Massachusetts Land Use Monitor

Massachusetts Land Use Monitor

Real-Time News & Commentary on Massachusetts Land Use & Real Estate Law

Category Archives: Subdivision Control

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SJC Confirms That Zoning And Subdivision Control Are Two Different Animals

Posted in Nonconforming Use, Subdivision Control, Variances, Zoning
Last week the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) issued its much-anticipated decision in Palitz v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Tisbury.  The fact that the high court took this appeal directly from the Land Court (bypassing the Appeals Court) caused some to wonder whether a dramatic change in the law on the relationship between zoning and subdivision control – especially with… Continue Reading

Some Old Land Use Restrictions Don’t Die, Or Even Fade Away

Posted in Restrictive Covenants, Subdivision Control, Title
In its recent decision in Samuelson v. Planning Bd. of Orleans, the Appeals Court affirmed and expanded on its 2011 decision in Killorin v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Andover, which confined the reach of M.G.L. c. 184, § 23. That statute generally limits conditions or restrictions on the use of land to a term of 30 years. Thus,… Continue Reading

Under The Hood Of The Land Use Reform Bill, Part 2: Zoning Freezes And The Plan Formerly Known As ANR

Posted in Legislation, Subdivision Control, Zoning
In our continuing look at the Legislature’s proposed land use reform bill, “An Act Promoting the Planning and Development of Sustainable Communities” (the Act), we turn to the subject of zoning freezes and Approval Not Required (ANR) plans.  The Act proposes significant changes to existing law governing the zoning freezes triggered by building permits, special permits, and subdivisions.  These changes are in Sections 6-12 of the Act… Continue Reading

Land Court Sets Width and Grade of Long Unused Easement

Posted in Easements, Subdivision Control
In its 2012 decision in Cater v. Bednarek, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) upheld a Land Court decision that the plaintiffs’ easement had not been extinguished by abandonment or estoppel, even though it had not been cleared or used since its creation in 1899.  However, the SJC remanded the case to the Land Court to consider whether it had been too restrictive in limiting the… Continue Reading

Co-Drafter Of Colossal Land Use Reform Bill Touts Its Benefits

Posted in Legislation, Policy, Special Permits, Subdivision Control, Zoning
Jeffrey R. Lacy, AICP, is a Regional Planner with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Division of Water Supply Protection.  More importantly for present purposes, Jeff is also a co-drafter of House Bill No. 1859 (pdf), “An Act Promoting the Planning and Development of Sustainable Communities,” which is presently before the Joint Committee on Municipalities and… Continue Reading

Full Text of Massachusetts Land Use Reform Bill

Posted in Affordable Housing, Legislation, Policy, Subdivision Control, Zoning
Here’s the full text of Massachusetts House Bill H.1859, entitled “An Act Promoting the Planning and Development of Sustainable Communities,” which is presently before the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government.  I’ll be digging into this jam-packed bill over the next few weeks and posting my thoughts on some of its key provisions.  I invite our regular MLUM readers and others… Continue Reading

ALERT: Near End Of Session, Mass. Legislators Pushing Complex Bill That Would Change Zoning And Land Use Law As We Know It

Posted in Legislation, Policy, Subdivision Control, Zoning
A summary of what this bill would do is here.  A few things jump right out: (1) the bill’s title, “An Act Promoting the Planning and Development of Sustainable Communities,” gives me the willies; (2) sayonara, ANR plans; (3) allows town meeting to change zoning bylaws by a simple majority, promoting instability in the law; (4) authorizes impact fees so municipalities can… Continue Reading

Gosnold’s Gambit Thaws Subdivision Freezes

Posted in Subdivision Control, Zoning
Gosnold is the Massachusetts town that comprises Cuttyhunk and the other Elizabeth Islands, which stretch southwest from Woods Hole (Falmouth), between Buzzard’s Bay and Vineyard Sound.  Along with Martha’s Vineyard, Gosnold is in Dukes County.  Interestingly, except for Cuttyhunk and Penikese, the Elizabeth Islands are privately owned by the Forbes family. In its recent decision in Ridgeley Management Corp.… Continue Reading

Be A Commercial Real Estate Guru

Posted in Environmental, Miscellaneous, Subdivision Control, Zoning
On Tuesday, October 30, 2012, my colleagues and follow MLUM authors Gareth Orsmond and Michael Parker will be presiding over the next session of MCLE’s five-week “BasicsPlus” series on Commercial Real Estate.  Gareth and Michael will be covering zoning, subdivision control, and environmental site assessments.  The session runs from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and takes place… Continue Reading

One-Lot Subdivision Approved Thanks To Obscure Provision Of Subdivision Control Law

Posted in Subdivision Control
The Massachusetts Subdivision Control Law, M.G.L. c. 41, §§ 81K – 81GG, defines “subdivision” as “the division of a tract of land into two or more lots . . .” (emphasis added).  Given this definition, it has long been thought that there is no such thing as a one-lot subdivision.  But in a recent decision, Land Court Judge Gordon H.… Continue Reading

Appeals Court Shoots Down Planning Board’s “Offer You Can’t Refuse”

Posted in Subdivision Control
In the typical definitive subdivision plan scenario, if a plan requires waivers from the planning board’s rules and regulations, the developer goes before the board on bended knee, fearful the board will either deny the plan outright or – as often happens – impose onerous conditions in exchange for granting the necessary waivers.  In Collings v. Planning Board of Stow (pdf), the Appeals Court took… Continue Reading

Watch the Clock When Planning Board Refuses to Act

Posted in Subdivision Control
In Schultz v. Gately, Superior Court Judge Douglas H. Wilkins recently discovered that, “[s]urprisingly, there appears to be no clear authority on the proper avenue, if any, for challenging a determination” that a Planning Board makes in the course of monitoring compliance with an earlier approval.  This case involved several disputes between the plaintiff home buyers and a defendant builder. … Continue Reading

Appeals Court Affirms Planning Board’s Denial – Without Reasons – of Subdivision Approval

Posted in Subdivision Control, Zoning
In Nexum Development Corp. v. Planning Board of Framingham, the plaintiff developer challenged the defendant planning board’s denials of the developer’s applications for subdivision approval and for a cluster development special permit.  The Appeals Court affirmed the Superior Court’s denial of the developer’s appeal.  The Appeals Court held that, although the planning board failed identify its reasons for the… Continue Reading

Land Court Upholds Five-Acre Zoning

Posted in Policy, Regulatory Takings, Subdivision Control, Zoning
In O’Brien Homes, Inc. v. Lunenberg Planning Board (pdf), Land Court Judge Keith C. Long upheld a five-acre minimum lot size requirement that the Town of Lunenberg imposes on subdivisions of more than 25 acres.  The zoning bylaw at issue (Section 5.6) is designed to encourage developers to preserve open space in developments of more than 25 acres.  In return for… Continue Reading