Barrett backs “right to dry”

State Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, is supporting a new “right to dry” for Massachusetts residents. His bill would extend the right to hang laundry on clotheslines to all state residents.

Barrett introduced the legislation at the initiative of environmental activist Peggy Brace, a constituent from Concord. He recently testified in favor of the idea at a public hearing at the State House.

The practice of using clotheslines to dry laundry is often barred by condo and homeowner associations. Environmentally speaking, that’s unfortunate, Barrett says. “22% of all energy use in the U.S. is residential. Using the good old-fashioned clothesline in place of the energy-intensive automatic dryer is a beautifully low-tech way of cutting energy use, reducing pollution, and saving on bills.”

“This simple bill will make the clothesline right subject to discussion and local approval,” Barrett says. His legislation does not abridge action by municipal government to regulate time and place of clothesline use.

“In any given town, condo owners may have legitimate concerns — for example, the potential obstruction of scenery enjoyed by all residents” Barrett says. As a further safeguard, his bill would protect the aesthetic and safety interests of homeowners, by allowing homeowners’ associations to impose reasonable location and manner restrictions on clothesline use.

In 2010, led by Brace, Concord passed the first local “right to dry” measure in the state. The Attorney General’s office then overturned the action, citing a conflict with contract law. A statewide enabling statute, similar to what already exists in the states of Vermont and Maine, would allow Massachusetts communities to adopt the practice.

Last legislative session, Barrett’s bill received a favorable vote out of the Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government.