Karla L. Chaffee



  • Overview


    Karla Chaffee focuses her practice on land use litigation and transactions. She is a member of the firm’s Land Use and Real Estate + Development Groups.

    Land Use Litigation

    Karla handles complex federal litigation involving the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), First Amendment, and Equal Protection Clause. She is a member of the firm’s RLUIPA practice group and is a contributor to its blog, RLUIPA Defense. Karla also handles environmental litigation, and she defends claims brought under state and federal law, such as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

    She is skilled at negotiating dispute settlements and achieving success for her clients in court if their case goes to trial. Her successes include negotiating a favorable resolution for a national public utility company which faced environmental claims.

    Land Use - Transactional

    Karla performs due diligence work for real estate transactions prior to acquisition and financing. She assesses environmental risk of properties and determines what mitigation measures are needed, to help clients make the best business decisions and avoid potential liability. Finding appropriate mitigation measures has given her the opportunity to negotiate the terms of purchase and sale agreements, liability transfer documents, and insurance policies. She works with sellers, buyers and lenders to ensure a successful transaction.

    Karla provides guidance to clients seeking local zoning approvals. She counsels them on the impact of proposed or recently enacted land use legislation, as well as on land use trends across the country. Ms. Chaffee also serves on her local zoning board of appeals.

    Pro Bono and Community Involvement

    Karla is a member of Robinson+Cole's Pro Bono Committee, and is dedicated to doing pro bono work as part of her practice. She has helped multiple individuals and families obtain asylum in the United States. She has also worked with nonprofit organizations to help them obtain tax-exempt status. Karla assisted a local "friends" organization in preserving and adding land to a national park after a title dispute with the park’s abutting property owner. She also was part of a group of Robinson+Cole lawyers who helped a soup kitchen and food pantry continue operating in Norwich after the city denied a special permit and use variance.

    Karla was selected as a Rising Star in the Massachusetts Super Lawyers list from 2016 to 2019.

  • Experience
    • Experience


      • Helped volunteer "friends" organization preserve and add land to a national park after several disputes with neighboring property owner. ??

      • Represented national public utility company in defense of environmental claims based on historic property usage, and successfully negotiated resolution for client.

      • Currently representing?municipality in defending an action with RLUIPA and federal constitutional claims.

      • Reviewed federal court complaint to assess viability of claims against a California municipality under RLUIPA and the United States Constitution.
      • Regularly advises a national real estate organization on municipal and state-wide land use initiatives and trends across the country, often helping the organization prepare public comments on draft legislation.
      • Resolved customer complaints against Massachusetts retail energy supplier and negotiated payment agreements regarding overdue commercial accounts.
      • Involved in ongoing RLUIPA litigation in the Second and Third Circuits.?

      • Handling ongoing appeal to Massachusetts Appeals Court in ongoing, fact intensive land use dispute. ?

    • Professional Associations

      Professional Associations

      Environmental Business Council
      Site Remediation Committee (2013)

      Society for Women Environmental Professionals of Massachusetts (2011 - present)

      Boston Bar Association (2009 - present)

      American Bar Association (2009 - present)
      Chair of Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law's Land Use and Zoning Committee (2017 - present)
      Vice-Chair of Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law's Land Use and Zoning Committee (2016 - 2017)

      Medford, Massachusetts, Conservation Commission
      member (2014 - 2016)

      American Planning Association
      Massachusetts Chapter, Treasurer of Board of Directors
    • Honors + Awards

      Honors + Awards

      Selected as a Rising Star to the?Massachusetts?Super Lawyers?list from?2016 to?2019.

    • Community Involvement

      Community Involvement

      City of Medford
      Zoning Board of Appeals Member (2016 - 2018)

      Greater Boston Legal Services
      Team Captain, Annual Drive

      Town of Rowley
      Zoning Board of Appeals Associate (2019)
    • Publications


      "Local Government Regulation of Religious Land Uses Under RLUIPA," published in Practical Law, co-authored with Diana E. Neeves, John F. X. Peloso Jr. and Evan J. Seeman (2018)
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      "Getting Ready for Marijuana," published in The Commissioner (August 2017)
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      "RLUIPA Case of the Year? Minnesota Municipality Uses RLUIPA’s Safe Harbor Provision to Avoid Liability," published in Planning & Law, co-authored with Evan J. Seeman, Dwight H. Merriam and John F. X. Peloso Jr. (Spring 2017)
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      "Is Your Community Ready for Marijuana?" published in Planning & Law (Spring 2017)
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      "To Regulate or Not to Regulate? Short-Term Rentals and the Hard Questions Municipalities Are Starting to Ask," published in Planning & Law (Spring 2016)
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      "Revisions to ASTM E1527 and proposed revisions to the AAI Rule," published in New England Real Estate Journal (Dec 2013)

      "Inconsistency and Uncertainty Continue to Haunt RLUIPA Litigation," published in ABA Section of Real Estate Litigation (Spring 2010)

      "Six Fact Patterns of Substantial Burden in RLUIPA: Lessons for Potential Litigants," published in Albany Government Law Review, co-authored with Dwight H. Merriam (Spring 2009)

      "Massachusetts’ Chapter 40R: A Model for Incentive-Based Land Use Planning and Affordable Housing Development," published in Vermont Journal of Environmental Law (2008)

    • Presentations


      "Home is Where the Work Is: Regulating and Incentivizing Work Force Housing," during the American Bar Association Section of Real Property, Trust & Estate Law's 33rd Annual Virtual CLE Conference, “Building Bridges Together in the Practice of Law” (4/21/2021)
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      "Drones Fly Over Trespass, Nuisance, Privacy and Data Security Issues: What You Need to Know," co-presented with Virginia K. Trunkes, which discussed the potential of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS or drones) in the real estate industry as well as common legal issues associated with drones, (5/15/2020)
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      "How Land Use and Natural Resource Regulations are Shaping the Legal Cannabis Industry," in a webinar for the American Planning Association's Planning & Law division (3/21/2019)

      "Religious Land Use Disputes; Latest Case Law Updates and Strategies for Avoiding and Defending Claims," co-presented with John F. X. Peloso Jr. and Evan J. Seeman, webinar, presented by Thomson Reuters Practical Law? (1/17/2018)
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      "Ten Easy Lessons: How Local Governments Can Successfully Defend against RLUIPA Claims," co-presented with John F. X. Peloso Jr. and Diana E. Neeves, webinar, presented by the International Municipal Lawyers Association (12/11/2017)
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      "From Dudley to DC: Religious Land Use, Planning, and the Courts," co-presented with Evan J. Seeman, at the 2017 Southern New England American Planning Association (SNEAPA) Conference in Providence, Rhode Island (10/26/2017)
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      "RLUIPA Land Use Claims—Latest Litigation Trends and Key Case Law Developments," co-presented with Evan J. Seeman and John F. X. Peloso Jr., webinar (2/22/2017)
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      "Food and the First Amendment," co-presented with Brian R. Smith, at the SNEAPA 2016 Conference in Worcester, Massachusetts (10/21/2016)

      "Update on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA)," co-presented with Hiram B. Carey III and John F. X. Peloso Jr. (9/23/2016)
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      "Planning for Medical Marijuana Facilities in Massachusetts," at a Lunch N Learn sponsored by the Massachusetts Association of Planning Directors in Haverhill, Massachusetts (2/19/2016)
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      "Green New World: Challenges of Marijuana Legalization," at the Land Use Committee Meeting of the ABA's State and Local Government Law Section (2/12/2016)
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      "Planning for Medical Marijuana Facilities in Massachusetts," Berkshire County Regional Planning Commission (10/29/2015)
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      "Who's Renting Next Door? Airbnb, Similar Services and How Municipalities Are Choosing to Respond," at the American Planning Association's Northeast Planning Conference in Saratoga Springs, New York (6/25/2015)
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      "How to Avoid and Defend RLUIPA Suits," co-presented with Evan J. Seeman and Michael S. Giaimo (6/8/2015)

      "RLUIPA Defense: Avoiding and Defending RLUIPA Claims," co-presented with Evan J. Seeman and Hiram B. Carey III, spoke at the Touro Law Center's Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Institute's inaugural Bagels with the Boards CLE (2/27/2015)
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      "Environmental Risk in the Real World," co-presented with Christopher Foster, participated in a panel discussion on behalf of the Environmental Business Council of New England (EBC) in Boston, Massachusetts (1/15/2015)
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      "Corporate Environmental & Sustainability Reporting: Environmental and Legal Perspectives," at Massachusetts Chemistry & Technology Alliance, Inc. (MCTA), co-presented with Emilee Mooney Scott (12/12/2013)

      "Planner’s Roundtable: Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District," presented at Town of Arlington's Planning and Community Development department, co-presented with Gregory S. Sampson, Gregory S. Sampson and Gregory S. Sampson (11/7/2013)

      "Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District," at Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission (SNHPC), co-presented with Dwight H. Merriam (9/19/2013)

      "Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act Claims: Strategies for Local Governments to Avoid or Defend RLUIPA Actions," co-presented with Dwight H. Merriam, Hiram B. Carey III, Evan J. Seeman and John R. Bauer, William J. Kelleher III, webinar, presented by Strafford Publications (3/13/2012)

    • News

      R+C in the News

      • March 25, 2019

        Karla Chaffee Takes Part in Webinar on Cannabis and Land Use Regulation

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      • October 18, 2018

        51 Robinson+Cole Lawyers Recognized by Super Lawyers?

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      • June 22, 2018

        Robinson+Cole Employees Lend a Hand to New England Center and Home for Veterans

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      • March 9, 2018

        Karla Chaffee, Diana Neeves, John Peloso, and Evan Seeman Present Webinar and Author Practice Note for Thomson Reuters Practical Law?

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      • February 14, 2018

        Boston Lawyers Attend Annual John & Abigail Adams Benefit

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      • December 21, 2017

        Karla Chaffee, Diana Neeves, and John Peloso Present Webinar on RLUIPA Claims

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      • November 10, 2017

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Present at SNEAPA 2017 Conference

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      • October 23, 2017

        Karla Chaffee Elected Chair of ABA's Land Use and Zoning Committee

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      • October 3, 2017

        Karla Chaffee Elected Treasurer of APA-MA Board of Directors

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      • September 19, 2017

        Karla Chaffee Publishes Article for The Commissioner

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      • June 2, 2017

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Write Articles for APA Publication

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      • May 16, 2017

        Real Estate Lawyers Participate in ABA RPTE Spring Symposia

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      • February 28, 2017

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Examine Litigation Trends in RLUIPA Land Use Claims

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      • November 3, 2016

        Karla Chaffee Appointed to Medford Zoning Board of Appeals

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      • October 27, 2016

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Present at SNEAPA 2016 Conference

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      • October 4, 2016

        Land Use Litigation Lawyers Present at Touro Law Center

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      • July 20, 2016

        Karla Chaffee Appointed to Leadership Position of ABA’s RPTE Section

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      • May 4, 2016

        Land Use Lawyers Participate in APA National Planning Conference

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      • April 14, 2016

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Pen Articles for Planning & Law Newsletter

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      • March 8, 2016

        Land Use Lawyers Negotiate Settlement Allowing Soup Kitchen to Remain Open

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      • March 2, 2016

        Karla Chaffee Presents on Marijuana Issues at MAPD Lunch N Learn

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      • February 24, 2016

        Karla Chaffee Speaks on Marijuana Legalization Challenges at ABA Committee Meeting

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      • February 4, 2016

        Robinson+Cole RLUIPA Defense Lawyers Featured in News

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      • December 18, 2015

        Boston Lawyers Participate in 2015 WomenUp Event

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      • November 3, 2015

        Karla Chaffee Speaks to Planning Commission about Medical Marijuana Facilities

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      • July 9, 2015

        Land Use Lawyer Moderates Panel on Short-Term Rental Regulation

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      • July 6, 2015

        Land Use Lawyers Present IMLA Webinar on Avoiding and Defending RLUIPA Suits

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      • May 15, 2015

        Robinson+Cole Is a Sponsor of APA National Planning Conference

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      • March 6, 2015

        Land Use Lawyers Present at Touro Law's Bagels with the Boards CLE

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      • February 4, 2015

        Boston Lawyers Present on Environmental Risk

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      • August 14, 2014

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Host Networking Event at 2014 ABA Annual Meeting

      • March 18, 2014

        Boston Lawyer Appointed to Local Conservation Commission

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      • January 9, 2014

        Environmental and Utilities Lawyers Speak at MCTA Meeting

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      • November 25, 2013

        Boston LandLaw Lawyers Speak on Koontz to Planning Community

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      • October 7, 2013

        R&C Lawyers Speak on Koontz Issues at SNHPC Roundtable

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      • July 11, 2012

        Greater Boston Legal Services Honors Robinson & Cole Associates

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      • March 30, 2012

        Trial and Land Use Lawyers Present Webinar on Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act

      • December 15, 2011

        Boston Attorneys Coach Students to “Stand Up for Your Rights”

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      • March 14, 2011

        Robinson & Cole Attorneys Walk to the Hill in Boston

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      • December 2, 2010

        National Association of Realtors Honors LandLaw Partner and Firm

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      • July 13, 2010

        West Publishing Selects Writings by Land Use Lawyers for its Annual Compendium of Leading Articles

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      • June 3, 2010

        Article by Robinson & Cole Attorney Published in American Bar Association Real Estate Litigation Newsletter

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      • May 13, 2010

        Robinson & Cole Attorney Has Law School Note Republished

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      R+C News Releases

      • October 19, 2019

        52 Robinson+Cole Lawyers Recognized by Super Lawyers?

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      • December 17, 2018

        Robinson+Cole Promotes Nine Lawyers to Counsel

      • October 17, 2017

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Recognized by Super Lawyers?

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      • October 18, 2016

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Recognized by Super Lawyers?

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    • Legal Updates/Newsletters

      Legal Updates/Newsletters

      "MA Zoning Reform Focused on Housing Production; Waiting for DHCD Guidance" co-authored with Jessica D. Bardi (2/16/2021)