Plaintiffs Object to Neighbors’ Proposed Garage Construction in Massachusetts Zoning Appeal

Individuals may have the right to appeal a decision from their local zoning board if the matter directly affects them or their property.  The Massachusetts Land Court reviewed such an appeal in a January 3, 2017 case, in which the plaintiffs objected to a decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals.  The Board had granted a special permit allowing the defendants to rebuild a deteriorated garage on their property.  By issuing the permit, the Board approved a proposed structure that was higher than the original and in a different location of the defendants’ property.

On appeal, the Land Court first addressed the issue of standing by determining whether the plaintiffs had suffered some infringement of their legal rights.  The plaintiffs asserted standing based on noise, density, harm to the salt marsh and related flooding, diminished views and vistas, and diminution in value of their property.  After reviewing the evidence, the court concluded that the plaintiffs had standing based only on an increase in density but not on the other grounds asserted.  In particular, the court found that the new garage’s increase in height and the movement of residential activity closer to the plaintiffs’ property were sufficient to provide standing based on an increase in density.  The court went on to rule against the plaintiffs’ procedural arguments, holding that the Board’s actions in approving and issuing the special permit were not in error.

Finally, the court reviewed whether the special permit was granted based on an unreasonable, capricious, or arbitrary exercise of judgment in applying the land use regulation to the facts. Pursuant to the local bylaws, special permits are only granted if the applicant demonstrates that no undue nuisance, hazard, or congestion will be created, and there will be no substantial harm to the established or future character of the neighborhood or town.  In addition, the proposal must not be substantially more detrimental to the neighborhood, zoning district, or town.

In considering the evidence, the court observed that the defendants’ existing garage was essentially a dilapidated structure that cannot be used to park cars.  The court also noted that the plaintiffs’ issues with the proposed garage focused on its increased size and the movement of residential activity to the edge of the property closer to them.  However, the court found that the plaintiffs’ complaints were diminished by the many benefits the new garage will create.  These include the creation of a new, modern, stable structure, unlikely to become a flood hazard, which is more aesthetically pleasing and within the character of the neighborhood, and which will remove parked cars from the street and electrical power lines from view.  Concluding that the proposed garage would not create an undue nuisance, congestion, or substantial harm to the character of the neighborhood, nor would it be substantially more detrimental than the existing garage, the special permit was upheld.

The Massachusetts firm of Pulgini & Norton provides legal representation and advice in all areas of residential real estate law.  Our land use attorneys can assist individuals in challenging or obtaining special permits, buying or selling a home, obtaining a mortgage, and facilitating property transactions.  To discuss your real estate needs with an experienced lawyer, call Pulgini & Norton at (781) 843-2200 or submit our online contact form.

More Blog Posts:

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

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

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