The Court of Appeals recently issued an interesting decision, Kitras v. Town of Aquinnah, 87 Mass. App. Ct. 10 (2015), concerning easements and accessibility rights to parcels of land owned in the late 1800s by members of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head in Martha's Vineyard. The parcels in question had been part of a larger tract of land owned by the Tribe in common ownership. In the 1870s, members of the Tribe petitioned the Court to partition, or divide, the land into individual parcels which were then given to individual Tribe members to be held in severalty. Many of the parcels that resulted from that division were landlocked. At the time the land was partitioned, provisions were not made for easements that would provide a right of access to those landlocked parcels. Over a century later, the owners of the landlocked parcels brought an action asking the Court to declare that the parcels of land had access easements across neighboring lots.
In a recent decision handed down in January 2014, the Supreme Judicial Court (the "SJC") has expanded on its well-known holding in M.P.M Builders, LLC v. Dwyer, 442 Mass. 87 (2004), to decide that an owner of registered land burdened by an easement can modify the dimensions of the way over his land "so long as the purposes for which the easement was created are not frustrated, and the utility of the easement is not lessened."