Joelle Rocha, Special Counsel to House Speaker on Groundbreaking Housing/Development Legislation

D&S Partner Joelle Rocha recently collaborated with House Speaker Joe Shekarchi, the House Policy office, and other legislators and stakeholders to draft and revise 13 bills that were, ultimately, signed into law in July.

The new laws will mean major changes in both the process and technicalities for real estate and land use developers, and for property owners seeking to develop their properties for all aspects of development. Several of these bills provide sweeping changes to zoning and planning statutes which have not been substantively amended since their passage in 1991.

Highlights for developers include:

1. There will be substantial changes to the comprehensive permitting process, which has been amended to reduce the review/permitting steps and to add required zoning incentives and density bonuses.

2. The land development and subdivision process for all projects has also been streamlined and standardized with specific categories for each type of project written into the law and not up to local determination. Certain projects can now be reviewed administratively or under less intensive and streamlined processes than previously required. Additionally, planning boards are authorized to hear and grant zoning relief as part of unified development review, a process now required in every municipality.

3. Zoning law has been amended to allow for more flexible development of non-conforming lots and structures and substandard lots of record.

4. There will be provisions which allow for the adaptive re-use and conversion of commercial buildings into residential units by right as well as legislation focusing on high-density transit-oriented development.

5. The new law provides that some smaller dimensional variances can be reviewed and granted administratively in every community.

6. Lastly, the standard for dimensional variance has been modified to remove the requirements to show that there will be no financial gain and to show the least relief necessary, while further defining the remaining standards.

This is just a sample of the sweeping changes contained in the Speaker’s Housing Package. It is important as a property owner or real estate developer to know the broad and fine details of these new laws, which go into effect January 1, 2024.  Reach out to Joelle to learn more.

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