Category: Areas of Practice

Project sponsors propose subdivisions, shopping centers, industrial parks, condominiums, and single-family homes faster than ever before, often on land once thought undevelopable. Overworked municipal boards and their staff struggle with their important responsibilities and the burden of paperwork. Communities adopt bylaws on zoning, subdivision control, floodplain management, wetlands protection, building moratoria, phased development, environmental studies, water and sewer bans, and impact fees. Neighbors and interested groups utilize public hearings, open meetings, and public records to maximize their participation in decisions.

Amid these tensions, good guidance is essential on how far government can go in regulating private land use. The applicable court decisions, laying out municipal duties in land use regulation, give clarity to governmental powers. These court cases affect government and private rights far differently from what landowners and developers wish and municipal officials fear.

The local "police power" provides regulatory tools that can be tailored to fit the nature of the community, perceived threats to resources, degree of protection desired, and structure of local government. The most sophisticated towns cope with the impact of growth by making full use of traditional zoning and subdivision control authorities and innovative use of Home Rule. In addition to the regulatory approaches, there are taxation, acquisition, and conservation techniques which supplement the local police power.

Our legal and consulting services help to reduce the stress and strain of local land use control and present persuasive positions in available forums.

We also pay attention to the important details in real estate transactions for clients who wish to understand how laws will affect their operations and facilities, for applicants seeking approval for new buildings and land uses, for litigants in Superior Court and Land Court lawsuits, for municipalities in the acquisition of land or land rights for conservation purposes, and for non-profits and neighborhood groups wishing to be equal players in this high stakes competition for the remaining land resources.

Additionally, we provide services in law-related land use planning. Municipal clients seek our help in revising, updating, or rewriting zoning and other bylaws and ordinances, subdivision rules, wetland and floodplain protections, and board of health regulations. We enjoy being at the cutting edge of environmental law at the local level.