192/S2985 for legislative history and bill text.–

As previously reported, the Senate had passed an extension of such local option relief until December 15, 2023, as contained in outside sections of its FY23 state budget plan and also as part of a separate stand-alone bill.  Last week, the Senate stand-alone bill was amended by the House to extend such relief until March 31, 2023, and thereafter require remote access to all meetings of public bodies if public participation is required or permitted at such meeting, among other permanent changes.  The MMLA strongly advocated against the permanent changes introduced by the House, and urged legislative leadership to work collaboratively with all groups to develop a permanent solution during any extension period.  MMLA is also grateful to the State Auditor who raised similar concerns relative to the mandated remote participation language.

—Please refer to the MMLA website (www.massmunilaw.org) for copies of recent letters that MMLA transmitted to legislative leadership during these recent deliberations.—

We will be sure to update all of you with further developments as they occur.

In the meantime, I wish to express kudos to the entire MMLA Team for its concerted efforts!

MMLA’s Annual Half-day Luncheon and Seminar: Municipal Shared Services

Thursday, August 11, 2022, 11:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Publick House, 277 Main Street (Route 131), Sturbridge

The August Half-day Luncheon and Seminar is back this year. This annual event is returning to the Publick House in Sturbridge on Thursday, August 11, 2022, beginning at 11:30 a.m. Chaired once again by Mark G. Cerel, Franklin and Medway Town Counsel, this year’s program will focus on municipal shared services, such as intermunicipal agreements (IMAs), regionalization, and mutual aid. Additional program details, including the schedule, topics, and speakers, can be found on the MMLA website.

Registration is open to both MMLA members and non-members. The program charge for a MMLA member or local official whose legal counsel is a MMLA member is:

$90 for the Luncheon Buffet and Program, including Electronic Materials
$75 for only the Program, including Electronic Materials
There is a $10.00 surcharge for MMLA members not current on their dues or other non-members.

Thanks to the generous donations of our membership, grants are available to attorneys (whether they are members of MMLA or not) who are new to the practice of municipal law and want to see what MMLA and our programming is all about. If you or a colleague wish to inquire about financial assistance to attend this program through MMLA’s grant program, please contact Jim Lampke at jlampke@massmunilaw.org or 617-285-4561

Please share this information and invite colleagues who may be interested in this topic, including your town managers/administrators and others.

To register in advance for this in-person program, please go to this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MMLA2022AugHalf-day

Legislative Update on Remote Meetings

On July 7, the House engrossed its own version of legislation (H. 4991) to extend remote meeting participation options under current COVID-related relief until March 31, 2023, which is currently set to expire July 15, 2022.  Thereafter, the House bill would permanently require remote access to all meetings of public bodies if public participation is required or permitted at such meeting.  MMLA, along with MMA and others, have taken a strong position against making such permanent changes as proposed in the House legislation.  Click here for a copy of MMA’s letter of July 11, 2022, and here for a copy of MMLA’s letter.

As previously reported, the Senate recently passed its version of extension legislation (S. 2985) that would simply continue current remote participation options until December 15, 2023, a provision MMLA supported [See 7/6 letter here].   The Senate language does not include the permanent mandate language contained in the House bill.

MMLA is currently working with stakeholders to support an extension of the current remote participation relief option deadline in order to work next session on a permanent solution.