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Mcgregor Legere & Stevens Plays Amicus Role in Recent Westfield SJC Ruling on Parkland Protection Featured

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In an unequivocal victory for environmentalists and proponents of open space and outdoor recreation, the MA Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that Article 97 protection may be triggered for municipal land without formally recording a deed, conservation restriction, or other instrument in the chain of title. Article 97, enacted by the voters in 1972, is an important element of the state's Public Trust Doctrine protecting public land and water areas.

The Boston law firm McGregor & Legere, PC represented the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions (MACC) pro bono in filing with the SJC a friend of the court brief that took the position which the Court adopted.

The Court's precedent setting decision in Smith v. Westfield on October 2, 2017, ruled that the Cross Street Playground in the City of Westfield is subject to Article 97 protection. This means the City must get a special super-majority vote of both the MA House and Senate in order to change the land use from playground to school.

Luke Legere, Esq., who authored the brief with Gregor McGregor and input from MACC's Legal Committee, commented, "The key was that the Court determined that Westfield clearly and unequivocally had dedicated the Cross Street Playground for permanent use as a public park over 60 years, and the public had used it that way. On these facts a two-thirds vote of the Legislature is needed per Article 97 of the Amendments to the MA Constitution before changing the use or otherwise disposing of the property."

Mr. Legere continued, "In reaching this conclusion, the Court considered the totality of the circumstances, meaning all the relevant facts, but ultimately pointed to the City's acceptance of federal Land and Water Conservation Fund grant money to rehabilitate the playground as the 'determinative factor'."

Gregor McGregor, Esq. added, "The SJC also explicitly rejected the view, which some had seen in prior cases, that land not originally taken or otherwise acquired for Article 97 purposes would need some kind of a formal recording in the registry of deeds in order to trigger Article 97 protection afterwards. This puts to rest uncertainty about what legal paperwork is needed to protect municipal, county and state owned public natural resource lands and water areas in Massachusetts."

The many friend-of-the-court briefs by the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions (MACC), Conservation Law Foundation of New England, Inc.(CLF), The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR), Association for the Preservation of Cape Cod (APCC), Massachusetts Audubon Society, Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition (MLTC), Massachusetts Attorney General, and Sanjoy Mahajan (lead plaintiff in the Long Wharf litigation) is a measure of the stakes in this ruling.

Read 2815 times Last modified on Thursday, 20 December 2018 15:52
Gregor I. McGregor, Esq.

GREGOR I. McGREGOR, Esq. is the founder of New England’s oldest environmental law firm McGregor & Associates, PC in Boston, formed in 1975 and now McGregor Legere & Stevens,PC (formerly McGregor & Legere PC). The firm handles all aspects of environmental law, land use, real estate, and related litigation. The firm is a founding member of the Environmental Law Network (ELN), an alliance of specialty law firms, in the United States and abroad, sharing their legal expertise and practical experience for the benefit of their clients. Mr. McGregor enjoys Martindale-Hubbell’s highest rating for attorneys (AV).

In 45 years of environmental practice, Mr. McGregor's cases in court broke new ground in the law of Environmental Impact Statements under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA), wetland and floodplain protection under the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act, hazardous waste cleanup liability and cost-recovery under the Massachusetts Superfund, reduced taxes and tax exemptions for qualified land conservation transactions, constitutional protections for open space and parkland, Home Rule environmental ordinances and bylaws of cities and towns, law enforcement and contempt remedies, and the constitutional doctrine of Regulatory Takings.

Before 1975, Mr. McGregor was an Assistant Attorney General of Massachusetts and the first chief of the Attorney General’s Division of Environmental Protection. In that capacity he advised and represented the Commonwealth during the formative years of Massachusetts environmental statutes, agencies, regulations, enforcement and cases in court.

Mr. McGregor is editor of the two-volume treatise on Massachusetts Environmental Law, published by Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, Inc.(MCLE). He is co-chair of MCLE’s annual Environmental, Land Use, and Energy Law Conference and MCLE’s Real Estate and Environmental Law Curriculum Advisory Committee. He received from MCLE in 2013 its Scholar-Mentor Award recognizing his dedication to legal scholarship and leadership.

Mr. McGregor chairs the Environmental Committee of the Real Estate Bar Association for Massachusetts (REBA) and serves as a member of the REBA Board of Directors. He is an active member of the Massachusetts Municipal Lawyers Association (MMLA), which honored him for his career contributions to legal education and effective advocacy on the Home Rule Doctrine. At the National CLE Conference in Vail, CO, Mr. McGregor co-chairs an annual seminar on Environmental Law, Land Use, Energy & Litigation for attorneys from across the United States.

Mr. McGregor is a long time member of the board of directors of the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions (MACC) having served as Board President twice. He has handled several cases for MACC as amicus and is a regular presenter at their annual meeting.

Mr. McGregor is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School.

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