Believing that excessive off-street parking has a negative impact on the character of residential neighborhoods, the Town of Barnstable adopted a general bylaw that limits the number of vehicles that can be parked overnight in residential districts.  A disgruntled resident filed suit, alleging that the town was attempting to impose a zoning regulation without complying with the procedures in M.G. L. c. 40A, § 5 for adopting and amending zoning bylaws (specifically, the two-thirds vote requirement).  While the trial court sided with the town, the Appeals Court, in Spenlinhauer v. Town of Barnstable (pdf), reversed.

Citing the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in Rayco Investment Corp. v. Board of Selectmen of Raynham (pdf), the Appeals Court ruled that the parking regulation should have been enacted under the procedures applicable to zoning amendments, and therefore was invalid.  The court was most influenced by the fact that Barnstable already comprehensively regulates other aspects of parking under its zoning bylaw.  The court also noted that there was no evidence supporting the town’s claim that its regulation of off-street parking was legitimately related to public health and safety concerns.

Assuming the town eventually enacts this same regulation as a zoning bylaw, the plaintiff’s current off-street parking will likely be protected as a lawful pre-existing nonconforming use.