The Honorable Paul A. Schmid, III, House Chair
The Honorable Anne M. Gobi, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Agriculture
State House, Boston

Delivered electronically

Dear Chair Schmid, Chair Gobi, and Distinguished Members of the Committee,

On behalf of cities and towns across the Commonwealth, the MMA wishes to express our appreciation for this opportunity to offer testimony in support of S. 45, An Act relative to a municipality’s right of first refusal of agricultural and recreational land.

The bill would amend the timeline surrounding the municipal option to exercise or assign the right of first refusal on agricultural land that a property owner plans to sell or use for non-agricultural purposes. The bill’s passage would provide important flexibility for municipalities that wish to convert unused land into residential stock by allowing communities more time to work out logistical hurdles before their right of first refusal time limit expires. This bill would establish a more realistic timeframe within which a municipality must complete due diligence on a property and hold a vote by the city/town council or Select Board, moving from the current standard of 120 to 180 days. Current law does not provide enough time for cities and towns to conduct their due diligence and execute a robust public participation process related to potential land acquisitions. This is especially true for municipalities with a Town Meeting form of government.

In addition, this bill would extend, from 90 to 120 days, the time period for municipalities to close on purchase and sale contracts. This extended timeframe would better enable cities and towns to complete the bond process to finance a land purchase, or to identify and secure other funding sources.

Finally, this bill would establish a 30-day timeline for a property seller to accept and execute a purchase and sale agreement. Under current law, there is no timeline placed on the seller for acceptance. The lack of a deadline can create unnecessary financial and legal uncertainty for communities.

As municipalities look at all options to support housing and development goals, S. 45 would provide communities with an updated and realistic process for converting unused land into housing, or to acquire land to address other vital community priorities. Under current law, many cities and towns struggle to access the financial tools and build the public support needed to make land use conversions happen, due to the unreasonably short time limits that are in place.

We respectfully urge you to support this legislation to revise the right-of-first-refusal process for cities and towns, and ask the Committee to issue a favorable report on S. 45. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or MMA Legislative Analyst Ali DiMatteo at at any time.

Thank you very much for your consideration and support of local government.


Geoffrey C. Beckwith
MMA Executive Director & CEO