Zoning law in Massachusetts is specific. These rules help preserve the characteristics of a community and the value of individual properties. When you buy a property, you may only use it in a manner consistent with the current zoning for the land. Those who violate zoning regulations may be subject to litigation and financial penalties.
There are different local rules that apply in every municipality, but some zoning requirements are based on state law. For you to use the property as you wish, you will either need to change the zoning or ask for a variance.
If you would like a variance, which is essentially legal permission to use a property in a manner inconsistent with its current zoning, you will typically need to prove two important elements about your case.
You need to show hardship
Did you sink all of your savings into buying a piece of property, only to realize later that you couldn’t run your small business out of the garage like you intended? Have changes in zoning law made it so that you will not be able to resell your property for a reasonable price?
There are scenarios in which the zoning rules create a personal hardship for you as an individual or a business. You will need to show some kind of hardship if you hope to secure a variance.
The property should have unique conditions
Is the plot in question the only residential home and what has since become a largely commercial neighborhood? Does its location or natural resources give you a valid reason to ask for a variance so that you can make use of the placement of the property or natural elements of the property? There typically needs to be something different about it, compared with neighboring properties, that justifies the request.
Finally, you will need to show that how you intend to use the property will not negatively affect the public good. If you believe that you can demonstrate hardship and unusual characteristics about the property and can convince others that your intended use of the property will not cause harm to others nearby or the general public, then you may be in a good position to request a zoning variance. Learning more about Massachusetts zoning laws will help you make use of your real property.