Defeating a Neighbor’s Challenge to Zoning Relief

Litigation Attorneys

Posted in on March 14, 2014

Pursuant to G.L. c. 40A, § 17, only a “person aggrieved” by a local zoning board’s decision has standing to appeal the decision. Courts lack jurisdiction to preside over an appeal unless the plaintiff is determined to be a person aggrieved; therefore, absent such a determination a zoning appeal must be dismissed.

The Massachusetts Legislature passed revisions to the Zoning Enabling Act in 1933 intended to bring uniformity to zoning appeals. Since that time, Massachusetts Courts have set forth parameters to define the types of harm that confer “person aggrieved” status upon a plaintiff and therefore establish standing to challenge a zoning board’s decision. Massachusetts courts have recognized certain harms that fall within the scope of protected interests under the Zoning Act. These include – among other negative impacts – increased noise, overcrowding, increased or decreased light, increased traffic, flooding and, in certain cases, diminished property values, and increased traffic. Common sense dictates that any proposed project may increase traffic or noise, so it is not sufficient for a plaintiff to simply allege these harms to confer standing. Rather, when challenged, plaintiffs must demonstrate plausible harm with particularity and supporting evidence. If a plaintiff claims standing based on mere speculation, without more, it is unlikely that a court will uphold that plaintiff’s claim.

Attorneys Susan Molinari and Paul Barbadoro have successfully represented property owners and real estate developers faced with abutter appeals challenging favorable local decisions. Through pre-trial discovery and at trial, Attorneys Molinari and Barbadoro have elicited testimony to prove that claims of harm were mere speculation and unsupported personal opinion. Once it is determined that a plaintiff lacks standing, Attorneys Molinari and Barbadoro have successfully sought Court orders affirming their clients’ local permits.

At Baker, Braverman & Barbadoro our attorneys are skilled in all areas of zoning and real property law and enforce the interests of our clients before local boards and in all courts.