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Mass. Supreme Court Limits Standing for Zoning Appeals

In the recently decided case of Kenner v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Chatham, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court considered a case where a homeowner wanted to rebuild, but due to new laws had to raise the level of the new house by seven feet.  Some who lived near the project and thought the additional seven feet for the new home was intolerable, appealed the local permits issued for the new house.  The Land Court, after visiting the site, found that any impact by an additional seven feet of blocked ocean view would be minimal, and decided those appealing did not have standing.  The Appeals Court ruled that the Land Court committed error because the neighbor-plaintiffs had specified the type of harm they suffered.  The SJC heard the case on further appellate review and upheld the Land Court’s decision.
Generally, zoning standing involves two requirements:  (1) Does the alleged harm concern zoning laws?  (2) How strong is the evidence to support the claim of harm by the opponents to a project?  The SJC focused on the second point and ruled, “The adverse effect on a plaintiff must be substantial enough to constitute actual aggrievement such that there can be no question that the plaintiff should be afforded the opportunity to seek a remedy.”
The SJC has brought about several additional questions, such as what constitutes “no question”, or what is “actual aggrievement”?  However, in the immediate aftermath of the decision, it will be more difficult for those opposing projects to find the standing necessary to appeal them on zoning grounds.

If you have questions about Massachusetts real estate laws or concerns about the zoning appeals process in Massachusetts, and would like to consult an experienced Massachusetts real estate lawyer, contact Attorney Ted Cannon to schedule a consultation.