Developed by the Massachusetts Association of Regional Planning Agencies
Step 1:Identify areas within your municipality that you would like to see developed for commercial/industrial or mixed uses.
Ch. 43D expedited permitting is specific to sites designated as Priority Development Sites (PDS). The PDS may include an individual parcel or several contiguous parcels. The locations must be:
(1) zoned for commercial, industrial or mixed uses;
(2) eligible under applicable zoning provisions, including special permits or other discretionary permits, for the development or redevelopment of a building at least 50,000 square feet of gross floor area in new or existing buildings or structures; and
(3) approved by the landowner(s) as a priority development site.
In addition, there is a preference that locations meet one or more of the following criteria:
(1) located adjacent to areas of existing development;
(2) include underutilized buildings or facilities; or
(3) located close to appropriate transit services.
In pursuing the Ch. 43D designation, the municipality is making a statement that these are the specific locations within the municipality where development should occur. The decision to prioritize these areas is very important.
In selecting a site, the municipality should consider: 1) the master plan for the community, 2) the regional plan for growth and development, 3) the availability of infrastructure, and 4) any community impacts that may be problematic in the permitting stage. The municipality will have 180 days to review permit applications within the PDS. To accomplish this task effectively, these factors must be assessed prior to designating a PDS.
Step 2: Consult your Regional Planning Agency (RPA)
RPAs have been selected by the Legislature as a partner in the Ch. 43D process. They have expertise in selecting appropriate sites, and navigating the steps in the Ch. 43D process, including the application and technical assistance request. In addition, they have partnerships with Mass Development and other agencies, and can assist with soliciting additional technical assistance from other sources.
Step 3: Approach the relevant landowners
Ch. 43D requires that every landowner within a PDS approves that the site receive that designation. While the majority of landowners appreciate this opportunity, it is important the engage them early in the process to receive support for moving forward. The landowner will ultimately be required to endorse the Ch. 43D application before it is submitted to the Interagency Permitting Board; other forms of consent letters will not be accepted during the application phase in lieu of landowner signatures on the application.
Step 4: Review Zoning Bylaws and Ordinances
Ch. 43D requires the municipality to issue decisions on all permits for a PDS project (see Step 5 for specific list) within 180 days of the application being deemed complete. In most cases, city or town ordinances and bylaws allow for a decision within this timeframe, but the administrative policies and scheduling needs to be adjusted. However, in some cases where bylaws spell out an order of review for the various boards sequentially, it may be practically impossible to review the project within 180 days. With town counsel assistance, towns should assess the local bylaws and ordinances to assure that the 180 day review period is possible, and if not, propose amendments prior to designating a PDS (i.e. simultaneous review of a permit application by multiple boards, joint board hearing).
The ordinance/bylaw review should take these requirements into account to assess whether an amendment is necessary to accomplish Ch. 43D. These steps will help determine the specific procedures that the municipality will utilize to meet the requirements of Ch. 43D.
Step 5: Consult with relevant boards and commissions
Orders of conditions and wetlands decisions issued by the Conservation Commission, Special Permits issued by the ZBA and/or Planning Board, Site Plan Review issued by the Planning Board, Flammable Materials License issued by the Fire Chief, historic district decisions, and Title V and septic decisions issued by the Board of Health are all subject to the 43D requirement that all permit reviews be completed within 180 days for projects on a PDS. Building permits issued by the building inspector, ANR plan approval and subdivisions under the subdivision control law are not affected by this statute.
In order to gather support at town meeting and effectively implement the expedited permitting statute, it is important to meet and discuss the Ch. 43D proposal with these boards to gather feedback and fully understand their particular review processes.
Furthermore, the relevant boards and commissions are a great resource to discuss technical assistance needs and procedural improvements.
Step 6: Finalize Location
Upon receiving feedback from the various boards and commission and landowners, the municipality is ready to finalize the location to propose to the legislative body for PDS determination. )
Step 7: Bring the Priority Development Site Proposal to the appropriate legislative body for approval
The town meeting, town council, or city council must approve the creation of a PDS by a simple majority vote. While this requirement seems onerous, the process has been smooth to date because the landowner(s), town leadership and relevant boards have been consulted and have supported the proposals. Among other things, those presenting at town meeting should consider highlighting the specifics of the Ch. 43D program including the prospective uses for the parcel, potential uses for the technical assistance grant, and the tax benefits of development on the proposed parcel.
Each Priority Development Site requires a separate vote of the Town Meeting, Town Council or City Council. Sample warrant text was prepared in conjunction with the Attorney General's Office and is available online at www.mass.gov/mpro under "Chapter 43D Expedited Permitting."
The vote of Town Meeting, Town Council or City Council does not constitute "opting in" to the program. The community does not accept the provisions of Ch. 43D on the PDS until after the Ch. 43D application is been approved by the Interagency Permitting Board (see Step 11).
Step 8: Amend Zoning Bylaws and Ordinances (if necessary)
When the town meeting considers the PDS application, it may also consider any zoning bylaw/ordinance amendments necessary to implement the requirements of Ch. 43D. Rather than wait until the application is approved, the town/city could consider any necessary changes at the time of PDS municipal approval.
This step requires time and resources that many municipalities may want to request in the technical assistance grant (see Step 10). This step may come later in the process, however the community should be aware that there is no "opt out" provision if the community accepts Ch. 43D and subsequent zoning changes fail to meet the required local vote. Therefore, it is strongly advised that communities make any zoning changes that would otherwise prohibit a 180-day review before opting in to Ch 43D.
Step 9: Identify a Single Point of Contact
Chapter 43D requires that a single person be designated to serve as the municipal point of contact on Priority Development Sites. The individual must be a municipal employee or an employee of a quasi-municipal agency who will be charged with responding to inquiries the site, providing and accepting permit applications, communicating decisions to applicants, etc. It is recommended that the designated Point of Contact be a staff member and not an elected official.
Step 10: Submit Application to Interagency Permitting Board
Upon completing the previous steps, the municipality must submit an application to the Interagency Permitting Board for approval. There is no particular timeline for this step. For instance, a community may pass a Chapter 43D article at Fall Town Meeting and submit applications six months later.
The Ch. 43D application must include details on the PDS and requests for a technical assistance grant (if being requested). The one-time grant is available to assist municipalities to meet the statutory requirements of Ch. 43D and to take actions that facilitate growth. The grant request does not have to be presented at the same time that the first Priority Development Site is designated. This request may be made at the same meeting or a later meeting. The grant can be used to hire municipal staff, or engage consultants to provide technical assistance, or invest in technology improvements related to increased permitting efficiency. In formulating the grant request, the municipality must define the various tasks for which it needs technical assistance, determine a budget, and identify a timeline to accomplish these tasks.
The Interagency Permitting Board meets regularly and makes all decisions with 60 days of receiving an application. For more details on the Board, please visit www.mass.gov/mpro and click Interagency Permitting Board.
Applications are due 21 days prior to the next regularly scheduled Board meeting, and applicants should appear in front of the Board to present their case and answer questions. For complete instructions on the applications process and eligible grant requests, please view the Guidance Tool at www.mass.gov/mpro under Chapter 43D Expedited Permitting.
Step 11: Opting in
Once the Interagency Permitting Board renders decisions on an application for PDS designation and a technical assistance grant, the municipality will be noticed and required to enter into a contract for that grant. Once the contract has been executed, the municipality will receive a check or electronic fund transfer from the Commonwealth for the technical assistance grant, if approved. Once the municipality cashes that check, accepts the electronic transfer, or endorses an opt-in form in the absence of a technical assistance grant, the municipality has officially "opted in" to the Ch. 43D program and a 120-day implementation period begins. If a grant request was not made, the community will sign a Chapter 43D Acceptance Form for the site(s) and this will begin the 120 day period. During that 4-month period, the municipality must reform all the necessary procedures, bylaws and rules in order to issue all permitting decisions for a project within the PDS within 180 days. Once the 120-day period expires, the community is legally obligated for a period no less than five years to render permitting decisions on a PDS within 180 days or less . There is no "opt out" provision during these five years.
Please note that this step-by-step guide is a resource to steer a municipality through the various steps necessary to adopt and implement Ch. 43D. This is not intended to substitute the regulations, 400 CMR 2.00, or proper legal counsel. In addition, there are several helpful documents available through the Mass Permit Regulatory Office at www.mass.gov/mpro.