Friday, April 17, 2020

My Cousin Vinnie’s Observations During a Pandemic

My Cousin Vinnie, the suburban real estate attorney, has been going to his office (alone) everyday during the pandemic. He is
pleased that he is considered to be “essential”. He sent me an email with the following unrelated observations:

It has been more than delightful to hear from collegial friends like Ed Rainen, Karen Johnson and others with new client referrals during these dreary days.

Our home builder clients are essential businesses and they, and their brokers and crews, continue to put homeowners together with new homes. God bless them all.

Almost everybody has been patient and understanding with the complexities involved in providing services, and the precautions involved in performing closing transactions.

I am glad that REBA is keeping track of the emergency legislation and working on ways to keep business moving forward.

My reduction in income has been offset from savings from restaurants, sporting events and travel. I feel bad for my dry-cleaner.

I was surprised to find attorneys with fancy downtown addresses that needed more time to respond to my case citations in memorandums because their only access to legal research materials was within the now-closed courthouse law libraries. Huh?

Conference calls that should take 20 minutes take an hour because everyone on the call is thrilled to have some form of human contact, and they don’t want it to end.

I have a suggestion on how people can spend some of their spare time: order some new casual clothes on-line. Too many people on Zoom meetings look like they are dressed for gardening.

From the video conferences I have learned that a lot of people have very nice kitchens with custom cabinetry and tray ceilings.

I learned how to insert fake photos into backgrounds in a Zoom conference; so now it looks like I have a 5,000 sq ft kitchen, overlooking the ocean.

Some towns were early adopters to using video conferences for public hearings. Some other towns, not so much. I found my local planning board to be empathetic that applicants had been waiting for many weeks for a hearing, and they did whatever they could to move the process forward.

I spent a weekend binge watching Massachusetts corruption on TV, and now I find it hard to distinguish between the fiction in “City on a Hill”, and the non-fiction in “How to Fix a Drug Scandal”. 

Although I am glad that Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020 was enacted to deal with some of the land use permitting issues, I am concerned about the potential implications of the provisions which state: “..a permit granting authority may contest the completeness of an application at the time of filing if the application is ultimately denied by the permitting board on other grounds or if the permit is ultimately appealed by the applicant.”

I need a haircut.

A former REBA president, Paul Alphen currently serves on the association’s executive committee and co-chairs the long-range planning committee.  He is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Abstract Club. He is a partner in the Westford firm of Alphen & Santos, P.C. and concentrates in residential and commercial real estate development, land use regulation, administrative law, real estate transactional practice and title examination .As entertaining as he finds the practice of law, Paul enjoys numerous hobbies, including messing around with his power boats and fulfilling his bucket list of visiting every Major League ballpark.  Paul can be contacted at

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