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Newton mayor says all permitted construction projects can resume starting May 6 if social distancing is followed

Adrian Hellman, his wife Penelope, and 6-year-old son Phillip haven't been able to live in their home since mid-February. In the middle of their renovation project, the coronavirus pandemic arrived and also a halt on all non-essential construction in Newton.
Adrian Hellman, his wife Penelope, and 6-year-old son Phillip haven't been able to live in their home since mid-February. In the middle of their renovation project, the coronavirus pandemic arrived and also a halt on all non-essential construction in Newton.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

All permitted construction projects in Newton will be able to resume Wednesday if crews follow social distancing and other measures to protect against the coronavirus, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said in a statement.

Fuller had previously halted all non-essential home construction — including home renovations and expansions — to follow the “spirit” of Governor Charlie Baker’s advisories designed to limit the spread of the virus.

Several Newton residents had criticized Fuller for not granting them exemptions to complete their home improvement projects, causing them to be displaced from their homes during the pandemic.

In Newton, construction can resume if project owners have a building permit, and workers follow measures to help prevent the spread of the virus. The workers also must wear face coverings wherever they are not able to remain at least 6 feet apart, Fuller said in the statement.

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Contractors or owners must provide the city’s Inspectional Services Department a signed form acknowledging “they understand and will follow Newton’s COVID-19 Safety Guidelines for Construction Sites,” Fuller said.

“Newton’s inspectors will do unannounced visits to job sites as well as routine inspections to ensure compliance,” Fuller said in the statement.

Fuller said she made the changes in Newton after Governor Charlie Baker on Monday updated his guidance on essential services where physical distancing, face coverings, hand hygiene, and cleaning can be maintained.

On Monday, Baker described an extended process to restart the Massachusetts economy that would prioritize public safety over speed, citing concerns over allowing another outbreak of the virus.

Baker’s warning came days after he extended his stay-at-home advisory for residents and closure of non-essential businesses to May 18.

According to the state, construction is considered an essential service if it is related to infrastructure or to products, services, and the supply chain in COVID-19 relief efforts.

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Work may also continue if it is for the operation or maintenance of an existing building, is permitted for an essential industry, or is for the production of new housing units, according to the state guidance on construction-related activities.

All construction sites should “incorporate protocols” to ensure safe distancing of workers, according to that guidance.

Matt Stout of the Globe staff and Globe Correspondent Anissa Gardizy contributed to this report.


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.