Proposed Law Would Open Beach Access in Massachusetts

It's harder to access the ocean in Massachusetts than any other coastal state in the country, but that could soon change.

2 minute read

September 29, 2021, 10:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

A fence shows a walkway to the beach in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

CO Leong / Shutterstock

"Thanks to a well-meaning ordinance approved by the king of England in the 1600s, modern Massachusetts (as well as Maine, due to the fact that it was once part of Massachusetts) today has what are considered the most restrictive ocean access laws in the country," according to a paywalled article by Billy Baker.  The law was one of the first to fracture the Public Trust Doctrine first expressed in Roman law and passed down through millennia until it came to Massachusetts.

That could change soon, however, after state legislators proposed a new law that hinges on a single word: recreation. Baker explains more:

Under the Massachusetts interpretation of the Public Trust Doctrine, a state law known as Chapter 91, the public can access “private tidelands’’ for only three purposes: “fishing, fowling, and navigation.’’ When it was formalized in 1866, Chapter 91 was meant to protect how the public customarily used the sea.

State Senator Julian Cyr and State Representative Dylan Fernandes are proposing that the Chapter 91 be rewritten to add recreation to the "fishing, fowling, and navigation" protections in Chapter 91, as Baker explains in the article.

Experts and stakeholders on either side of the issue present their case in the remainder of the article. One key consideration in the debate is climate change, and the public assistance some coastal landowners, who might be resistant to the proposed law, will require to deal with the effects of sea-level rise.

Thursday, September 9, 2021 in The Boston Globe

Large historic homes and white picket fences line a street.

The End of Single-Family Zoning in Arlington County, Virginia

Arlington County is the latest jurisdiction in the country to effectively end single-family zoning.

March 23, 2023 - The Washington Post

A view of the Boise skyline, across tress int he foreground. The state capitol is visible amongst other office buildings.

Skyline-Defining High-Rise Potentially Coming to Boise

A rendering making the rounds in Boise depicts a 40-story apartment building that would be taller than all other buildings in one of the fastest growing cities in the United States.

March 20, 2023 - Boise Dev

Buildings on Wall Street, New York City

The ‘Goldilocks Zone’ for Office Conversion

A formula for the ideal office-to-housing candidate.

March 21, 2023 - Fast Company

Empty Parking Lot

Parking Reform Gains Momentum

More cities and states around the country are recognizing the value of eliminating parking requirements.

6 minutes ago - Congress For New Urbanism


Pittsburgh Developers Push Back on Zoning Review Fees

An increase in fees for commercial construction projects is raising concerns from local developers who say the industry already faces rising costs to build in the city.

1 hour ago - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Aerial view of traffic on road and buildings in the Bronx, New York City

MTA Proposes Pollution Mitigation Spending for the Bronx

Acknowledging the impact the city’s proposed congestion pricing program could have on underserved neighborhoods, the agency plans to spend over $130 million in revenue from the program on air filtration, trees, and other pollution reduction measures.

2 hours ago - The New York Times

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

HUD’s 2023 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.