Last week the Appeals Court decided Miles-Matthias v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Seekonk (pdf), the latest opinion to address the 30-day window under M.G.L. c. 40A, § 15 for appealing the issuance of a building permit.

In Miles-Matthias, the plaintiffs were aware that the defendants planned to build three single-family homes that would share a common driveway.  The plaintiffs objected, on zoning grounds, to the common driveway, and voiced their concerns to the local building commissioner.  On these facts, the Appeals Court found that the plaintiffs had constructive notice that a building permit might be issued.  This constructive notice, in turn, triggered a duty of inquiry requiring the plaintiffs to monitor activity at the building commissioner’s office.  Had the plaintiffs done so, they would have learned that the building permit in fact issued on March 26, 2010, meaning the deadline for their appeal to the zoning board of appeals was April 25, 2010.  By the time the plaintiffs received a copy of the permit by mail on April 19, 2010, they had only six days left to file their appeal.  They appealed on May 3, 2010 – less than 30 days after receiving a copy of the permit but more than 30 days after it was issued.  Though the Superior Court ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor – finding that the appeal period didn’t begin to run until they received actual notice of the permit – the Appeals Court reversed based on the date they received constructive notice.

The clear lesson here is:  anyone who becomes aware that a neighboring landowner has applied for a building permit that may affect them, or who has any other reason to believe that such a permit might issue, should inquire of their local building department early and often, to avoid losing their right of appeal under M.G.L. c. 40A, § 15.