Massachusetts Landowners File Protest Petition in Opposition to Rezoning Decision

Many property owners become concerned when areas in their neighborhood undergo zoning changes and are used for purposes not originally intended.  The landowners in a January 5, 2018 Massachusetts land use case took action after learning of zoning changes in their neighborhood.

In the case, the city council had approved a zoning amendment to rezone land owned by the defendants.  The city council had also granted the defendants a special permit approving their proposed development of the land.  The plaintiffs were nearby property owners opposed to the development and zoning change of land in their neighborhood.  In response to a rezoning decision made by the city council, they submitted a written protest to the city clerk.

Pursuant to Massachusetts law, if the requirements of the protest statute are met, the number of votes of the city council necessary to pass a zoning amendment is increased from two-thirds to three-fourths.  The plaintiffs in the case argued that their protest petition met the statutory requirements needed to require additional votes from members of the city council to approve the change.

The question for the land court was whether the protest petition, in fact, had enough signatures to trigger elevated voting requirements for the city council to adopt a zoning amendment.  This required a calculation involving all of the land immediately adjacent and extending 300 feet from the land to be rezoned.  The area of land owned by the protestors within that region was to be divided by the total area of the region.  If the protestors owned at least 20 percent of the total land, a three-fourths vote would be required to adopt the voting change.

One of the primary arguments of the plaintiffs was that the area of the streets and the area owned by the defendants should be excluded from the total area of the region extending 300 feet from the land to be rezoned.  The land court disagreed, noting that nothing in the language of the statute or the legislative history excludes land found in the streets, nor does it exclude other land owned by the owner of the lot to be rezoned.

Consequently, in calculating the percentage of land owned by the protestors in the adjacent region, the land court found that the plaintiffs failed to meet the 20 percent threshold necessary to trigger additional votes of the city council.  After considering other arguments by the plaintiffs, the land court ultimately dismissed the plaintiff’s claim, holding in place the city council decision to rezone.

If you require legal guidance from a Massachusetts real estate attorney, Pulgini & Norton can help.  Our team handles a range of residential property issues for individuals in areas such as zoning, mortgages, purchase and sale transactions, building permits, and many other matters.  Contact our office at (781) 843-2200 or reach out online to schedule a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Residents Challenge Decision to Lease Town Property to Solar Company, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published October 23, 2017

Neighbors Appeal Modification of Subdivision Plan in Massachusetts Land Use Case, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published August 7, 2017

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