The Land Court’s recent decision in New Falmouth Woods, LLC v. Ballymeade Property Owners Association, Inc. is a double bogey for Ballymeade Country Club in Falmouth, Massachusetts.
The facts of the case are relatively simple. At the time Ballymeade Country Club was being developed, the owner of a neighboring residential subdivision recorded a Declaration of Covenants, Easements, and Restrictions (Declaration) pertaining to development of the land shown on a 1985 subdivision plan (the Land). The Declaration expressly states that its provisions apply to the “Land.” However, the Declaration also provides that Lots 9 and 11 – which are located in an adjacent subdivision and are not part of the Land – “shall be used only for Country Club Purposes.” At the time the Declaration was executed and recorded the declarant had no ownership interest in either Lot 9 or Lot 11.
The current owner of Lots 9 and 11 filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that its lots aren’t subject to the restrictions in the Declaration. The Declarant’s successor – the Ballymeade homeowners’ association (Ballymeade) – argued that the owner of Lots 9 and 11 was aware of the restriction and consented to its imposition. Ballymeade also argued that the restriction should be enforceable as a matter of equity. The Land Court ruled in favor of the owner of Lots 9 and 11, observing, “[i]t is axiomatic that a party cannot unilaterally impose restrictions on land in which that party holds no interest.”
The decision does not indicate what impact, if any, this result will have on golf course operations.