The Massachusetts Court of Appeals recently decided a zoning issue involving the development of a commercial horse farm on property previously designated as single-family use. In Lingerman v. 6 Mill Road, LLC (Ct. App. Mass 2015), the plaintiffs appealed a judgment from the Massachusetts Land Court upholding the decision of a local zoning board permitting the reconfiguration of the abutting property of the defendants.
In 2009, the defendants had purchased a 12-acre property, which included a single-family home, barn, and indoor riding facility. The zoning board granted the defendants approval to operate a commercial horse farm on the property, construct a 10-stall addition to the bar, and enlarge and relocate the existing indoor riding area. The plaintiffs appealed the issue, and the decision to issue the permit to the defendants was overturned on the grounds that the property lacked frontage and was in violation of a 1973 variance limiting the property to single-family use.
In 2011, the defendants’ neighbor split his two acres of property into two lots of one acre each. The defendants purchased one of the neighboring one-acre lots with the intent to cure the frontage problem. The plaintiffs requested an enforcement action from the building inspector to prohibit the combination of the purchased lot with the defendants’ existing property, which was denied. The plaintiffs appealed that decision to the zoning board. The zoning board affirmed the decision, finding that the purchased lot was exempt from the inclusionary housing requirements in the zoning by-law and that there was no prohibition against combining the properties. The plaintiffs then appealed to the Land Court, which affirmed the judgment of the zoning board, and the case reached the appeals court.
In their appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the zoning board erred in concluding that the parcel of land purchased by the defendants is exempt from the inclusionary housing requirements of the by-law, and that the lot cannot be used for any purpose other than single-family housing. However, the appeals court stated that the intent of the by-law at issue, which allows for property to be divided in connection with a development that creates a single-family dwelling, was meant to increase the supply of affordable housing. See § IX.I.2.b. The exemption in the by-law allows one of the lots to be used to develop one additional residential dwelling unit, while the other may be exempt, thereby allowing the defendants to operate a commercial business. In light of its interpretation of the by-law, the appeals court affirmed the decision of the Land Court and zoning board.
At the Massachusetts firm of Pulgini & Norton, our skilled real estate attorneys provide legal representation for clients in a variety of property law matters, including land use and zoning issues, easements, and other land transactions. To discuss your real estate needs with one of our experienced attorneys, call (781) 843-2200 or contact us online.
More Blog Posts:
Massachusetts Land Court Affirms Denial of Homeowner’s Application for Zoning Variance, Special Permit, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published August 14, 2015
Massachusetts Land Court Defines “Public Way” in Property Division Dispute, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published September 11, 2015