Permit Me to Glow: The Permit Extension Act Will Help Massachusetts Grow

On August 5, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law an economic development bill (Chapter 240 of the Acts of 2010) that included the Permit Extension Act (Section 173 of the new law).  In response to the credit crisis and market crash of late 2008, NAIOP Massachusetts promoted the Permit Extension Act from the very first day of the legislative session in January 2009.

At that time, none of us could have imagined how or if the country would emerge from one of the worst downturns since the Great Depression.  What was clear was that it would be a long time before any of us would see any new construction from the private or institutional sectors. 

It seemed obvious that if this Commonwealth was to have “shovel-ready” projects set to move forward when the economy turns, those projects could not lose the many permits and licenses already issued by either the local or state authorities.  

It takes years to get a new project approved – starting with numerous local hearings and going through everything from zoning changes, to special permits, to wetlands permits, to traffic mitigation, to environmental reviews at the state MEPA office.  Compound this with numerous appeals, and then you miss your economic cycle! Allowing these permits and approvals to expire would have killed countless projects.

The Permit Extension Act:

  • Extends permits in effect at anytime between 8/15/08 – 8/15/10 for two years (including those that expired during this time).
  • Takes effect immediately for projects that had approvals in place for even a single day of the two year window.
  • Applies to a wide range of permits including wetlands, MEPA, building permits, waterways, and approvals under Chapter 21, 40A, 40R, 43D, as well as variances, and all local bylaws and ordinances. 
  • Goes into effect automatically and no approval is needed by the state or local permitting authority.

Unfortunately, due to a last minute change in the bill not supported by NAIOP, 40B projects cannot use the extension. Approvals issued by federal agencies do not benefit from the Permit Extension Act.

Much credit is due to Senate President Therese Murray and the Senate Economic Chair, Karen Spilka; to Speaker Robert DeLeo and House Economic Chair Brian Dempsey; and to Governor Patrick and Economic Secretary Gregory Bialecki.  Under the pressure of the waning legislative session, they got it right and got it done.

And, of course, none of this would have been possible without the time and commitment of NAIOP’s many Public Affairs Committee members who drafted the orginal version of the bill. Special thanks to Brian Levey and Marc Goldtsein of Beveridge & Diamond.

When we look back years from now, I know that we will fully appreciate the value of this legislation as it allowed hundreds of new housing, office, retail, and institutional developments to move forward without any further delay.  And the beneficiaries will be the towns and cities with new tax revenue, the new construction and jobs, and the expanding businesses, universities, and hospitals.

David I. Begelfer is CEO of NAIOP Massachusetts, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association.

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