Navigating the Permitting Maze Course Highlights Continuing Education and Association’s Advocacy

On September 21 and 28, NAIOP Massachusetts University presented Navigating the Permitting Maze: A Crash Course in Environmental Permitting to 40+ students from a range of backgrounds looking to master real estate permitting fundamentals in Massachusetts. This course, led by VHB instructors and complemented by several industry experts and panelists, centered on introducing permitting basics, including development of an early permitting strategy and timeline with colleagues and state and local regulators, as well as more complex issues, such as transportation analyses, historical property concerns, climate resiliency, appeals, and much more.

Not only did this course provide valuable education for new and continuing real estate professionals, it made connections to NAIOP members’ experience with advocacy at the legislative, regulatory, and judicial level.

Basics of Environmental Permitting, and Trends from State and Local Directors

During the first day, students started the morning with sessions led by Kyle Greaves and Lauren DeVoe of VHB, on the Massachusetts Environmental Permitting Act office (MEPA) review process which coordinates public review of a development’s environmental impacts. Next, students received instruction on the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) Article 80 regulations and process. Over the last five years, MEPA has analyzed about 1,300 large developments, with the majority (60%) culminating the review process with an Environmental Notification Form, and the remainder split between needing an Environmental Impact Report or a more in-depth process. For developments in Boston, Jonathan Greeley, Director at BPDA, which has approved over 11 million square feet for development in 2018 alone, emphasized that successful projects start with community outreach early in the process. Jonathan served on a trends in development panel with MEPA Director Deidre Buckley and moderator Greg Peterson of Casner & Edwards LLP during day one of the course.

greeleypresentsIMG_0504-cropJonathan Greeley, Director at Boston Planning & Development Agency

Permit Extension Act Protects Developments During Great Recession

Mary Marshall, Partner at Nutter McClennen & Fish, presented the final session on Day 1 on the Post Entitlement Permitting Stage. Mary made a connection between NAIOP’s legislative advocacy and environmental permitting, stating that during the recession, when many developments stalled due to the economy and financing, NAIOP formulated the Permit Extension Act, which was signed in 2010 by Governor Patrick (and expanded in 2012) to allow projects to maintain permits so that they could be “shovel-ready” when the market improved – avoiding several years spent reapplying for permits. Tamara Small, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, added that a more recent advocacy connection with permitting is that NAIOP successfully changed the railroad-right-of-way statute in the 2018 economic development bill signed by Governor Baker this August. This means that developers will have more clarity about whether and when they must coordinate with MassDOT on building on former railroad rights of way.

Commercial Real Estate Professionals Advocating for Industry

On the second day of the course, individual sessions were designed for “deep-dives” into more technical areas. Jamie Fay, a waterfront planning expert at Fort Point Associates, a TetraTech company, led a session on the Massachusetts waterfront planning Act (Chapter 91) and how it affects development. Jamie is an active member of NAIOP’s government affairs committee and served as an advocate for reasonable regulation of the waterfront when the legislature worked on the issue and passed legislation in 2007 — and in the years following, as the Department of Environmental Protection promulgated regulations. New developments like Clippership Wharf and Encore Boston Harbor are subject to Chapter 91 rules. Stephanie Kruel, a climate resiliency planning expert at VHB, walked through climate resiliency checklists and analysis during the project planning phases. Stephanie serves as co-chair of NAIOP’s climate resiliency committee – a subcommittee of the government affairs committee.

To bring the areas of waterfront issues, historic resources issues, climate resiliency and environmental permitting together in a real-life example, the course ended with a project spotlight and panel presentation by four individuals from the General Electric Innovation Point team: Elizabeth Grob, VHB, Jeff Porter, Mintz Levin, Peter Cavanaugh, GE and Todd Dundon, Gensler.

GEpanel4IMG_0529-cropJeff Porter (Mintz Levin) moderates Project Spotlight Panel on GE Innovation Point joined by Peter Cavanaugh (GE), Elizabeth Grob (VHB) and Todd Dundon (Gensler)

NAIOP would like to thank all of the many experts whose time and energy made this course such a success. Due to popular demand, the permitting course will return in 2019.

Make sure to check out all of the NAIOP Massachusetts University offerings including the upcoming Real Estate Finance Fundamentals course on October 26, 2018. Have ideas on other courses NAIOP could offer? Let us know!

 

 

How Much Are Smart Buildings Really Worth?

smartinfographicMITCourtesy of the MIT Center for Real Estate and Real Estate Innovation Lab – Get Smart, Connected & Green

Arguably, the premier commercial office space market in the U.S. – New York City – is showing signs that office tenants will pay a significant premium on rent for space in a ‘smart’ building.

Compared to office leases in the city for non-smart buildings, MIT Center for Real Estate researcher Alfredo Keitaro Bando Hano (2018) found that office properties with smart building attributes attracted rents that commanded a 37 percent premium on effective rent per net square feet. The sample included 454 non-smart building properties and 223 smart office leases using the Compstak transaction database for Manhattan for 2013 and onwards. The MIT Real Estate Innovation Lab continues to research and report on smart, connected and green buildings.

Thanks to new technologies and devices, occupiers now have the possibility to measure and analyze the activity that occurs inside their structures. Companies are not focused on location only anymore; they now they look for more productive and efficient areas, and smart buildings rise as a possible answer to this new requirement.

In search of flexibility and agility, users have pushed changes in architectural and interior design to improve employee satisfaction, health, and engagement, hence better productivity.

Smart buildings are self-sensing. For the purposes of Keitaro’s study, a smart building must have installed one or more smart amenities that go beyond sustainability and aim to improve the occupier experience. Smart amenities include occupancy sensors, automatic windows, cameras with emotion recognition algorithms, and other technologies that capture and provide information to tenants and landlords. Ultimately, a smart building is one that adapts to the needs and preferences of the building’s occupants. And, in the office environment, responding to workers’ needs and preferences stand to significantly increase employee productivity and well-being.

We can predict that in the future, new smart amenities will come to market and offer commercial real estate developers, owners, and investors opportunities to incorporate smart technology in the building’s plans and reap the financial benefits.

That being said, the New York City sample did not delve into the cost of constructing and operating a smart building compared to a non-smart facility. It is not yet clear whether the rent premiums offset the costs to construct, renovate, and operate smart buildings. Further, due to other factors (like location) not all the projects will immediately obtain these premiums just by embracing a smart strategy. Nevertheless, it is worth emphasizing that smart buildings have value.

NAIOP Massachusetts is an industry partner to the MIT Center for Real Estate. Alfredo Keitaro Bando Hano wrote The Incremental Value of Smart Buildings Upon Effective Rents and Transaction Prices (2018) as a master’s thesis.

For more information about the MIT Center for Real Estate’s research, please go to: https://mitcre.mit.edu/ or to the MIT REILab:  http://realestateinnovationlab.mit.edu/

 

20 years later, Brownfields Act remains a pioneering policy

This op-ed originally appeared in Viewpoint on bizjournals.com on September 13, 2018. The joint op-ed was authored by Ned Abelson, attorney at Goulston & Storrs and co-chair of the NAIOP Brownfields Committee, and by David Begelfer, NAIOP Massachusetts CEO and an active participant in the passage of the Brownfields Act. 

Twenty years ago this summer, Gov. Paul Cellucci signed into law the “Brownfields Act,” establishing new incentives and protections to encourage parties to clean up and redevelop contaminated property in Massachusetts. This law provides comprehensive liability relief and financial incentives to attract new investment in these properties while ensuring a safe and effective cleanup. Simply put, without the passage of the Brownfields Act, many communities that are now thriving would be filled with vacant and contaminated properties.

Suburban Office Park

A Brownfield site is blocked from productive use because of potentially hazardous contaminants. Prior to the passage of this law, developers considering cleaning up and then redeveloping such a property often concluded the effort was simply too risky, too expensive and too time-consuming to offset future profits from leasing the property to retailers, businesses and residents.

A model for states across the country, the Brownfields Act allows innocent Massachusetts real estate owners and operators to apply to the Department of Revenue for a state income tax credit to offset the net cost of the cleanup. Any party that contaminated a property or owned the property at the time of contamination is not eligible for the tax credit. Depending on the extent of the completed cleanup, the taxpayer may apply for a credit equal to either 25 percent or 50 percent of the cleanup cost. If the site has an Activity and Use Limitation, or AUL — typically a use restriction placed on title as part of the cleanup process — then a 25 percent credit would apply; if no AUL, then eligibility increases to 50 percent. Without this tax credit, many contaminated properties would remain a public health risk and there would be no incentive to clean up and return these sites to productive use.

The credits have provided critical additional funding for community development corporations, or CDCs, and other community-based organizations. And a change to the law in 2006 has helped nonprofit organizations, which were previously not able to use all of their credits, to sell or transfer the credits to others. In recent years, the state Department of Revenue has distributed between $28 million and $61 million annually in Brownfields tax credits, benefitting between 40 and 80 development projects each year.

The Brownfields Act was created through a unique collaboration of Massachusetts policymakers and a truly diverse set of stakeholders. Developers, town officials, environmentalists, business association representatives, scientists and many others spent hundreds of hours negotiating the details of this landmark legislation.

For Massachusetts residents and businesses, the benefits have been significant. By cleaning up these sites, public health conditions improved, local communities were revitalized, housing was built in vacant areas, new jobs were created, and municipal real estate tax revenue grew. For developers and their partners in engineering, construction and architecture, redeveloping a former industrial site no longer posed a financial or legal death sentence.

For a very modest investment by the commonwealth, billions of dollars of investments have been made throughout the state, benefitting its citizens and municipalities. We commend the Legislature’s work this session to provide for a five-year extension of the Brownfields tax credit in the Housing Bond bill, signed by Gov. Baker on May 31. Twenty years later, the Brownfields Act’s approach to economic development and public health policy continues to be bipartisan, beneficial, bold and, most important, very successful.

 

BLDUP Spotlight and Q&A – David Begelfer, Reesa Fischer and Tamara Small of NAIOP Massachusetts

This post comes from BLDUP.com: BLDUP Spotlight – David Begelfer, Reesa Fischer and Tamara Small of NAIOP Massachusetts

Bldup_Spotlight_NAIOP_MA

Last week NAIOP announced that David Begelfer would be retiring after more than 27 years leading the organization. NAIOP’s Board of Directors voted Reesa Fischer, currently Chief Operating Officer, and Tamara Small, currently Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, to co-lead the association. Fischer will serve as Executive Director with operational, financial, programming and membership/marketing oversight. Small will serve as Chief Executive Officer with oversight of the organization’s government affairs and lobbying activities, public relations, and research. BLDUP sat down with the three industry leaders to discuss the transition and NAIOP’s goals for the future.

BLDUP: For our readers that are not familiar, what is NAIOP?

Tamara Small: Officially NAIOP is The Commercial Real Estate Development Association. Long ago NAIOP stood for National Association of Industrial and Office Parks. It was then changed to National Association of Industrial and Office Properties.  In 2009, the national organization recognized we represented so much more than industrial and office properties.  They did not want to lose the brand recognition that NAIOP had so they kept the acronym, but changed what it stood for.  We now represent office, retail, mixed-use, multifamily, lab and institutional space here in Massachusetts. We are the largest of all the NAIOP chapters at nearly 1,700 members.

Reesa Fischer: Our membership is made up of a variety of industry leaders.  While we are primarily (60%), owners, developers, and operators, the other 40% is made up of attorneys, brokers, and everyone else who supports the commercial real estate industry.  This variety of folks involved in the organization is also a big differentiator for NAIOP.  We operate based on a 3 legs of the stool principle, government affairs advocacy, events/education & networking.

BLDUP:  What is NAIOP forecasting for the Boston market?  Are there any trends you are seeing?

David Begelfer: What I see as our greatest risk going forward is probably not a recession, at least locally.  The Boston market is quite strong and we do not see a lot of oversupply or speculative projects.

A serious downturn does not look like it’s in the cards for the next 2-3 years but we do anticipate somewhat of a slow down because of our success. There are two major components exceeding inflation, land cost and construction costs (the biggest part being labor costs) and these two issues affect development.  We have a very tight market with regards to the construction industry and the number of people and subcontractors.  We also have barriers for entry for companies and individuals to move in from out of state because of the high cost of living.  We are seeing inflation in costs of land/construction because of our dynamic economy. Because of this, we are already starting to price out residential rent projects, pushing them toward condos.

Another aspect of this looming problem is the limited capacity of skilled unemployed workers that can fuel the market going forward.  We have relied upon immigration from out of the country for the last 25 years of growth.  Immigration is starting to have some cracks for various reasons (policy, political, practical economic).  We have concerns that the constant flow is drying up and Massachusetts has always had a problem with net migration out of the state.  The bottom line, as I see it, is that we are at a greater risk from our success than from a possible recession.

BLDUP:  David, What is your proudest achievement as outgoing CEO of NAIOP?

David Begelfer:  It is very hard to choose one particular moment, but if I had to take an overview of the past 27+ years, I’m very proud of the “secret sauce” of NAIOP.  From the start, the secret sauce was to integrate the top professionals and engage in our organization primarily in government affairs and advocacy.  It’s very difficult to handle the wide range of issues that we deal with, regulatory, legislative, judicial, policy and then within each of those baskets another array of issues from environmental, transportation, economic, building codes, all across the map.  The only way we have been able to handle this and provide expert feedback is the unbelievably involved professionals who work with us. This has allowed us to expand the breadth and depth of issues that we deal with and we have done it in a way that we can give something back. We can’t pay for this counsel but instead, we offer networking, connections, and leadership opportunities to add value to our relationships and provide a win/win for everyone involved.  The involvement and growth of volunteerism within the organization is the greatest success I could imagine.

Additionally, we have been able to bring some of the top people in the industry onto our staff.  One of the reasons this is a seamless transition is that others have developed expertise within our organization. It was very easy to choose Reesa & Tamara to move forward into the leadership of the organization.

Reesa Fischer: I feel it is important to mention David’s ability to embrace change.  Most trade associations are very stagnant and very conservative.  They do what they do and as long as it’s not broken they don’t fix it is. One thing we value at NAIOP (and it’s why I love working here) is that embracing change is what it’s going to take to stay competitive.  We like to think of our organization as a disruptor and we are always trying new things that people wouldn’t necessarily expect from a trade association.

David Begelfer: We are always looking to see what can be changed and done differently.  There is no complacency in this organization. People talk about having periodic strategic plans; we strategically think about our organization throughout the year.  That may cause more work, but it keeps us relevant. You can’t fight change you have to embrace it!

BLDUP: Government affairs and advocacy is a big part of what you do. How do you work to accomplish your advocacy goals?

Tamara Small: We have our eyes and ears on anything that would have an impact on the industry and we weigh in wherever appropriate – whether it’s legislative, regulatory or judicial advocacy.  The process is a very collaborative one.  We have over 200 people on our Government Affairs committee and a very active board of directors who provide input. This expertise allows us to provide real-world examples that illustrate the impact of any proposed changes.

As an example, we just wrapped up the legislative session which ran from January 2017 through July 31, 2018.  There were about 8,000 bills filed this session and we tracked hundreds of them, provided testimony, served on legislative task forces and met with legislators.  Clearly, no legislator can be an expert on every single issue. So, for those issues that are of interest to us, we provide substantive, factual information on how the bill would affect the commercial real estate industry – and often the greater overall economy. Through this approach, we have built strong relationships with legislators and regulators.

A good example of how NAIOP handles advocacy would be a provision of the economic development bill that was signed into law by Governor Baker on August 10. The bill includes language that will bring clarity to the development process for properties along railroad rights of way. The process had been a source of frustration to the development community for many years. So, through our government affairs committee, we drafted a legislative fix and worked for 8 years to educate lawmakers on the need for the change. Through the leadership of key legislators and MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack, we were able to work together on language that was signed into law. It will bring transparency and predictability to the development process – two things that are critical for any real estate project.   Talking about railroad rights of way may not be the most exciting topic, but it is one of those things that will affect important transit-oriented projects throughout the Commonwealth.

BLDUP:  What is the next legislative issue you will be focusing on?

Looking ahead, our three areas of focus will be: Housing, Transportation, and Climate Resiliency

We believe that climate resiliency is a top priority for the industry. It’s an economic development issue.  We were very supportive of the climate change legislation that passed this session. The bill that was passed requires the Commonwealth to develop a climate adaptation plan, complete vulnerability assessments at the state and local levels, and identify how the public and private sectors can work together to really think through what climate change means for the real estate industry and for the greater economy.

Another broader economic development issue that we are passionate about is the need for more workforce housing.  We were very supportive of Governor Baker’s housing bill.  We worked with all of the business groups as well as the Mass Municipal Association to try and get that passed in the final hours of the legislative session, but unfortunately, it didn’t make it. In my mind, it would have been the most significant housing bill in years.  We also thought it was very significant that we had such a broad coalition of support for the first time in 30 years of discussion around this issue. We are going to continue to push for this in the next session, which kicks off in January.

Our third big area is transportation. We will continue to advocate for an efficient, world-class transportation system in MA.  We need the type of system that allows people to get in and out of the city and to expanding areas with ease.  We are going to be looking at that in the next legislative session to ensure we can expand on existing capacity.

BLDUP:  Reesa & Tamara what are your goals for the NAIOP in next 5-10 years and David what would you like to see continue after you retire?

David Begelfer: I do think that NAIOP is going to continue to sit on the same 3 legs of the stool, advocacy, education, programming/networking.  Every member gets something from one or all of these areas.  We need to take a look at new technology, be proactive, be entrepreneurial, be thoughtful, and stay in touch with members and their needs.  We also want to offer new platforms for information.

One thing that is NOT going to be happening, is people are NOT going to be totally virtual. They want to meet face to face. That’s never going to change.  You will always need networking.

We have also taken a look at online learning and have seen a much greater demand for face to face learning but in a tighter timeline.  We are moving into podcasts.  That seems to be a very popular way for people to get information while driving, walking, or spinning. It’s hard to plan for the future when technology is changing so quickly.  Right now we have a partnership with the MIT Center for Real Estate that enables us to see what is on the cutting edge of the industry.  We just need to continue to keep an open mind.

Reesa Fischer: It’s about expanding the information and knowledge the we can provide the members and providing them with different options of delivery. People are just so busy and not everyone can come to a site event.  Some people prefer podcasts or live webinars.  We need to expand our information and methods of delivery to stay relevant.

We have also seen a huge demand for professional development skills that are outside of the industry.  The membership is looking to be able to provide skills for their talent.  Talent is a big issue right now, retaining and obtaining.  Learning professional skills while networking and engaging with people in the industry is a unique opportunity we can provide our members.

Tamara Small:  We are nothing without members. We look forward to working with our many member-driven committees and continually seeking feedback directly from the industry.  As Reesa and I transition to our new roles, we will be sitting down with our leadership and members to do our own focus groups in order to understand what they need. We look forward to growing and expanding with them.

Reesa Fischer:  Yes, we are very externally focused!

BLDUP:  What is the last book you read that you would recommend and why?

Reesa Fischer: The Road to Recognition by Seth Price.  Seth is a local guy who runs Placester and did a keynote at one of our marketing conferences.  The book is about building your personal brand which plays into a corporate brand: being authentic, setting up expectations, meeting expectations.  Detailing ways to keep you competitive either personally or professionally. It’s how I look at our organization so that we can continue to be important in the industry.

Tamara Small: Starting Small and Making It Big: An Entrepreneur’s Journey to Billion-Dollar Philanthropist by Bill Cummings.  It is interesting to hear his rags to riches story and his unbelievable drive and entrepreneurial spirit that have helped create his company.  The book provides history about the CRE industry but also an inside look at one of the most entrepreneurial people I’ve encountered.  He is also someone who has really devoted a good part of his career now to charitable endeavors and that is very admirable.

David Begelfer: Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson.  It’s astounding the genius that was there but not just genius: the genius was combined with unbelievable curiosity.  Almost anything he saw he wanted to look further into it. It’s frightening that a lot of what he discovered was never published and lost for hundreds of years. People would rediscover these things hundreds of years later.  He discovered something about how the heart works but it was not actually verified until 1970. He was way ahead of his time. It is a very fascinating read and again it was not just intelligence but a need to be entrepreneurial and also a great observer and creative.

BLDUP:  It is important to note that despite the CRE industry being primarily male, NAIOP’s new leadership team is female.  Tamara and Reesa what are your thoughts on this.

Reesa Fischer:  Just a little history, when I started here 8 years ago, the percentage of women in the industry and in NAIOP was significantly lower.  It is really exciting to see that women have very quickly been getting involved.  Our female membership rates have gone from around 10% up to 28-30%.

About 7 years ago we started an annual event, the Women of Influence luncheon. It sells out 200+ tickets every year with wait lists of people.  I think the pipeline is filling up as young women are starting to come into the industry and seeing there are a variety of ways to get involved, not just brokerage but in the development world as well.

Women are very organized and project management focused and very collaborative and that is what this industry is.  It’s about time women recognize they can actually play an important role. We are also more women in senior roles and running companies.

Our Distinguished Real Estate Award recipient this year is Related Beal, run by Kimberly Sherman Stamler.  Our President-elect for next year is also a woman so the top 3 levels of our organization will be female.  We are very excited to feel like we are following the trend and blazing new trails for women in the industry.

Tamara Small:  Going forward we will operate under a collaborative leadership structure which we found is much more common with women.  Reesa and I have worked together for so many years and we both have our own unique strengths so we are excited to continue this and take NAIOP to the next level.

David Begelfer: We have not said we want to have women run the organization, we have put into place the best people we have for the position and they happen to be women.  They are stepping up and being chosen to lead because of their skills.

BLDUP:  David, to conclude on more of a personal note, what are your plans for your new free time?

David Begelfer:  I have a lot of interests to stay active and involved in the industry.  I love to travel, play golf, those are wonderful things, but I don’t see that as sufficient to keep me alive and well and excited about my future. I’m looking into opportunities that will allow me to keep active and participate in this active industry. I am mostly looking forward to being a member of NAIOP and getting all the value that a member gets from being involved.

Federal Court Rejects Lawsuit to Force Stormwater Permits in the Charles River Watershed

The following is a guest post by Hamilton Hackney of Greenberg Traurig regarding the recent decision in CLF v. EPA. NAIOP is extremely pleased with the decision in this case, which we had been following closely. NAIOP will continue to monitor stormwater issues at the state and federal levels on behalf of the commercial real estate industry.

Last week, the federal district court dismissed a lawsuit that sought to force USEPA to create a permitting program for stormwater discharges in the Charles River watershed.  Filed by the Conservation Law Foundation and the Charles River Watershed Association, the suit claimed that USEPA had a mandatory duty to require commercial and institutional properties that discharged stormwater to obtain permits to do so.  If successful, this suit would have forced commercial and institutional property owners to obtain permits, develop stormwater control plans and possibly design and install additional stormwater controls on their properties.

The suit invoked USEPA’s so-called Residual Designation Authority in the Clean Water Act. Although this authority has been exercised very infrequently to date, environmental groups are increasingly citing this statutory authorization as a basis for demanding that USEPA expand regulation of stormwater beyond industrial sources, construction sites and municipal stormwater systems.  In this particular case, the environmental groups argued that USEPA’s approval of “pollution budgets” (Total Daily Maximum Loads or TMDLs) for the Charles River obligated USEPA to regulate previously unregulated stormwater discharges to ensure that the TMDLs were achieved.  Given the hundreds of existing or proposed TMDLs in Massachusetts alone, that position could have far-reaching consequences for commercial and institutional real estate in the many watersheds with TMDLs.

The federal district court’s dismissal of this lawsuit follows another federal court decision last December in a similar case in Rhode Island.  Together, these decisions indicate that courts remain reluctant to intrude on USEPA’s discretion to choose when and how it may exercise its Residual Designation Authority.  While that is an encouraging outcome, these decisions are likely to be appealed, so there may be more developments on this issue.

ViewPoint: A new stretch energy code is not justified

This OpEd appeared in the Boston Business Journal on June 3, 2016.

In March 2015, Governor Charlie Baker signed Executive Order 562, initiating a comprehensive review process for all regulations. Only those regulations which are mandated by law or essential to the health, safety, environment, or welfare of the Commonwealth’s residents would be retained or modified, making Massachusetts a more efficient and competitive place to live and work.

Agencies must demonstrate, in their review, that there is a clearly identified need for governmental intervention; the costs do not exceed the benefits; a regulation does not exceed federal requirements; less restrictive and intrusive alternatives have been considered and found less desirable; and the regulation does not unduly and adversely affect the competitive environment in Massachusetts.

Based on these specific criteria, the business community is concerned that the Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) is currently considering a new Stretch Energy Code as it develops the 9th edition of the statewide building code. Besides the fact that this Stretch Code undermines the statutory requirement that there be a uniform State Building/Energy Code, there is no good reason for it. This proposed energy code is unnecessary and fails the regulatory review standards, and the Baker Administration and the BBRS should not advance it.

The Stretch Energy Code was originally adopted in May 2009, despite strong opposition from the business community.  The code required commercial and residential construction in those communities that voted to adopt it to be approximately 20% more energy efficient than the statewide code. The new stretch energy code would require a 15% increase in energy efficiency over the current code. The Stretch Code has caused confusion among local building inspectors and developers.  Due to this and several other reasons, a new version of the Stretch Energy Code has never been adopted, even when the statewide code changed.  In fact, at the close of the Patrick Administration, the BBRS voted not to advance a new draft of the Stretch Energy Code.  However, in April 2015, this decision was reversed.

Massachusetts is already the most energy efficient state in the nation, with the most aggressive energy efficiency targets.  Furthermore, Massachusetts will be one of only a handful of states in the nation to adopt the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) statewide.  Since the Green Communities Act requires the adoption of the latest IECC (every three years), the Commonwealth’s position as a national leader in energy efficiency will be ensured even without a Stretch Code.  Anything beyond that is overly burdensome and creates a significant competitive disadvantage for Massachusetts.

It is important to note that there is no statutory requirement to adopt or update a Stretch Energy Code.  There is no mention of it in any statute, and it is only the Department of Energy Resources’ (DOER) policy that encourages the creation of this code.

According to DOER, the changes to the Stretch Code would take effect automatically in stretch code communities without any local vote.  Many municipalities had no idea they would be subject to an automatic upgrade.

The business community continues to support a uniform statewide building and energy code.  We believe a new Stretch Energy Code is unnecessary, will hinder economic development, and would impose an unfair and difficult burden on local building officials and the construction industry.  We urge the Baker Administration and the BBRS to eliminate the Stretch Energy Code, once and for all, and acknowledge the latest version of the IECC as the only energy code in Massachusetts.

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

Water: It’s Time for MassDEP to Take Control

Now is the time for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to be given delegated authority by EPA over National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) programs, along with the funding needed to adequately administer the program.

A NPDES permit is required for any discharges of pollutants from a point source into navigable waters of the US. As required by law, EPA or the state must set limits on the amount of pollutants that facilities may discharge into a waterbody.

To date, 46 states have been authorized to administer the federal NPDES permit program. Massachusetts is just one of four states in the nation (along with Idaho, New Hampshire, and New Mexico) where the federal government is in charge of the permit issuance, compliance and enforcement (with 2,990 NPDES permit holders in Massachusetts).

However, MassDEP is better equipped than EPA to concentrate on Massachusetts specific issues and develop permits with a more complete understanding of local conditions.

Currently, MassDEP jointly issues NPDES permits with EPA. Having MassDEP as the sole permitting authority, with EPA limited to an oversight role, would result in a more efficient permitting process. In addition, as the NPDES program continues to evolve in response to increased concerns over issues like nutrient loading and stormwater impacts, MassDEP would have greater control over policy decisions. These could be more effective with a program redesign, the heightened use of science, and coordination on managing all pollution sources in a watershed.

For this delegation to succeed, appropriate resources would be needed (estimated at under $10 million per year) to ensure a carefully coordinated approach to watershed management.

Massachusetts has an excellent national reputation as a leader in environmental protection, permitting, compliance and enforcement. MassDEP has implemented many successful environmental regulatory programs, with some being the models used by other states.  After years of discussion, Massachusetts needs to assume the responsibility for wastewater permitting by taking NPDES authorization over from EPA.