Lead Sponsor: Senator Jamie Eldridge
Summary: Local municipal boards, including conservation commissions, are vested with the authority to administer a variety of important land use and other bylaws, ordinances and regulations, and need adequate enforcement tools. When a local law is being violated, the municipality will often go to court to seek an injunction against the law breaking action. Under current law, the court lacks the authority to assess a civil penalty. This bill would allow municipalities to seek the imposition of civil penalties in court when they obtain equitable enforcement of a local law or regulation. The Senate passed this legislation last session.
Why This Matters: The current tools are lacking. For example, when faced with a violator who refuses to pay a “non-criminal disposition” fine, a municipality’s only recourse is to pursue a criminal complaint in District Court, which costs the town in legal fees. The payment of those fees is in effect, optional, leading to willful violations of local laws. Further, when someone fails to comply with an enforcement order under a town’s wetlands bylaw (that requires them to cease and desist or restore damage to wetlands resources) then a non-criminal disposition fine would be issued, but rarely collected.
The Municipal Enforcement bill would allow municipalities to seek the imposition of civil penalties in court when they obtain equitable enforcement of a local law or regulation.
View the full text of the bill and track its history here.