Recently we were asked to address the right of lot owners in an approved subdivision to enforce the terms of a covenant imposed by the Planning Board as part of the definitive subdivision approval. The restriction barred further division of lots. The Planning Board, however, approved a further division by endorsing an Approval Not Required (ANR) plan pursuant to G.L. c. 41, § 81L. Multiple lot owners in the subdivision brought suit in the Land Court challenging the ANR Plan as legally-untenable because it violated the terms of the underlying subdivision approval and covenant. This post explores the nature of such planning board covenants and who can enforce them.
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.
The recent Land Court case of Georgetown Planning Bd. v. Georgetown Planning Bd., 2014 WL 3555971, 13 MISC 480712 (KCL) (Mass. Land. Ct. 2014), is perhaps one of the more "creative" ways around trying to undo a constructive endorsement of an ANR (Approval Not Required) plan. It ultimately was also not successful.
In 1953, Massachusetts enacted what is commonly referred to as the "Subdivision Control Law", which is codified at G.L. c. 41, §§ 81K-81GG. The law was enacted for the purpose of
As most Massachusetts residents and land use attorneys know, new residential construction is often met with a host of challenges and opposition. This is certainly the situation in many of the more desirable locations where developable land is seemingly at a premium, including, no less, Nantucket, where even a small ANR (Approval Not Required) project recently faced abutter opposition.