Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
On Nov. 17, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill to codify the process for preserving public land during land transfers or land use changes.
The law will expand upon the “no-net-loss” policy in Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution, which requires a municipality or other public entity to offset a change of use of protected open space by providing comparable replacement land.
Open space refers to conservation, forested, recreational, agricultural and undeveloped land, as well as green buffers along open areas and roadways. These lands often have environmental benefits such as natural habitats and terrain, and can be resources for public recreation.
The transfer of these lands requires a number of local votes, including by local commissions and legislative bodies, before going to the Legislature and finally the governor for review.
The new law includes language to allow for a cash payment in lieu of the required replacement land. A cash payment would be allowed if the proposed change or disposition serves a significant public interest, has no impact on environmental justice populations, and when no feasible, equivalent alternative exists at the time of the proposal.
The cash payment must be no less than 110% of the value of the land, and will be required to be spent within three years to acquire replacement protected land in a comparable location. The secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs would need to determine that the replacement land is of equal or greater natural resource value.
The MMA wrote to the governor last week to ask him to reject the more burdensome aspects of the legislation and opt for a more flexible approach to codifying Article 97.
The final bill had been released by a House-Senate conference committee on Nov. 8 and was enacted and sent to the governor on Nov. 10.