April 2019 Government Affairs Update
NAIOP Works to Shape Wetlands Ordinance
On March 18, NAIOP representatives testified before Boston’s City Council on a proposed wetlands ordinance (Docket #0250, An ordinance protecting local wetlands and promoting climate change adaptation in the City of Boston) filed by City Councilor Michelle Wu. NAIOP recognizes the importance of incorporating climate change and sea level rise into the regulations. However, as drafted, the ordinance may have the unintended consequence of prohibiting the implementation of the City’s coastal resiliency plans designed to protect the existing and future infrastructure, buildings and utilities of the City. We are also concerned that it will place the City, the Commission, property owners and others in a position of great uncertainty with regard to the permitting process and standards to construct or maintain projects in the City. NAIOP has been actively engaged in conversations with the proponents of the ordinance, Councilor Wu and the City’s Environment Department and we look forward to creating the right framework for protecting wetland resource areas and structures against future storm damage, flooding and sea level rise. Very special thanks to NAIOP members Stephanie Kruel, Chip Nylen and Rebecca Lee for their extensive input on this issue.
NAIOP Opposes Transfer Tax for Affordable Housing
On March 19, NAIOP provided testimony in opposition to an ordinance filed by Councilor Lydia Edwards and Councilor Kim Janey (Docket #0187, a Petition for a Special Law re: An Act Authorizing the City of Boston to Establish an Investor and Commercial Properties Transfer Fee). It would impose a 6% transfer tax on all properties over $2 million and a 25% tax on all properties over $2 million sold twice within a two-year period with the goal of using the money for affordable housing. While the 25% tax may be designed to address “flipping,” it would apply to all product types including, as an example, office towers that change hands more than twice in two years. NAIOP is strongly opposed to this proposal and does not believe that discouraging investment in the city of Boston is the right approach to addressing affordable housing.
NAIOP Testifies on Changes to Linkage and Inclusionary Development Policy
On March 26, Tamara Small testified on proposed changes to the Inclusionary Development Policy and linkage program. Linkage and IDP have resulted in the production and preservation of thousands of units of housing for affordable and middle-income families, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars invested in housing production, job training and education. The proposal codifies many aspects of the Inclusionary Development Policy and linkage, but it also makes some significant changes. Among other things, it would eliminate the three-year timeframe for changes to linkage and would allow for increases or decreases “by an amount established from time to time” by the zoning commission. It also eliminates the exemption for properties under 100,00SF.
NAIOP believes a thorough, data driven review and analysis will be critical to ensure the continued success of these programs. The BPDA has engaged two consulting firms to get feedback from developers to discuss the programs and those results will be part of a final implementation plan. NAIOP is providing input on this process and working with NAIOP members as the changes advance. Predictability and economic feasibility are essential. The more uncertainty and risk that exist, the fewer projects will be built, and, as a result, fewer affordable housing units and funds for job training.
BBRS Adopts Problematic New Energy Code
On March 12, the BBRS voted to adopt a new statewide energy code. NAIOP submitted multiple comment letters expressing concerns with the feasibility of some of the MA-specific aspects of the code that go beyond IECC 2018. Unfortunately, the Board chose to adopt the flawed document and only made one change, which reduced (but still mandates) the number of electric vehicle spaces that will now be required in new commercial projects. If a project has 15 parking spaces, at least one space will need to be EV-ready. The code is expected to take effect statewide on January 1, though amendments to the code may be considered prior to that date. NAIOP is grateful to the committee of developers, code consultants, engineers and architects who reviewed the draft code and contributed to NAIOP’s comment letter.
NAIOP and Business Community Advance Transportation Agenda
NAIOP is part of a coalition of the major business groups and Chambers in the state who are now working to develop a uniform transportation agenda. There have bene two meetings of this group to date and discussions have been wide-ranging. A set of recommendations will be developed in the coming weeks. NAIOP’s newly launched Transportation Subcommittee, co-chaired by Melissa Schrock of Boston Properties and Matt Kealey of VHB, have provided recommendations to NAIOP on the key transportation issues affecting development in Massachusetts. This is a top priority for NAIOP and the legislature this session.
Boston Lobbying Ordinance - Developers & Attorneys Required to Register
A new Boston Lobbyist Registration and Regulation Ordinance was signed into law by Mayor Walsh in October and is expected to take effect on April 13. The ordinance covers legislative, regulatory and procurement lobbying, as well as lobbying on other non-ministerial actions or non-actions. While there are a handful of exemptions, the law is much broader than the state’s lobbyist disclosure laws and may require attorneys representing developers, as well as developers, to register as lobbyists. The ordinance, which has been under the radar, includes a requirement that lobbyists must register within 10 days of being retained, employed or designated by any client or lobbying entity, with or without compensation, to engage in lobbying activities. A client or lobbying entity also must register within 10 days of qualifying as such. Registrants must renew each year by December 15. Registrants will be required to file quarterly statements with the City Clerk that report, among other things, compensation, expenditures and campaign contributions. NAIOP and representatives from other business groups will be meeting with City officials in the next week to gain clarity on requirements under the law and what it means for members the real estate industry and for members of business trade groups.
NAIOP Filing Amicus Brief: Joseph Marchese vs. BRA
NAIOP is filing an amicus brief in support of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (now the BPDA) in the case of Joseph Marchese vs. BRA. NAIOP chose to pursue this opportunity because the demonstration project powers of the BRA are an essential development tool that would be severely restricted – if not eliminated – by a broad grant of standing, as proposed in this case. Oral arguments are expected to be held in early May and the amicus brief will be submitted later this month. Very special thanks to WilmerHale for filing the amicus brief on behalf of NAIOP and to the subcommittee of NAIOP members who have participated in this process to date.
Boston Climate Action Plan Update: City Seeking Input
The City of Boston has begun the process of updating its Climate Action Plan. NAIOP participated in the first meeting and subsequent planning meetings will be held on the following dates: Meeting #2: Thursday, April 11 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm; Meeting #3: Wednesday, May 15 from 1:00pm to 3:00pm; Meeting #4: Tuesday, June 18 from 3:00pm to 5:00pm (locations to be determined). In addition, a Google Doc has been created to collect input on the process and ideas for consideration. NAIOP members are encouraged to weigh in.
NAIOP Government Affairs: 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. NAIOP's government affairs committee and issue-specific subcommittees are a great way to stay informed on the important issues affecting the industry. New members are welcome (and encouraged)! To join the Government Affairs Committee, contact Debbie Osheroff, Director of Membership, at (781) 453-6900 ext. 3.