New construction and major changes to property may have an unwelcome impact on other homeowners. Whether or not a person can formally contest a proposed change, however, depends on if they have standing to bring a legal action. The question of standing was one of the main issues in a November 15, 2018 Massachusetts real estate case before the Court of Appeals.
The defendants in the case had received a variance from the local zoning board, which allowed them to go forward with the proposed construction of a home on a vacant lot they owed. The vacant lot was adjacent to an existing house, also owned by the defendants. The plaintiffs’ property abutted and was adjacent to the vacant lot on the other side. In securing the variance, the proposed house would be closer to the plaintiffs’ property than otherwise allowed.
The plaintiffs filed an action in Land Court challenging the variance. Ultimately, the Land Court concluded that the defendants’ two lots had merged, and as such, a variance could not issue to allow construction of a second home on the property. The defendants appealed, arguing that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the action.