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9.20.07 September 20, 2007 Legislative Breakfast

This morning, NSAR sponsored its first Legislative Breakfast in 2007, attending by State Representative Theodore Speliotis (D-13th Essex), State Representative Joyce Spiliotis (D-12th Essex), Representative John Keenan (D-7th Essex), and Beth Murray, Aide to Senator Frederick Berry.

MAR General Counsel and Government Affairs Director, Steve Ryan, presented the five legislative topics on the agenda and gave the legislators the Realtor® position on each issue.

These issues included:

1. Transfer Taxes. Realtors® oppose real estate transfer taxes as bad tax policy for several reasons including: a community wide responsibility should be paid for by the entire community; a transfer tax is inequitable and discriminatory as it singles out a small segment of the population [specifically home buyers & sellers] to pay for a community wide need; a transfer tax is exclusionary because it would increase the cost of home ownership; a transfer tax would be an unstable source of revenue due to the instability of the real estate market; a transfer tax would subvert the Proposition 2 ½ override process; the state legislature has already given cities and towns many equitable tools to create affordable and workforce housing through passage of Community Preservation Act, Chapter 40B, and Chapter 40R and 40S.

2. An Act Protecting Children from Poisoning. Proposed legislation SB. 1230 would (a) require lead inspections on all sales of property, instead of at the buyer’s option; (b) require owners and sellers of property to abate lead in soil and tap water; and (c) require letters of compliance for rental units to be renewed every two years, regardless of whether children reside in the unit, or whenever there is a change in occupancy, if that is earlier.

3. An Act Providing Information to Real Estate Buyers. Proposed legislation H. 323, S. 201 is a little unclear but seems to suggest that a homeowner would be expected to review the databases of nearly a dozen different governmental agencies and then create some type of report or hire and pay someone to do it for them. It is not clear how many millions of dollars this could cost Massachusetts homeowners every year or that buyers and sellers could review this data and provide an accurate assessment of what implications, if any, information on one of these databases would have on a home.

4. An Act Relative to the Disclosure of Wetlands on Property. Proposed legislation H. 767 seeks to require that a real estate broker disclose to prospective buyers that a property to be sold may be in its entirety, or in part a wetland as defined in Chapter 131 of the General Laws of or any other regulation or local by-law of the municipality where the property is located. It is the Realtor® position that however well intentioned this proposal may be, it would create an impossible standard for real estate licensees to meet and generate confusion for consumers.

5. An Act Relative to Smart Growth Housing Trust Fund (S. 132) and An Act Relative to Financing the Smart Growth Housing Trust (H. 160). Realtors® support both these bills, as it would create a steady stream of revenue to support the continued success of 40R Smart Growth districts.

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9.17.07 Zion Bible College Coming to Haverhill

The Eagle-Tribute reported today that The Hobby Lobby, a national chain of retail hobby stores, is purchasing the Bradford College campus, just one day before the 18-acre campus was to be sold at public auction.

According to Mayor James Fiorentini, The Hobby Lobby is then expected to donate the school to Zion Bible College of Rhode Island.

Hobby Lobby, headquartered in Oklahoma City, has 390 stores in 32 states, not including Massachusetts and New Hampshire, according to the store's Web site. According to the Tribune, Hobby Lobby founder and CEO David Green, who is worth $2 billion, putting him among the country's 400 wealthiest residents, is of the same religious denomination as Zion College.

The terms of the agreement were not currently being disclosed.

Zion Bible College of Barrington, R.I., is part of the Assemblies of God higher-education system, which includes 19 colleges and universities nationwide. The college has been trying to relocate for several years because it wants more space than it has in Barrington.

Bradford College closed in 2000 after 197 years as a liberal arts school. It was bought over a year later by GFI Partners, an Angelo Gordon & Co. affiliate. The college campus features eight buildings, including three signature halls fronting South Main Street - Academy, Haseltine and Denworth.

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9.16.07 Lead Paint Tax Credit

A new proposed law, sponsored by State Senator Richard Tisei (R-Wakefield), seeks to increase the tax credit for the de-leading of homes for the first time in 13 years.

The Realtors® support the passage of SB 1827 “An Act Encouraging the Deleading of Residential Units”, which would increase the tax credit for de-leading homes from $1,500 to $2,500 per unit.

This bill would apply to “residential premises”, including single-family homes, condominiums, multi-family individual units, and apartments.

This bill would not affect the requirements of the Commonwealth’s Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP).

There are also several other financial assistance programs for de-leading residential premises.

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9.6.07 Update: Danvers In-Law Apartment Law

According to a recent Danvers Herald article, applicants under the Extended Family Living Area in-law zoning by-law (EFLA), adopted January 31, 2007, are having are difficult time gaining approval following the August 11, 2007 ninety (90) day grace period.

Issues arising appear to be the maximum 750 sf requirement. Also, the Zoning Board of Appeals is waiting for clarification from the Planning Department while the towns (and applicants) feel their way through the new bylaw.

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9.4.07 Danvers In-Law Apartment Law

According to the Town of Danvers, the Extended Family Living Area zoning bylaw was adopted on January 31, 2007 by Town Meeting for purposes of providing flexibility within the existing zoning bylaw to afford an opportunity to accommodate additional living arrangements.

The zoning law, applies to Single family property owners with a pre-existing Extended Family Living Area (“EFLA”), commonly known as in-law apartments, and originally granted a ninety (90) day grace period, ending on August 11, 2007, to submit a building permit with the Building Inspector to permit the pre-existing EFLA to lawfully continue in existence. A pre-existing EFLA was one in which the necessary zoning permits were not obtained and is in existence unlawfully.

Under the grace period, all pre-existing EFLA’s were permitted to continue and were exempt from the requirements such as a maximum of 750 sq. ft., maximum of two occupants, and a restriction of separate utilities. However, to ensure public safety, all pre-existing EFLA’s were subject to applicable building, electrical, plumbing and fire codes.

After August 11, 2007, the ninety (90) day grace period expired and property owners are required to obtain a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals for the continuation of a pre-existing EFLA. Unlike the grace period, the continuation of an EFLA subject to the special permit are NOT exempt from the requirements and the Zoning Board of Appeals may impose conditions and corrective changes to bring the EFLA as close to conformity with the requirements of the bylaw as possible.

Failure to bring a pre-existing EFLA into compliance via the grace period or the special permit procedures may result in enforcement actions.

For more information, the EFLA bylaw may be viewed on the Town’s webpage at , then click Bylaws & Regulations, click on 2007 Zoning Bylaw, click Section 9, “Accessory Uses” and then scroll down to Section 9.3, “Extended Family Living Area or you may contact the Building Inspector at 978-777-0001.

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9.2.07 Danvers Senior Town Planner Departing

The Danvers Herald reported that after 5½ years as the Senior Town Planner, Evan Belansky will be leaving Danvers Sept. 7 to become the community development director in Chelmsford.

Belansky’s new job will entail additional managing and supervising responsibilities, including staffing the planning board, zoning board and conservation.

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