February 2018 Government Affairs Update
NAIOP Testifies in Support of Baker Polito Housing Legislation
On Tuesday, Tamara Small joined business and municipal leaders and housing advocates to testify in strong support of H. 4075, An Act to Promote Housing Choices. The legislation, filed by Governor Baker, allows cities and towns to adopt zoning best practices by a simple majority vote, rather than the current two-thirds supermajority. This would be allowed in situations where the zoning change will encourage more concentrated development including the adoption of 40R “Smart Growth” districts or starter homes, reduced parking requirements, allowing accessory dwelling units, and reducing minimum lot sizes. All of these best practices are tied to increased housing production and this legislative change makes it easier for communities to rezone to encourage growth. The bill is part of the Administration’s Housing Choice Initiative, which creates a new system of incentives and rewards for municipalities that deliver sustainable housing growth. It also creates a new technical assistance toolbox to empower cities and towns to plan for new housing production. Importantly, unlike the extremely problematic zoning legislation that is supported by planners and environmental groups and opposed by the real estate industry and municipalities, this bill does not include language that would hinder the production of housing. Instead, it rewards communities that are producing new housing units and have adopted certain best practices with a new Housing Choice Designation. NAIOP is now meeting one on one with legislators to discuss the benefits of this bill and the need to make it a top priority before the close of the legislative session.
EV Requirements and New Coastal A Maps to be Voted on by BBRS This Month
In January, NAIOP submitted comments in opposition to two proposed changes to the building code. The first change would require all Group A-1, B, E, I, M and R buildings with 4 or more passenger vehicle parking spots to provide EV Ready spaces for a percentage of parking not less than 5% of the first 80 spaces and 3% of all parking spaces more than 80. NAIOP is strongly opposed to giving preferential treatment to a specific technology in the building code and does not believe it is the appropriate way to encourage the purchase of electric vehicles. The decision to provide EV parking should be left to the owner of the building based on tenant demand.
The second proposed change would adopt the new Coastal A zone maps as part of the current building code (9th edition) The use restrictions in Coastal A zones mirror those of V zones (i.e., no underground uses including parking in residential or commercial properties, ground floor restrictions, etc.) and would apply to new construction or significant renovations. The requirements under the Coastal A Zone maps would conflict with existing regulatory requirements such as those under Chapter 91. While NAIOP remains committed to addressing climate change issues, we believe the maps need further review and consideration before they are adopted. The BBRS is expected to vote on the changes at its next meeting on February 13.
Court Rejects CLF Appeal in Stormwater Case Affecting CRE Owners
On March 24, the lawsuit, CLF vs. EPA, which sought to require property owners in the Charles River Watershed with impervious area (rooftop, pavement, etc.) to apply for a stormwater discharge permit under EPA’s rarely used “Residual Designation Authority” (RDA), was dismissed. On April 14, CLF appealed that decision as well as a similar decision in a Rhode Island case. Earlier this week, the Appeals Court rejected CLF’s appeal.
If CLF had prevailed, a new regulatory program would have required owners of commercial, institutional, industrial and high density residential properties in the Charles River watershed with one acre or more of impervious area (parking lots, roofs, sidewalks) to apply for a stormwater discharge permit under the RDA program. The proposed compliance costs associated with such a program were estimated to be in the billions of dollars for commercial property owners and municipalities. NAIOP has been the lead advocate on this issue and we were pleased to see the court’s decision.
Housing Bond Bill Advances – Includes Brownfields Tax Credit
In late January, the House passed the Housing Bond Bill and included an extension of the soon-to-expire Brownfields Tax Credit. The extension of the tax credit (set to expire this year) is a top priority for NAIOP. Extending the tax credit will provide certainty for developers pursuing some of the most challenging real estate development projects in the Commonwealth. The bill now moves to the Senate. NAIOP will continue to advocate for quick passage of the bill.
The legislative session is heating up with all bills required to be reported out of legislative committees by February 7. NAIOP has been working on a wide range of issues from opposition to the zoning bill to issues affecting brownfields, water, climate change, and transportation. In addition, we have been very busy on a wage theft working group created by Representative Paul Brodeur and Senator Jason Lewis. We continue to oppose any wage theft bill that would include vicarious liability.
Both chambers have a lengthy list of items they hope to advance by July 31. As always, NAIOP member input on legislative issues will be critical as the session draws to a close.
NAIOP Government Affairs Advocacy: Learn More, Get Involved!
Interested in NAIOP’s government affairs agenda? Check out the Member-Only Top Issues section of the NAIOP web site for issue briefs, comment letters, and additional resources. Would you like to get involved in shaping NAIOP’s advocacy efforts? We value your input! NAIOP’s government affairs committee and issue-specific subcommittees are a great way to stay informed on the important issues affecting the industry. Due to security restrictions, you must RSVP to attend any upcoming meetings. New members are welcome (and encouraged)! Contact Tamara Small, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, at (781) 453-6900 ext. 5 for more information.