Municipal Law News

REGISTER NOW – MMLA Bylaw Revisions – Special Meeting on May 18th

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

12:00 p.m.

Zoom Webinar


This meeting is the required “reading” of proposed revisions to the Massachusetts Municipal Lawyers Association (MMLA) bylaws. In April 2022, the Executive Board unanimously voted to approve changes to the bylaws that resulted from a comprehensive two-year review process by the MMLA Bylaws Committee. The proposed revisions must first be “read” to the membership at an MMLA meeting before a vote at a second MMLA meeting. In a May 4, 2022 email sent by the listserv, MMLA members received documents showing and explaining the proposed revisions. Members of the MMLA Bylaws Committee will be available at this meeting to address member questions, concerns, or feedback about the proposed revisions.

To attend, you must register through the link below. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing the link to join the webinar. 

Note that you can register to attend the program at any time, including after the noon start time. Also note a raffle drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card will be held, with the winner to be randomly drawn from those MMLA members who attend (current members of the Executive Board are not eligible).

AG disapproves Brookline’s “On-site Fossil Fuel Infrastructure” bylaw amendments

On February 25, 2022, the Attorney General disapproved two by-law amendments aimed at regulating on-site fossil fuel infrastructure as inconsistent with the preemptive effect of the state building code.  In that letter, Assistant Attorney General Margaret Hurley wrote:

Our review of Articles 25 and 26 from the 2021 Brookline Annual Town Meeting presents
the issue whether a town zoning by-law may regulate buildings based upon whether the building
materials include “On-Site Fossil Fuel Infrastructure” (as defined in the by-law). The statutory
language in the Zoning Act (G.L. c. 40A, § 3, and the broad preemptive scope of both the State
Building Code (“Building Code”) (780 CMR 100.00) and Chapter 164, all dictate the conclusion that
a town zoning by-law cannot regulate building materials or methods of construction. Because the
Brookline proposed by-law amendments conflict with the plain language of the Zoning Act, are
preempted by the Building Code and G.L. c. 164, and present additional state law conflicts as detailed
herein, we must disapprove Articles 25 and 26.

Click here for the full text of the AG’s decision letter.

Register Now – MMLA Webinar – MBTA Community Zoning

Wednesday, February 16, 2022
12:00 p.m.
Zoom Webinar

This program will discuss the draft guidelines issued by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) for compliance with requirements under the new section 3A of G.L. c. 40A that MBTA communities allow multi-family housing by right in at least one zoning district.

Panelist for this program will be:

  • Donna M. Brewer, Esq., Miyares and Harrington, LLP
  • Susan Murphy, Esq., Dain, Torpy, Le Ray, Wiest & Garner, P.C
  • Barbara Saint Andre, Esq., Director, Medway Community and Economic Development

Registration for this program is open to both MMLA members and non-members. Please share this information and invite colleagues who may be interested in this topic, including your local government planning team.

Click here for further information and registration link.

Registration Open for MMLA Webinar – Farm, Beer Garden, and Other Alcohol License Issues

This Zoom Webinar is scheduled for Wednesday, January 12th, at 2:00 PM. During this lunch time program, Ralph Sacramone, Executive Director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, will address issues related to pop-up beer gardens, and farmer brewers manufacturing and pouring licenses. Other topics to be discussed include alcohol delivery, April 1 status and emergency temporary outdoor seating vs permanent outdoor seating.  For details, visit our Upcoming Events Calendar.

MMLA Webinar – Drafting and Enacting Legislation

MMLA Webinar – Drafting and Enacting Legislation
Wednesday, December 8, 2021
12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Zoom Webinar

This lunch time program will provide lawyers new to municipal law and experienced municipal
counsels with an overview of state and local legislative processes. It will explain the state
legislative process, discuss approaches for developing, promoting, monitoring and passing bills,
and provide practical tips for drafting effective state and local legislation, including home rule
petitions, Article 97 land dispositions, bylaws, and ordinances.

Click here for details and registration information.


DOWNLOAD the decision of the SJC

Keywords:  Marijuana. License. Municipal Corporations, By-laws and ordinances, Contracts, Marijuana. Contract, Municipality. Mandamus. Practice, Civil, Action in nature of mandamus, Action in nature of certiorari, Motion to dismiss, Judgment on the pleadings. Regulation.

In a must-read decision issued today, Merderi Inc. v. City of Salem, et al, the SJC upheld the City’s denial of a Host Community Agreement (HCA) to an applicant.  The SJC held in part that “[a]lthough we observe that the interplay between the statute and the regulations may have led to consequences perhaps not contemplated by the Legislature or the commission, we nevertheless conclude that Mederi’s claims properly were denied, and thus affirm the decision.”  The SJC also reviewed the legislative history of marijuana law in Massachusetts.

The Court rejected Mederi’s request for mandamus, noting that “Nothing in G. L. c. 94G, § 3, imposes a duty on a city or town to enter into an HCA with a prospective recreational marijuana establishment simply because that establishment is able to fulfill the municipality’s HCA requirements.  Indeed, G. L. c. 94G, § 3 (d), the provision governing HCAs, merely provides that a prospective marijuana establishment must enter into an HCA with a host community before it can operate.  That provision contemplates a negotiation between the host community and the applicant, stating that the HCA must include “all stipulations of responsibilities between the host community and the marijuana establishment.”  Id.

The Court also dismissed  Mederi’s claim for a cert appeal.  ” Because the city had a rational basis for choosing these applicants, its decision not to enter into an HCA with Mederi was neither arbitrary nor capricious.  See Attorney Gen., 382 Mass. at 62.  Based on the high number of applicants on Highland Avenue, the city ultimately selected two applicants that planned to locate on that street –- Atlantic Medicinal and INSA –- that, in its view, had stronger proposals than Mederi.”

The challenge to the impact fees was also denied, with the Court finding that the applicant did not have standing since they never entered into a HCA.  Other challenges met a similar fat

Congratulations to MMLA member and Salem Assistant City Solicitor Victoria Caldwell for this very impressive and important win for municipalities!


Keywords:  Public Records. Supervisor of Public Records. Police, Records. Constitutional Law, Access to criminal records. Regulation. Practice, Civil, Complaint.

[Excerpt] – “A convicted criminal has a statutory right to request public records concerning the crime he committed and to receive a response consistent with the public records law.  The plaintiff, Adam James Bradley, appeals from an order dismissing his complaint alleging violations of the public records law, G. L. c. 66, and various other claims.  The complaint alleged that the defendant, the records access officer (RAO) for the Department of State Police (department),[1] violated the public records law by ignoring Bradley’s requests for records, as well as two orders issued by the Commonwealth’s supervisor of records (supervisor) directing the RAO to respond.  A Superior Court judge allowed the RAO’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, and a judgment dismissing the complaint entered.  Because Bradley plausibly alleged violations of the public records law, we vacate in part the judgment, and remand the case for further proceedings.”

Also of note is the Appeals Court’s discussion of the often raised denial of a request on the basis that the requester has a unique right of access via another forum.  The Appeals Court decision calls into question the usefulness of that provision of the AG’s regulations.  The Court stated: “Based on ‘the plain language of the regulation,’ Theophilopoulos v. Board of Health of Salem, 85 Mass. App. Ct. 90, 101 (2014), we interpret the references to ‘a unique right of access’ as stating only that the procedures of public records law do not apply to other statutory, regulatory, or judicial processes that give individuals specific avenues for obtaining specific categories of records.. . . Requests for records under those regimes are not governed by the public records law, and are not subject to appeal to the supervisor. The references to ‘a unique right of access’ made it explicit that the supervisor has no authority with respect to the enforcement of rights of access outside the sphere of the public records law.”
This case warrants close review by municipal counsel.

DOWNLOAD the decision of the Appeals Court


KeywordsSubdivision Control, Access ways. Way, Public: subdivision control. Statute, Construction. Mandamus. Practice, Civil, Summary judgment, Action in nature of mandamus, Standing.

Synopsis:  “At issue is whether the plaintiff, Robert Fratus, Jr., has a private right of action to require the town of Harwich and its board of selectmen (collectively, town) to widen and pave two roads abutting his property and upon which he travels.  Although Fratus acknowledges that there are no specific defects in the two roads, and that he has not been injured by traveling on them, he nonetheless contends that he has a private right of action as an abutter and traveler to compel the town to maintain the roads “so that they may be reasonably safe and convenient for travelers.”  G. L. c. 84, § 1.  Ruling on cross motions for summary judgment, a Superior Court judge disagreed, and dismissed Fratus’s complaint for declaratory judgment and mandamus relief.  We affirm.”

DOWNLOAD the decision of the Appeals Court