Local zoning decisions can radically change the landscape of neighborhoods, and challenging a local zoning board's decision in the Commonwealth's courts poses several procedural traps for the unwary. This is particularly true for challenging zoning decisions issued by the City of Boston's Zoning Board of Appeal.
In Drummey v. Town of Falmouth, the Massachusetts Appeals Court overturned a Superior Court ruling and held that the Town of Falmouth incorrectly failed to obtain a special use permit from the Falmouth zoning board of appeals in order to construct and install a wind turbine on town land. 87 Mass. App. Ct. 127 (2014).
In February, the Massachusetts Appeals Court clarified that the Land Court and Superior Court have exclusive jurisdiction over appeals of permits granted by cities and towns for large-scale development projects. See Skawski v. Greenfield Investors Property Dev., LLC, No. 13-P-1947 (February 27, 2015). The Court relied on G.L. c. 185, § 3A and its prior decision in Buccaneer Dev., Inc. v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Lenox, 83 Mass. App. Ct. 40 (2012), in rendering its decision.
In Pelullo v. Croft, the Massachusetts Appeals Court issued an important decision regarding zoning by-laws. 86 Mass. App. Ct. 908 (2014). The Defendant applied to the Natick building inspector for a permit to construct a single family home on his lot at 15 Upland Road. Id. at 909. The plaintiff, who owned a property abutting 15 Upland Road, filed an opposition to the permit application on the grounds that the lot did not meet the requirement in a Natick Zoning Bylaw that there be a "minimum lot depth of 125 feet" for the construction of a single family home in a residential zoning district. Id. at 908.
In a decision handed down just last week, the Appeals Court ruled that a large project permitting appeal filed in the Land Court's six-year-old permit session cannot be removed to the Housing Court, since the Housing Court lacks jurisdiction over such matters. In Buccaneer Development, Inc. v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Lenox, Appeals Ct. No. 1-P-1159, the Appeals Court vacated a Housing Court judgment upholding the Town of Lenox's denial of a special permit for construction of a twenty-three home retirement community, and remanded the matter to the Land Court for a new trial.