The press has reported on many government actions to help individuals and small businesses to weather the storm caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Massachusetts has taken additional steps directed at providing clarity for developers in these difficult times.
State Permit Applications:
Governor Baker has issued COVID-19, Order No. 17, which affects state permit applications in play on March 10, 2020, as follows:
- No constructive approvals shall issue from state permitting entities during the state of emergency and the running of the time period for such approvals shall resume only 45 days after the termination of the state of emergency (the “45 Day Period”).
- Likewise, hearing deadlines are suspended and the running of the time period for such hearings shall resume only after the “45 Day Period.”
- Deadlines for decisions and to request superseding orders are also suspended and the running of the time period shall resume after the “45 Day Period.”
- Deadlines for filing appeals of state permits or approvals that fall within the state of emergency shall be extended to the end of the “45 Day Period.”
- Any state permit or approval issued and valid on March 10 shall not lapse and shall be tolled until the passage of the “45 Day Period.”
- The permitting authority may extend or waive deadlines or conditions in permits or approvals that fall within the state of emergency.
Municipal Permit Applications:
On April 3, 2020, Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020 was signed into law. That legislation took effect retroactively as of March 10, 2020. Section 17 of Chapter 53 addresses local permits. Key provisions of that Section include:
- Applications may be filed through a municipality’s website or as attachments to email addressed to the clerk, secretary or other municipal official; the municipality must provide a certification of electronic receipt upon request.
- The period for a hearing is suspended until later of 45 days after the state of emergency is lifted or such other date prescribed by law.
- Hearings commenced before March 10, 2020, but still pending, are tolled to a date which is no later than 45 days after the end of the state of emergency or such other date as is prescribed by law or agreed upon in writing.
- No constructive approvals will result from an authority’s failure to act as long as it acts within 45 days of the end of the state of emergency or such later date as is prescribed by law or agreed upon in writing.
- Time limitations to record permits are tolled during any time where a Registry is closed or its rules restrict in-person access, and applicants may apply for and obtain construction permits without recording permits.
- Permits issued as of March 10, 2020, and deadlines and conditions therein, are also tolled during the state of emergency.
- The chairman can extend hearings and deadlines for decisions.
- Nevertheless, a municipality may conduct hearings or issue decisions or permits on applications for which meetings have been held.
- Hearings and meetings may be conducted remotely.