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Massachusetts Zoning & Land Use Blog

A basic understanding of land use and zoning could be beneficial

Whether you want to build a business or purchase property for residential purposes, it is always smart to know what factors could affect how you use the land. In Massachusetts, there are certain zoning laws in place that determine whether or not buildings in certain areas can be used as homes, for industrial purposes or for commercial use. Before you buy, it is smart to understand how land use and zoning issues could affect you.

If you are unfamiliar with zoning and restrictions on land use, it can be beneficial to make the effort to gain a basic understanding of these matters. When it comes to your financial investment and how you want to use your land, you need to know how to protect your interests. Many landowners find it beneficial to secure legal guidance as they work through complex land use and zoning concerns.

Making sense of zoning classifications

Whether you are a new investor, developer or just looking for the right property, you probably have numerous questions regarding why a piece of property falls under certain zoning laws. The general idea behind zoning is to provide Massachusetts residents with a pleasant and peaceful place to live.

Few people would want to live next door to a large, noisy and perhaps smelly factory. Most people wouldn't want bars, medical marijuana dispensaries or strip clubs near their children's schools or their homes. Even so, in many areas, people now want to live closer to entertainment, where they work and other commercial establishments.

What happens if a neighbor encroaches on my property?

When another party fails to recognize the boundaries of your personal or commercial property in Massachusetts, it can lead to complications and even legal disputes. This is especially true when someone puts up a structure on what is actually your property without permission. 

Encroachment happens when another person, business or other entity puts up a structure on a neighboring property. Sometimes, this is because the other party does not know where the boundary lines are, but in some cases, it is an intentional act. Regardless of the motivation behind the encroaching structure, you have the right to take action and protect your property rights.

New to commercial real estate? Know the basics of zoning

Perhaps your business has rented in the past, but now your company has grown to the point where you want to set up your own shop on your own land. Finding the perfect place to do so often takes a great deal of time and consideration.

After you find a location you believe will suit your purposes, you may want to jump right in and make an offer. Before you do that, you need to know whether it is zoned for your intended purposes, but since you've never dealt with a commercial property purchase before, you may have questions regarding zoning and how it will affect your plans.

Landlocked properties need special treatment

When someone showed you a piece of property that you believe suits your purposes, you probably didn't think twice about the road you took to get to it. You decide to move forward with the purchase only to find out that the property is landlocked and the road you took to access it is on land owned by another party.

The route you took to view the property included traveling through property owned by someone else. Now, you have a problem. You need to make sure that you obtain the legal right to use that ingress and egress in order to get to the property you want to purchase.

Standing and Quasi-Municipal and Charitable Organizations, Part I of II: "Person Aggrieved" Status Requires a Relationship with Real Property

A few years ago, I posted a two-part review of the state of the law for standing under the Zoning Act. Standing refers to a claimant's legal right to bring a claim. Not every person has the right to bring every claim. As previously discussed, this principle is especially true and significant in zoning appeals brought by neighbors, abutting property owners, rather than by applicant property owners. While the decisional law has not substantially changed since my post from 2015, our office recently encountered a case that involved some interesting questions about standing under G. L. c. 40A:

Is the property you want subject to easements?

Finding the right property depends on a variety of factors. You may look at several tracts of land before deciding on one. Once you do, you begin the process involved in completing the transaction. As part of that process, a title search occurs that tells you the history of the property, including any easements that may exist.

Easements grant someone else the right to use a portion of the land you intend to buy. More than one type of easement exists, and understanding each of them, along with how they could affect your use of the property, along with its value, is crucial.

A Case Study in Conditions to a Variance

Recently one of our clients was forced to confront a challenge to the operation of their dog kennel business, which had been operating lawfully in a residential zoning district pursuant to a use variance granted in 1973. The challenge was that the variance authorized the kennel business, but not the use of exterior play yards that allowed the dogs to socialize and come to the kennel for day care. The case required an exploration of the scope of conditions that attach to variances. Based upon the analysis that follows, our office successfully protected our clients' business.

When land transfers ownership, do easements transfer with it?

When buying property in Massachusetts, you would be wise to consider issues that could cause legal complications in the future or compromise your property rights. One of these things is to learn about any easements that may affect the way that you can use your property. In some cases, the transfer of the property could affect whether or not an easement is still in effect.

Easements can transfer with the property when it changes hands. If you have concerns about what will happen to the easement connected to your property and how you can protect your interests, it can be beneficial to secure qualified guidance to help you protect yourself as the property owner. The result of your situation may largely depend on the type of easement in question.

Resolve boundary disputes in an effective and beneficial manner

As a Massachusetts property owner, a boundary dispute is a direct threat to your interests. When there is conflict over the dividing line between two properties, it could be a necessity to take legal action to protect your property rights. While litigation is sometimes the best way to handle these matters, it may be possible to seek a peaceful solution out of court.

It may be helpful for you to understand the various ways that you can handle boundary disputes. With the appropriate legal guidance, you can pursue a solution to your legal concern in a way that protects your financial well-being. Before you make an agreement or move forward with another important decision that could affect your property interests, you may find it useful to seek a complete explanation of your legal options.