Being the change we need to protect cities and towns in Massachusetts from environmentally harmful development.
Thank you to all who provided oral or written testimony
at the hearing on July 27, 2021 to
The Joint Committee on
Municipalities and Regional Government
An Act to prevent
nonprofit institutions from avoiding wetlands or natural resource
protections under the so-called Dover Amendment.
Recorded testimony coming soon.
Click here for a message from one of the bills sponsors, Rep. Pete Capano.
The future site of Northeastern University’s Coastal Sustainability Institute, Nahant, sited for development using the Dover Amendment on maritime shrublands, in a natural resource district and adjacent to wetlands. The area is one of the last undeveloped coastal headlands along Massachusetts Bay.
ABOUT AMEND DOVER
Amend Dover is campaigning for a clarification to the Massachusetts state law — the so-called Dover Amendment— that would make it clear that nonprofits seeking to build in local communities are not exempt from local wetlands bylaws or natural resource protections.
These institutions should be held to the same environmental and conservation laws as any residential or commercial user would.
Clarifying the Dover Amendment is a small step to protect MA municipalities from development that conflicts with local environmental bylaws.
More than 70 years ago, the Massachusetts Legislature passed the Dover Amendment - a bill that prevents cities and towns from discriminating against expanding religious and educational institutions. It allows for religious and educational institutions to be exempt from most local zoning restrictions.
But now, with so many Massachusetts communities trying to protect local wetlands and natural resource areas, "DOVER" needs to be amended. Religious and educational institutions seeking to expand should not be exempt from local environmental protections.
THE ORIGINAL DOVER AMENDMENT
After admirably serving its purpose to enable religious and educational instutions to expand without prejudicial bias, it is now time to update "Dover.” We need an amendment that proposes language that ensures that areas determined to be environmentally critical for the security, health, and vibrancy of Massachusetts communities will not be exempt under the Dover Amendment. All of us, no matter how noble and important our cause, are obligated to follow our local environmental bylaws.
AMENDING DOVER WILL SAVE AREAS OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERN
PROTECTION FOR OUR COASTAL AND NATURAL HABITALS
Under the Dover Amendment, certain non-profits are not subject to local conservation bylaws. But projects begun by these groups should respect the environment and they should be in harmony with local environmental protections.
STEWARDSHIP FOR NATURAL RESOURCE AREAS
With increased population and with the need for econmic development, open spaces and natural resource areas are being greatly reduced. Residential and commercial projects must follow local bylaws. A new bill will ensure that all not-for-profit institutions do the same.
CONSERVATION FOR MIGRATING BIRDS
Massachusetts' open spaces are essential "way stations" for migrating birds. These birds depend upon places to rest, to replenish, and to relaunch. Projects currently allowed under "Dover" reduce areas of haven and food. These projects also potentially introduce even more hazards along the migratory routes - glass windows may create deadly collisions and night lighting further obstructs night flying on migratory routes.
Lobstermen and Environmental activists object to expansion allowed under the Dover Amendment
Amending Dover will help municipalities and regional governments manage development and avoid costly litigation
All localities regulate development. They are concerned that new building projects not adversely impact the health and the safety of their communities or put undue burden on master plans or projected budgets. Costly litigation may be the only recourse for municipalities opposing expansions which are pushing forward under the current provisions of the Dover Amendment, regardless of the local impact.
This was never the intention of the Dover Amendment.
The Amend Dover is not opposed to non-profits seeking to expand, and in no way seeks to impair their protection against discrimination. But the provisions of the Dover Amendment should not be abused. Local governments must be allowed to enforce their local wetlands and natural resource bylaws with respect to all landowners.
THE DOVER AMENDMENT AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Lands threaten by the Dover Amendment misuse in the news
EAST POINT, NAHANT
Under the Dover Amendment's outdated language, Nahant's East Point is now at risk of being destroyed to give way to a 55,000 square foot glass and steel "Urban Coastal Sustainability Institute," a project that will require overwhelming infrastructure improvements to the small, residential, beach community, increased rescue and security support services, and interference with the town's only industry - lobstering.
MARY CUMMINGS PARK, BURLINGTON
Mary Cummings Park provides essential open space to the bustling community of Burlington. However, Northeastern University embarked upon a building program that has permanently altered its natural site-lines. The University was able to accomplish the project by relying upon the provisions of the Dover Amendment.
WEBSTER WOODS, CHESTNUT HILL
In 2019, Newton residents took swift action to prevent Boston College’s plans for expanding its campus in conservation lands. To prevent BC from relying upon the current provisions of the Dover Amendment when it was considering development in its newly acquired Webster Woods Conservation Area, the Town voted to take Webster Woods through Eminent Domain. Eminent Domain is currently the only protection the State offers to protect municipalities from potentially harmful building under the Dover Amendment. But Ian eminent domain taking is costly and involves prolonged litigation. Nevertheless, the City of Newton has set aside upwards of 17 million dollars of Community Preservation Funds and up to $725,000 in legal expenses to protect its natural resource area - funds that could have been used for other community projects.
The current language Dover Amendment has invited lawsuits, brought by municipalities and preservation groups
Under the current provisions of "Dover,” non-profits classified as religious or educational generally are permitted to expand on their property regardless of local zoning and conservation bylaws.
Massachusetts’ communities are greatly enriched by the presence of non-profit organizations. But, in recent years, there have been several lawsuits involving non-profits using the provisions of the Dover Amendment for projects that are incoming producing, and not specifically religious or educational.
As towns and cities consider ways to become resilient in an era of climate change, preserving undeveloped, open spaces is critical. Funds that could be used for mitigation and planning for climate change should not be diverted for protracted litigation.
An amendment to Dover provides a benefit to us all — non-profits claiming educational or religious exemption under the Dover Amendment should be held accountable. Their projects should not adversely impact the environmental stability of the area and on the long-term sustainability of their host community.
In an era of climate change, all of us must do our part to minimize our environmental footprint.
The Amend The Dover Amendment Movement is not opposed to research institutions seeking to expand. We need an amendment that will clarify that building for educational pursuits must be done in harmony with the environment.
Join environmental advocates from all over Massachusetts. Let's pass an act to prevent religious and educational institutions from avoiding wetlands or natural resource area protections under the Dover Amendment.
2019-2020 SUPPORTORS OF AMENDING DOVER
HEARING ON H.1765, STATE HOUSE, JULY 16, 2019
July 16, 2019
Some 20 persons - private citizens, elected officials, and executives of conservation groups - testified on Beacon Hill for H.1765 at a Hearing of the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Governments.
FROM IDEA TO REALITY: THE IMPACT OF DOVER ON MUNICIPALITIES
The Massachusetts Municipal Association has published an opinion sheet on current uses of the Dover Amendment. The concern: projects using exemptions based on the 70-year-old Dover Amendment can lead to extremely costly litigation for local municipalities.
CONSERVATION LAW FOUNDATION: 1-ON-1 WITH AMEND THE DOVER AMENDMENT
July 10, 2019
New England's Conservation Law Foundation both testified at the H.1765 Hearing and issued a "Take Action" release, stating: “Under the Dover Amendment, such entities are generally exempt from local bylaws and, as a result, can sometimes pursue major building projects that threaten wetlands, woodlands, open space, and habitats."