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State Sen. Barrett defends right to dry clothes outside

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  July 12, 2013 01:45 PM

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A local legislator is hoping to hang clothesline bans out to dry.

This week, state Sen. Michael Barrett testified in favor of a new bill he sponsored that defends Massachusetts residents' right to line-dry their clothes outdoors -- an issue that has been gaining traction across the nation.

Currently, many local condominium associations and gated communities ban the practice that can be considered an eyesore. But conservationists argue that drying on a clothesline is eco-friendly and saves energy by eliminating the use of tumble-dryers.

“Using old fashioned clotheslines in place of automatic dryers is a beautifully low-tech way to cut energy use, reduce pollution and save on energy bills," Barrett said in a statement, noting that 22 percent of all energy use in America is residential.

The bill, filed on behalf of environmental activist and Concord resident Peggy Brace, would give more power to those wishing to dry their clothes with sunshine.

If passed, local communities could decide on a town-by-town basis if they wished to enable a blanket "right to dry" law allowing residents to hang their laundry outside, as long as it also did not obstruct neighbors' views, Barrett said over the phone.

“In any given town, condo owners may have legitimate concerns -- the potential obstruction of scenery enjoyed by all residents, for example -- but most of these can be taken into account by the wording of local bylaws,” Barrett said. “The final bill will make the clothesline right subject to discussion and local approval, and will authorize local action to accommodate the time, place and manner of clothesline use.”

In 2010, Brace also led a movement to get Concord to pass the first local "right to dry" measure in the state, but the Attorney General’s office then overturned the action, citing a conflict with contract law, Barrett said.

A statewide enabling statute, similar to what already exists in the states of Vermont and Maine, would allow Massachusetts communities to adopt the practice, Barrett said.

The "right to dry" movement has begun to pop up in various states, gaining national attention over the past half-dozen years. According to a New York Times article, state lawmakers in Colorado, Hawaii, Maine and Vermont have overridden these local rules with legislation protecting the right to hang laundry outdoors, citing environmental concerns since clothes dryers use at least 6 percent of all household electricity consumption.

Florida and Utah already had such laws, and similar bills were being considered in Maryland, North Carolina, Oregon and Virginia at the time the 2008 article was written.
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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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