In a St. Patrick’s Day decision, the Appeals Court interpreted the “bona fide offer” requirement in the version of M.G.L. c. 61A, § 14 (which governs the classification of land as agricultural for property tax purposes) that was in force before the statute’s 2006 amendment.  Reversing a contrary Land Court decision, a divided Appeals Court panel held that an offer conditioned on receiving approvals for an affordable housing project under M.G.L. c. 40B was a “bona fide offer” that triggered the City of Newburyport’s 120-day right of first refusal.  The court also held that the fact that the land being sold consisted of two parcels did not, under the court’s 2002 holding in Plante v. Town of Grafton (pdf), entitle the city to exercise its right of first refusal on just one parcel, because unlike in Plante, the two parcels here are abutting.  This latter holding drew a vigorous dissent from Justice Trainor, who saw “no substantive difference between the facts in Plante and the facts of this case . . . .”

City of Newburyport v. Woodman (pdf), Appeals Court decision dated March 17, 2011.