For many owners of residential beach homes in Massachusetts, their ocean view is an important and enjoyable part of their property. In order to make certain changes to the home, therefore, local zoning laws generally require a special permit or variance. In a July 12, 2019 Massachusetts real estate case, the owner of a beach house opposed the building permits granted to her neighbors for a tear-down and rebuild of a new residence. The matter came before the Land Court on appeal by the plaintiff, following the decision of the local zoning board.
Both of the parties’ properties were on a peninsula near the ocean. The plaintiff resided in a single-story home with a deck. The defendants reportedly tore down an existing, single-story, non-conforming residence and built a new two-story home in its place. Although the plaintiff’s view of the ocean from her deck became partially obstructed by the second story of the defendants’ new house, the height of the house fully complied with current zoning. Other aspects of the house, however, were not.
On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the defendants’ new home increased the nonconformity of the floor area, open space, and setbacks beyond the limits allowed under the town zoning bylaw. While the defendants had obtained a building permit to construct the house, the plaintiff asserted that the defendants were required to obtain a special permit or variance for the new build.