Real Estate Permitting Update: Massachusetts

Pierce Atwood LLP

On June 15, 2021, the state of emergency enacted by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker on March 10, 2020 expired. During the state of emergency, state and local permits were extended and certain provisions of the Open Meeting Law were suspended to allow for remote participation.

In response, on June 15, 2021 the Massachusetts Legislature passed S. 2475, “An Act relative to extending certain COVID-19 measures adopted during the state of emergency,” to extend some of the emergency measures, including allowing municipalities to continue conducting public meetings remotely. The Act does not extend the time that certain permits are in effect. On June 16, 2021 the governor signed the legislation into law.

Open Meeting Law

Governor Baker issued Order No. 1 on March 10, 2020, suspending certain provisions of the Open Meeting Law. This Order has allowed public meetings to occur remotely, with remote participation by members of the public and members of the municipal body. The Order expired on June 15, 2021.

The new legislation allows municipal bodies to continue conducting public meetings remotely, either through “adequate, alternative means of public access,” or, if such public access is not feasible, by posting a “full and complete transcript, recording or other comprehensive record of the proceedings as soon as practicable” to the municipal website. Adequate alternate access includes telephone, internet, or any other technology allowing audio or video conferencing such that the public can clearly follow the municipal proceedings as they occur.

Despite the expiration of the emergency order, the new legislation expressly permits municipalities to conduct remote public meetings in anticipation of the passage of the legislation, which actions shall be ratified as of the adoption of the legislation. The provision expires on April 1, 2022.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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