Neighbors Appeal Modification of Subdivision Plan in Massachusetts Land Use Case

Massachusetts real estate disputes often arise when property owners feel that changes proposed by other landowners would adversely affect their property rights. In a July 26, 2017 case, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts considered whether a local planning board properly approved a modification of a 1947 subdivision plan that abandoned a portion of one road and replaced it with an easement.

The defendants in the case had sought the modification from the planning board in order to advance the commercial development of properties owned by the defendants along the subdivision road at issue. Upon the board’s approval to change the subdivision road to an easement, the defendants could then combine their lots and eliminate some of the zoning restrictions they faced.

The plaintiffs in the case were residential owners of lots that abutted the subdivision road from the north. They appealed the planning board’s decision to allow the defendants’ proposed modification, objecting to the changes. The Land Court ultimately affirmed the board’s approval, concluding that the plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate any harm affecting their lots from the discontinuation of a portion of the road and change to an easement. The plaintiffs subsequently brought their appeal to the Appeals Court of Massachusetts.

On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that their consent was required before the planning board could approve the plan abandoning the southern portion of the road and replace it with an access and utility easement. However, the court explained that only modifications which impaired the marketability of titles required the consent of bona fide purchasers, such as modifications that altered the shape or area of lots, denied access, impeded drainage, imposed easements, or encumbered the manner and extent of use of which the lot was capable when sold. The law did not require consent for changes which might have an indirect impact, such as turning a dead-end street into a through street, or concerns over traffic patterns, view, and over-all neighborhood density.

The appeals court concluded that the modification at issue would not impact the shape or area of the plaintiffs’ lots, impose easements on their property, or otherwise affect their rights as contemplated by Massachusetts law. The court went on to find that the plaintiffs would, in fact, have greater rights than those they previously enjoyed, as the defendants and their successors would have the responsibility to maintain the easement. Accordingly, the court affirmed the ruling of the zoning board that approved the modification requested by the defendants.

The Massachusetts land use attorneys at Pulgini & Norton can provide guidance and legal representation in any matter concerning residential property. We are experienced in handling zoning disputes, home purchases and sales, property agreements, mortgages and refinancing, and more. To schedule a consultation with one of our capable lawyers, call (781) 843-2200 or contact us online.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Land Court Explains Requirements for Acquiring Wooded Land by Adverse Possession, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published April 17, 2017

Massachusetts Property Owners Object to Modification of Subdivision Plan By Developer, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published November 7, 2016


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