Posted by: Patricia Salkin | June 17, 2016

MA Supreme Judicial Court Holds Property Owner’s Concerns About Construction of a House on Abutting Parcel Did Provide Grounds for Standing

Peter Normandin, the president of 3333, Inc., planned to build a residence on the parcel of land identified on the Laurie Lane Plan as the “beach area” (locus). At trial, he testified that he did not wish to impair access to the pond and that he planned to clear some of the land and move the beach to a different location on the locus. This location would provide a larger beach and afford better access to Wyman Pond. In order to construct the residence, Normandin applied for a building permit. The town building commissioner determined that the locus had grandfathered status as a nonconforming lot under G.L. c. 40A, § 6. Picard’s property abuts the locus across Laurie Lane, but Picard is unable to view the beach from his house. In connection with the right of access granted in his deed, Picard and his family occasionally used the locus for purposes such as picnicking, ice skating, and boating. The trial judge determined that Picard had not demonstrated that the construction proposed by 3333, Inc., would cause him any injury within the scope of concern of the Zoning Act and that he therefore lacked standing.

At the outset, the court noted that a plaintiff who is an abutter to the property in question enjoys a presumption that he or she is a “person aggrieved”; however, the opposing party can rebut the presumption “by showing that, as a matter of law, the claims of aggrievement raised by an abutter, either in the complaint or during discovery, are not interests that the Zoning Act is intended to protect.” The primary purpose of zoning with reference to land use is the preservation in the public interest of certain neighborhoods against uses which are believed to be deleterious to such neighborhoods. Here, Picard did not claim that constructing a residence on the locus would be deleterious in any respect related to typical zoning concerns, for example, density, traffic, parking availability, or noise. Moreover, the judge found that Picard’s concerns that the construction would interfere with his access to the pond were speculative and unsubstantiated, as Picard offered only his own opinion that a building would block access to the pond which was unsupported by any specific construction plans or other evidence. Accordingly, the judgment of the Superior Court dismissing the plaintiff’s complaint for lack of standing was affirmed.

Picard v Zoning Board of Appeals of Westminster, 2016 WL 3351860 (MA 6/17/2016)


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