Boston mayor creates new zoning chief position

If readers needed a sign that local zoning disputes can be big business, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh recently created a new senior-level zoning chief for Boston’s City Hall. The position’s duties include making regulatory and operational recommendations that impact the Boston area.

An attorney who focuses on land use and zoning might draw another inference from the new appointment. Since zoning regulations can vary even between neighboring Massachusetts cities, it’s a smart move for Boston city planners to designate an official as the municipal authority in this area of law.

However, the zoning official’s focus is expected to be on municipal development and planning matters. It’s unclear whether private commercial developers or individual real estate purchasers will be able to request guidance from the city. Consequently, such individuals may need to consult with a real estate attorney on matters such as building permits, local land use restrictions such as historic preservation or environmental rules, and other issues.

An attorney can also help individuals and business owners respond to regulatory or administrative code notices. In some cases, zoning disputes or alleged violations of the Boston Zoning Code may result in enforcement actions. In order to protect one’s rights, it may even be necessary to administratively appeal a zoning issue or denied permit to the Zoning Board of Appeal. Although evidentiary rules and procedures can be more relaxed in an administrative forum, a land owner would be wise to enlist the services of an attorney to present the strongest possible case, potentially including exhibits and witness or expert testimony.

Source: Boston Business Journal, “Walsh hires Boston’s first zoning chief amid broader City Hall shake-up,” Thomas Grillo, May 13, 2014