In Massachusetts, certain uses and activities must be permitted under local zoning laws or approved by the proper authority before they are allowed to take place on a specific parcel of property. In a March 21, 2019 Massachusetts zoning case, the plaintiffs sought to reverse a local decision that prevented them from transporting dirt and fill onto their property.
The plaintiffs in the case operated a farm on several parcels of property that they owned. From 1990 through 2016, the plaintiffs had gravel removed from one of the parcels, which eventually created a 45-acre, 40-foot deep pit on the property. The plaintiffs intended to fill the pit with dirt and restore the area in order to grow crops. They contracted with a hauling company to accept fill from construction projects in and around Boston. The hauling company was paid by construction sites to take away dirt fill, and the plaintiffs were paid to accept the fill while also having their pit filled in and restored to farming use.
The local building commissioner objected to the arrangement and ordered the plaintiffs to cease and desist all soil importation operations immediately. The zoning board upheld the commissioner’s order, finding that soil importation was not a permitted use under the local bylaws. The plaintiffs appealed the decision, and the matter was presented in the Massachusetts Land Court.