In a recent “unpublished decision” in A.L. Prime Energy Consultant, Inc. v. City Council of Woburn (pdf), a panel of the Appeals Court affirmed a Land Court ruling that the Woburn City Council’s denial of the plaintiff’s application for a special permit to build a gas station and convenience store was “unreasonable, whimsical, capricious or arbitrary.” In denying the permit, the council had cited potential traffic tie-ups and the “worsen[ing] of an already bad [traffic] situation.” The Land Court found that the council’s concerns weren’t supported by the evidence, particularly where they were directly contradicted by the plaintiff’s expert evidence. On appeal, the City Council argued that its evaluation of the seriousness of the traffic problem should control, but the Appeals Court panel disagreed, noting that such deference is proper only where reasonable minds could differ as to the seriousness of the problem. Because the council presented no evidence contradicting the Land Court’s finding that traffic conditions post-construction would be no worse, and might even be better, the panel affirmed the Land Court’s ruling, as well as its order that the City Council must issue the special permit. The panel found that it was error, however, for the Land Court to have imposed its own conditions on the to-be-issued permit. The panel indicated that, on remand, the City Council is free to determine appropriate permit conditions.
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