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New Developments in Environmental Law

Municipal Modernization Act a Smorgasbord of Changes on Environment and Land Use

Written by
/ Published Thursday, 25 August 2016 15:10

On August 9, 2016 Governor Baker approved HB 4565, “An Act Modernizing Municipal Finance and Government,” signing into law what is now Chapter 218 of the Acts of 2016. This newly enacted legislation tweaks, modifies, and streamlines several existing statutes governing cities and towns.

Neighbor's Claim to Own the Shoreline of a Filled Tidal Pond Rejected by Land Court

Written by
/ Published Wednesday, 15 February 2017 15:45

Following a two day trial, Hon. Robert Foster of the Land Court recently rejected an abutter’s claim to the portion of a Falmouth family’s lot where they plan to build an addition to their seasonal cottage. The Court found that the presumption of land ownership to low water, derived by the Colonial Ordinances, did not apply. The Court invoked the doctrine of adverse possession by color of title to find for the Falmouth family on an alternative claim.

Busy End of Supreme Court Term Produces Important Land Use Cases

Written by
/ Published Wednesday, 02 September 2015 15:31

On three days in June, the U.S. Supreme Court decided cases making new law on signs and free speech, fair housing litigation, and air pollution regulation, and. We look at them in turn, in brief.

Municipal Environmental Law in Massachusetts

Written by
/ Published Friday, 03 April 2015 15:23

Environmental law at the local level is surprisingly well established and comprehensive. It deals with the universe of environmental problems, needs and opportunities that have come before Town Meetings and City Councils over the years, leading to legislation enacted in the form of bylaws and ordinances. In addition, innumerable municipal boards and officials have long list of policies, rules and regulations they have promulgated within their statutory or charter powers. Then there are property law principles and constitutional provisions imposing limits or conferring rights of an environmental nature. In summary, these local environmental laws and principles can range from “A to Z” (namely Air Pollution to Zoning). Every community has the basics on the books. Most have tailored them to their needs. Some are being artful and creative. None have taken full advantage of the legal powers that are available to protect the environment.

Appeals Court Reaffirms Conservation Commissions’ Dual Authority

Written by
/ Published Monday, 26 January 2015 13:02

The Appeals Court in Parkview Electronics Trust, LLC v. Conservation Commission of Winchester, 88 Mass. App. Ct. 833 (2016), recently rejected a challenge to the well-established principle that a conservation commission can have regulatory authority under a local wetlands bylaw or ordinance that is independent from, and in addition to, its authority under the state Wetlands Protection Act (“Act”). This is so as long as a commission relies on a provision of its local wetlands law that is more stringent than the Act and complies with the timeframes set forth in the Act. Otherwise a commission risks having its decisions under both state and local laws superseded by MassDEP in an appeal under the Act.

Summary of MassDEP's Regulatory Reform Revisions

Written by
/ Published Tuesday, 06 May 2014 19:59

The stated purpose of the MassDEP Regulatory Reform Initiative is to streamline the permitting process and maintain MassDEP's high standards of environmental protection. Following a review over two years, all MassDEP Bureaus changes to take effect soon, if not already.

Supreme Judicial Court Upholds MESA Regulations For Delineating and Regulating Priority Habitat

Written by
/ Published Friday, 18 April 2014 16:29

In an important victory for the state’s vulnerable wildlife species, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) recently upheld the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (“MESA”) regulations in all respects.  The case, known as Pepin v. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, 467 Mass. 210 (2014), challenged the procedural and substantive jurisdiction implemented by the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (“DFW”) under MESA.  

State's High Court Gives Green Light to Ten-Citizen Suit Seeking MEPA Review of Fellsway Project

Written by
/ Published Tuesday, 10 December 2013 19:00

Citizen groups may sue project proponents using the so-called Citizen Suit Statute, G.L. c. 214, §7A, to challenge decisions allowing projects that would allegedly cause damage to the environment in violation of the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act ("MEPA").

Without Clearly Defined Performance Standards, A Local Wetlands Ordinance or Bylaw May Be Worthless

Written by
/ Published Monday, 09 December 2013 16:14

The Massachusetts Appeals Court’s decision in Tremont Redevelopment Corporation v. Conservation Commission of Westwood, 73 Mass. App. Ct. 1127 (2009), provides guidance for municipalities concerned about the limits of Home Rule for local wetland protection ordinances or bylaws.   The Court applied the Home Rule Doctrine in light of several prior decisions1 and ruled that the Westwood Conservation Commission’s disapproval of a project under its Wetlands Protection Bylaw was invalid.2  

Supreme Judicial Court Rejects Boilerplate Waiver of Wetland Protection Act's Deadline For Decision

Written by
/ Published Thursday, 09 August 2012 20:00

An open-ended waiver of the state Wetlands Protection Act's twenty-one (21) day deadline for issuing a decision after the close of a public hearing is invalid when required as part of a Notice of Intent application package.

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