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ZONING BRIEFS - SUMMER 2014

Summer is usually a pretty quiet time of the year for many lawyers, policy folks, and local zoning boards, but there have been a few interesting zoning-related headlines in the past few weeks.

A few media outlets have recently published op-ed commentaries related to the zoning reform bill presently pending in the current Massachusetts legislative session. On WBUR's Cognoscenti, there's a piece authored by Joseph A. Curatone (Mayor of Somerville) and Andre Leroux (Executive Director, Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance). The comments to that piece are interesting as well. Almost identical pieces ran in both the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, authored by Dennis DiZoglio (Executive Director, Merrimack Valley Planning Commission) and Heather McMann (Executive Director, Groundwork Lawrence), and the Lowell Sun, authored by Chris Kluchman (Director of Land Use Management, Town of Westford) and Steve Sadwick (President, Massachusetts Association of Planning Directors).

Of course, not everyone agrees with the proposed zoning changes. Here's the response to the Lowell Op-Ed, written by Joseph Farragher, President, Northeast Association of Realtors.

Big changes are happening to Somerville's zoning code, which will now use a more commonsense approach to development, and offer far more clarity to residents than what has been on the books since 1990.

Though it's not as sweeping as what's going on in Somerville, Hopedale is also making some noteworthy changes with some recent rezoning that aims to increase the commercial tax base in the coming years.

On Nantucket, there is some opposition to a new playground that was recently proposed and approved (by the zoning enforcement officer) in Sconset. The appeal of that decision is scheduled to be before the ZBA on July 10, and there are also appeals filed in court and with MADEP, so the matter is far from over.

Perhaps one of the more thought provoking pieces of news we've come across is explores whether there is a relationship between zoning and permitting regulations that regulate hotels and whether they also apply to short-term vacation rentals, like those offered by homeowners who list their houses for availability online via services like Airbnb or VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner). Boston is considering this issue presently, but in the interim has directed the Inspectional Services Department to refrain from issuing fines to hosts at this time.

Lastly, it appears that a pending telecommunications bill, S.2183, aimed at making it easier for wireless service providers to install towers, is not sitting well with some local authorities (in Fairhaven, for example) and other groups. We will continue to monitor the progression of that bill and the likely debate that will ensue.

Written by Kristen M. Ploetz, Esq., of Green Lodestar Communications & Consulting, LLC, on behalf of Jeffrey T. Angley, P.C. Edited by Jeffrey T. Angley, Esq.

Copyright (c) 2011-2014 by Jeffrey T. Angley, P.C. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this post is general in nature and for educational purposes only. No personal legal advice is being provided. If you have an actual legal issue that needs to be addressed, you should seek the advice of competent legal counsel. This post does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Jeffrey T. Angley, P.C., Phillips & Angley or their attorneys.

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