Written by Nathaniel Stevens, Esq.
Effective June 15, 2021, Governor Baker rescinded the COVID-19 State of Emergency in Massachusetts which he issued 462 days earlier on March 10, 2020. This ending triggered the expiration of a number of COVID-19 measures, some in statutes, executive orders, guidelines, and regulations, affecting environmental, land use, and real estate permits, licenses and other approvals.
The next day, on June 16, 2021, the Legislature by law extended some of the Covid-19 measures. Remote access to state and local public meetings was extended until at least April 2022. Town meetings can be held remotely until at least December 2021. Virtual notarization was allowed to continue until December 2021. The Legislature is considering proposals to make remote access to public meetings and virtual notarization permanent.
During the pandemic, the Governor issued two successive Orders related to certain state environmental and development permit deadlines. The second Order expired on or before June 15, 2021. The Order tolled the expiration dates of and deadlines to record state permits, determinations, and similar licenses for land development which were in effect as of March 10, 2020. Interestingly, it did not provide for similar extensions for any state permits issued during the State of Emergency.
On June 14, 2021, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) and the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED) issued joint guidance related to the calculation of state permit deadlines and expiration dates tolled during the pandemic.
For example, for a permit that was issued before and in effect as of March 10, 2020 which has an expiration date of July 1, 2021, the expiration date would be extended by 462 days (the number of days the State of Emergency was in effect).
Legislation enacted in 2020 during the Governor’s State of Emergency provided extensions for permits issued by conservation commissions, zoning boards of appeals and planning boards similar to those under the Governor’s Orders on state permits. Because the wording in the Legislation is virtually identical to that in the Governor’s Orders, many have applied the joint EOEEA and EOHED guidance to permits issued by these municipal boards and commissions which were in effect as of March 10, 2020.
The Massachusetts Association of Municipal Conservation Professionals (MSMCP), many of whose members work for town and city conservation commissions, has issued a simple calculator to help determine the new expiration dates for tolled permits: www.tinyurl.com/MSMCPTollingTool
Again, the tolling provisions, which extend the life of permits, licenses and other approvals do not apply to permits that were issued after March 10, 2020 and during the State of Emergency. The Order does not state why this is the case, but it’s a fact of life. For all fortunate earlier permit holders: get out your various permissions, look at the expiration dates, and (in many cases) add 462 days. Mark your calendars!