If wrapping your head around the law concerning reconstructing, extending, or altering a pre-existing nonconforming structure wasn't difficult enough already, the Supreme Judicial Court recently felt the need to add yet another layer of complexity for homeowners, zoning boards and courts. In Palitz v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Tisbury, 26 N.E.3d 175 (2015), the SJC firmly pronounced what we already knew - that subdivision control and zoning are independent of one another. However, the decision raises many question about the further expansion of pre-existing nonconforming structures that have already once obtained permission for expansion by variance.
After the recent publicity surrounding a court-ordered removal of a million-plus dollar home in Marblehead (for more on that story, click over to The Massachusetts Real Estate Blog), it would be easy to assume that courts would have no problem ordering the removal of a much smaller residence, especially one that was later determined to fall short of the requirements needed for the variances that authorized the home's construction in the first instance. But on March 7, 2012, despite the fact that it had overturned five variances that allowed such construction, the Massachusetts Appeals Court declined to order such relief as part of its remand.
Considering the age of many single and two-family homes within the Commonwealth, and the relative time period when zoning ordinances and by-laws came into effect across municipalities, it is common to find that many homes often do not comply with current local zoning requirements.