Massachusetts Property Owner Succeeds in Obtaining Approval to Divide Land on Appeal

Making certain changes to your property, such as dividing or building on your lot, may be subject to local zoning laws in Massachusetts.  These changes typically require approval, as illustrated in an August 15, 2018 case before the Massachusetts Land Court.

The plaintiff in the case owned a large parcel of property that straddled the Massachusetts and New Hampshire state line.  He had sought approval from the local planning board to divide a portion of his property into three lots.  All three proposed lots were located in Massachusetts, met the minimum frontage and lot size requirements, and had frontage on a public road.  The board nevertheless denied the request, finding that the proposed plan would result in the New Hampshire parcel becoming landlocked.

The plaintiff appealed the board’s decision with the Massachusetts Land Court.  On appeal, the issue to be decided by the court was whether it was appropriate for the board to consider how the division of one portion of the property located in Massachusetts would affect another lot located in New Hampshire.

The court first looked to the Subdivision Control Law under which the plaintiff had submitted his proposed plan.  The court found that land subject to an approval-not-required (ANR) plan must be situated within the boundaries of a city or town, and considered by the planning board of the city or town in which the land is located.  The board has no authority under the law to regulate land outside its borders.  Accordingly, the court held that the board was restricted to the boundaries of its jurisdiction, and could not regulate the land within its boundary based on the land outside of its perimeters.  In effect, the court explained, the board was attempting to regulate land in the state of New Hampshire in the absence of an interstate compact, which it cannot do.

The court went on to hold that access to the New Hampshire portion was not a valid consideration under the Subdivision Control Law.  Even if that portion was, in fact, landlocked, the issue could only be decided between the private parties involved, the state of New Hampshire, and the New Hampshire town in which it was located.  Further, the court noted that the board’s public safety concerns relating to emergency vehicle access to the New Hampshire portion was outside the scope of the ANR endorsement, as the board was limited to considering only the portion within its jurisdiction.  Because the frontage and access requirements were met, and the plan did not show a subdivision, the court held that it must be endorsed.

The Massachusetts real estate attorneys at Pulgini & Norton can assist residential land owners in determining how they can alter their property under local zoning laws.  We have also represented home purchasers or sellers in property sales transactions, title actions, mortgage disputes, and many other residential real estate matters.  Arrange a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable lawyers by calling (781) 843-2200 or contacting us online.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Property Owners Seek Approval of Plan Through Adequacy Regulations, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published February 19, 2018

Massachusetts Landowners Successfully Challenge Permit Issued for Housing Development Next to Their Property, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published September 19, 2016


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