Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Court

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The Stefanidises divided a parcel into Lot A and Lot B. The Stefanidses converted the building on Lot A into three condominium units and applied for a variance to built a two-family house on Lot B. The variance was approved, but the Stefanidses failed to record the variance. Pursuant to a subsequently granted building permit, the Stefanidses began to clear and prepare the site. More than one year after the variance was granted, Plaintiff, who lived in one of the units on Lot A, requested that the building commission revoke the building permit on the ground that the Stefanidses failed to record the variance within one year. The commissioner denied the request, and the zoning board of appeals upheld the commissioner's denial. The land court affirmed, determining that the variance had not lapsed because the Stefanidses had taken substantial steps in reliance upon it. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, on the facts of this case, the variance had become effective and had not lapsed. View "Grady v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Peabody" on Justia Law

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After falling down a staircase at a bar and restaurant in Boston, a college student died. Plaintiffs, the student's parents, filed this action against the restaurant and trustees of a trust that owned the land and buildings within which the restaurant operated. The complaint alleged claims against the restaurant and trustees for wrongful death and for violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. Plaintiffs based their chapter 93A claim on Defendants' alleged building code violations, which Plaintiffs claimed constituted unfair or deceptive conduct. A jury returned a verdict for Defendants on Plaintiffs' wrongful death claims, and the trial judge found in favor of Plaintiffs on the chapter 93A claim, finding that the student fell and suffered a fatal injury because the stairs were in an unsafe, defective condition having been rebuilt without necessary building permits. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that Plaintiffs were entitled to recover on their chapter 93A claim but that the judge erred in her calculation and award of damages. Remanded. View "Klairmont v. Gainsboro Rest., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fall River zoning board of appeals (Board) granted the C.B.L. Realty Trust (Trust) a variance for certain real property owned by it. The Fall River building inspector subsequently issued a notice of violation, ordering the trust to cease and desist from violating a Fall River zoning ordinance that concerned execution of the ordinance. The Board reversed the building inspector's order. Plaintiff, E & J Properties, LLC, commenced this action in the Land Court challenging the Board's decision. The Land Court affirmed the Board's decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board properly considered whether the city ordinance had been violated, as alleged in the notice of violation, on account of the Trust's failure to comply with the Board's variance decision within some specified "reasonable time"; and (2) the Board's decision that the variance did not require demolition within a particular time period was both legally tenable and reasonable. View "E & J Props., LLC v. Medas" on Justia Law

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An LLC filed an application for a comprehensive permit with the zoning board of appeals to build five three-story buildings with 150 rental apartments. The board denied the application. On appeal, the Housing Appeals Committee (HAC) vacated the board's decision and directed the board to issue a comprehensive permit. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the HAC did not err in calculating the regional need for low and moderate income housing; (2) substantial evidence supported the HAC's determination that the fire safety concern outweighed the regional need for low and moderate income housing; (3) the HAC did not err in concluding that the town need not acquire a ladder fire truck if the project were built and that other claims of adverse fiscal impact arising from the project may not be considered in evaluating whether the denial of project approval is consistent with local needs; (4) substantial evidence supported the HAC's determination that the development would not adequately protect wetlands; and (5) the HAC did not err in ordering the board to refund the fee it assessed the LLC to pay for the service's of the board's legal counsel. View "Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Sunderland v. Sugarbush Meadow, LLC" on Justia Law

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Hollis Hills, LLC filed an application for a comprehensive permit with the zoning board of appeals of Lunenberg to build condominium units in townhouses. The board denied the application. The Massachusetts housing appeals committee (HAC) set aside the board's decision and directed the board to issue a comprehensive permit. The superior court affirmed the HAC's decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was substantial evidence to support the HAC's finding that the existing subsidized housing in the region did not adequately address the regional need for housing; (2) substantial evidence supported the HAC's conclusion that the proposed project was not inconsistent with the town's master planning and would not undermine those plans; (3) the HAC did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the balance of interests under the circumstances favored the regional need for affordable housing rather than the local concern of a zoning noncomformity; and (4) the HAC did not err in not staying the proceedings until the Governor had appointed a fifth member to the HAC. View "Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Lunenburg v. Housing Appeals Comm." on Justia Law

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This case involved a parcel of land on a hill overlooking Cape Code Bay in the town of Truro with no frontage on any street. The parcel, however, had the benefit of an unspecified easement conveyed in an 1899 deed that provided a "right of way" to reach a nearby road. Plaintiffs filed suit in the Land Court to confirm the validity of the easement and to establish its precise location and characteristics. The court concluded that the Land Court judge did not err in concluding that the easement had not been extinguished by estoppel. But the court also concluded that the judge did err in limiting the width of the finished surface of any roadway built within the easement to twelve feet where the roadway must conform to the town's rules and regulations governing the subdivision of land, which required that the minimum width of a roadway for a single-family residence be at least fourteen feet and allow no waiver of this requirement. Therefore, the court vacated the judgment and remanded the case to the Land Court for further proceedings. View "Cater & another v. Bednarek & others, trustees, & others." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a private college, brought suit against a town and a local zoning authority (defendants), seeking, among other things, a declaration that its proposed development of residential and education facilities for older adults (Regis East) qualified for protection under the Dover Amendment, G.L.c. 40A, section 3, second par. The Dover Amendment exempted from certain local zoning laws or structures that were to be used by nonprofit educational institutions for "educational purposes." Because the court could not conclude that plaintiff "has no reasonable expectation" of demonstrating that Regis East would primarily operate in furtherance of educational purposes, the court vacated and remanded. View "Regis College v. Town of Weston & others." on Justia Law

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In 2006, the city enacted an ordinance that, in essence, proscribed the installation of all but one of the fire protective signaling systems approved by 780 Code Mass. Regs. 907.14.3. At issue was whether the code preempted the ordinance. The court held that, whether construing the Legislature's stated intention of ensuring uniformity in building regulations either as an explicit statement of its desire to foreclose local action, or as a statutory purpose that would be frustrated thereby, the ordinance could not stand. View "St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Western Massachusetts, Inc. v. Fire Dept. of Springfield & another." on Justia Law

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The Foggs challenged the issuance of a building permit to 81 Spooner Road, LLC (developer), by the building commissioner for the town of Brookline. At issue was whether a judge in the Land Court properly granted summary judgment in favor of Mr. Fogg and his mother, on the issue of their standing as "aggrieved" persons under G.L.c. 40A, section 17. The court concluded that the developer failed to rebut the Foggs' presumption of standing. Because the Foggs were deemed to have standing, the judge properly eliminated that issue from the ensuring trial on the merits of the parties' complaints seeking judicial review of the board's decision to rescind the building permit. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed. View "81 Spooner Road, LLC vs. Zoning Board of Appeals of Brookline & others (and a companion case )" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed an appeal in the Superior Court from a decision of the defendant board of health of Southbridge (board) approving a "minor modification" to the site assignment for an existing landfill and related processing facility in that town under G.L.c. 111, section 150A. At issue was whether plaintiffs had standing to seek judicial review of the Superior Court of the board's decision. As a threshold matter, the court concluded that the Superior Court judge had authority to allow plaintiffs' motion to extend the time for filing their notice of appeal. The court concluded, however, that on the record before the court, plaintiffs lacked standing to seek judicial review of the board's decision in the Superior Court as persons "aggrieved" and plaintiffs' substantive challenges to the decision lacked merit. View "Board of Health of Sturbridge & others v. Board of Health of Southbridge & another." on Justia Law