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Expedited Permitting
Sustainable, just community development requires a balanced, democratic permitting process.
In New England, the local permitting boards of cities and towns form a vital line of defense for the local community. They ensure that hit-and-run developers do not leave communities struggling with overdevelopment, unaffordable housing, air pollution, and a degraded landscape. And they give local citizens, who are most affected by development, a real voice in determining their own future. But Massachusetts real estate interests, aided by cooperative legislators, are mounting a sustained assault upon the ability of local citizens to guide development. A major thrust is the so-called “expedited permitting” scheme contained in the Chapter 43D bill passed in 2006. This legislation creates a new comprehensive permitting process that allows a majority vote of a city council to subject all municipal permitting authorities to a new permitting scheme that

– Imposes an inadequate 180-day time limit to evaluate and remedy economic, housing, environmental etc. impacts on the local community. (If an application is not acted upon in 180 days, it is automatically approved.)

– Imposes a 120 day review period for state reviews under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) and Massachusetts Historical Commission.

– Uses special permits and appeals to state boards to undermine local authority.

– Pressures cities and towns to adopt “expedited permitting” through coercive financial incentives. Grants and assistance are tied to the willingness to surrender local planning rights.

– Allows a majority vote of a city council to undermine the effectiveness of other municipal boards.

The expedited permitting scheme is part of a broader legislative willingness to assist real estate interests in undermining both local democracy and good land use policy. Efforts are being made to link local aid and state grants to the willingness of municipalities to give developers what they want. Citizens who want to protect their rights to guide their communities toward just and sustainable land use must be on guard for the intrusion of expedited permitting schemes into their community.


• 180 days is often not sufficient time to fully understand the consequences of approving a major project. Problems with the site can become clear only after several months of investigation. You cannot ask for more time once the process starts unless the developer makes major changes in the project. Chapter 43D specifically states “An issuing authority may not use lack of time for review as a basis for denial of a permit.”

• Decisions of your local boards can be overturned by a developer appeal to the Division of Administrative Law Appeals. This is more likely to occur if the review has been rushed and the Board has not been able to put together a solid case for the denial.
Resources for Action:
Text of Chapter 43D, the expedited permitting law

How to reach your legislator
Here’s what you can do:
More Information:

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