COVID-19 Guidance

Wednesday, 29 December 2021 14:01

Calculate When Your Permits Expire If Issued Before or During the Covid Emergency: 462 Extra Days? Featured

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Effective June 15, 2021, Governor Baker rescinded the COVID-19 State of Emergency in Massachusetts which he issued 462 days earlier on March 10, 2020. This ending triggered the expiration of a number of COVID-19 measures, some in statutes, executive orders, guidelines, and regulations, affecting environmental, land use, and real estate permits, licenses and other approvals.

The next day, on June 16, 2021, the Legislature by law extended some of the Covid-19 measures. Remote access to state and local public meetings was extended until at least April 2022. Town meetings can be held remotely until at least December 2021. Virtual notarization was allowed to continue until December 2021. The Legislature is considering proposals to make remote access to public meetings and virtual notarization permanent.

During the pandemic, the Governor issued two successive Orders related to certain state environmental and development permit deadlines. The second Order expired on or before June 15, 2021. The Order tolled the expiration dates of and deadlines to record state permits, determinations, and similar licenses for land development which were in effect as of March 10, 2020. Interestingly, it did not provide for similar extensions for any state permits issued during the State of Emergency.

On June 14, 2021, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) and the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED) issued joint guidance related to the calculation of state permit deadlines and expiration dates tolled during the pandemic.

For example, for a permit that was issued before and in effect as of March 10, 2020 which has an expiration date of July 1, 2021, the expiration date would be extended by 462 days (the number of days the State of Emergency was in effect).

Legislation enacted in 2020 during the Governor’s State of Emergency provided extensions for permits issued by conservation commissions, zoning boards of appeals and planning boards similar to those under the Governor’s Orders on state permits. Because the wording in the Legislation is virtually identical to that in the Governor’s Orders, many have applied the joint EOEEA and EOHED guidance to permits issued by these municipal boards and commissions which were in effect as of March 10, 2020.

The Massachusetts Association of Municipal Conservation Professionals (MSMCP), many of whose members work for town and city conservation commissions, has issued a simple calculator to help determine the new expiration dates for tolled permits: www.tinyurl.com/MSMCPTollingTool

Again, the tolling provisions, which extend the life of permits, licenses and other approvals do not apply to permits that were issued after March 10, 2020 and during the State of Emergency. The Order does not state why this is the case, but it’s a fact of life. For all fortunate earlier permit holders: get out your various permissions, look at the expiration dates, and (in many cases) add 462 days. Mark your calendars!

Nathaniel Stevens, Esq.

NATHANIEL STEVENS, Esq. is a Partner of McGregor Legere & Stevens PC. Since being admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1996, he has handled a broad range of environmental and land use matters, from administrative law to litigation. He has helped clients with environmental issues including permitting, development, contamination, transactions, conservation, real estate restrictions, underground tanks, water supply, water pollution, subdivision control, tidelands licensing, Boston and state zoning, coastal and inland wetlands, stormwater, air pollution, and energy facility siting.

Mr. Stevens’ work includes state court litigation over liability for property damage, insurance claims for environmental damage, cost-recovery for contamination cleanups, and damage to municipal lands and public natural resources. His permit-related and administrative litigation includes bringing and defending challenges to conservation commission permits for wetlands work, interpreting and enforcing conservation restrictions, and reviewing decisions by the Department of Environmental Protection (“MassDEP”). He handles adjudicatory proceedings in MassDEP, the Division of Administrative Law Appeals (“DALA”), the Energy Facilities Siting Board, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”).

In addition to litigation, Mr. Stevens has utilized dispute resolution and other problem-solving skills to efficiently and effectively achieve his client’s goals. This includes working with land owners and land conservation organizations on a variety of permitting, land use, and management issues.

Mr. Stevens has conducted training through the Citizen Planner Training Collaborative (“CPTC”) for Planning Boards and Zoning Boards of Appeals on the Zoning Act and Subdivision Control Law. He has led Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commission (“MACC”) workshops and training units for Conservation Commissions on the Wetlands Protection Act, Home Rule, the Open Meeting Law, and the Public Records Law.

Mr. Stevens has written for legal and environmental publications on subjects including wetlands protection law at the local and state level, quorum requirements for local boards and commissions, MassDEP regulatory reforms, Home Rule and preemption, EPA programs, and state Brownfields Law. His articles on changes to the Wetlands Protection Act and to the Permit Extension Act have been published by the Real Estate Bar Association, MACC, and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts (“ACEC-MA”).

Mr. Stevens is a member of the American, Massachusetts, and Boston Bar Associations. He recently served as Co-chair of the Public Policy Committee of the BBA's Real Estate Section.

Mr. Stevens is a member of the Arlington Conservation Commission on which he served as Chair for many years. He served on the Board of Directors of the Arlington Land Trust, Inc. and on the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors of the Lake Sunapee Protective Association, a New Hampshire member-supported nonprofit education and research watershed protection organization.

Prior to law school, Mr. Stevens was awarded a John Knauss Sea Grant Fellowship to study national marine policy in Washington, D.C. During and after this national fellowship, he worked on wetlands policy issues in EPA’s Wetlands Division. In his first year of law school, Mr. Stevens was awarded “Best Brief” in Moot Court Competition. In his second year of law school, he obtained through a writing competition a position on one of the school’s two law journals and published an article on hydropower.

Mr. Stevens is a graduate of Vassar College and Suffolk University Law School (cum laude), with a Masters of Science in Natural Resource Policy and Planning from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources.

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