Posted by: Patricia Salkin | April 4, 2020

MA Appeals Court Finds Appellants Failed to Demonstrate that the Determination a Property Operated as an “Inn” Under Relevant Bylaw was Legally Untenable


This post was authored by Matthew Loescher, Esq.

In this case, three residents of Rockport challenged a Superior Court judge’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the members of the Zoning Board of Appeals of Rockport and Turks Head, LLC. This holding affirmed the Board’s determination that the property was an “inn” as that term was defined in Rockport’s zoning bylaw.

On appeal, the court noted that even assuming those rooms at the property that were fitted with kitchens qualified as “dwelling units” for the purposes of the bylaw, the fact that the property included rooms without kitchens would mean that the property did not “consist of dwelling units.” Accordingly, the court upheld the Board’s finding that the property was not a “multiple dwelling.”

Next, to the extent that the property’s operations changed between the time of its original designation as a preexisting nonconforming use and the board’s decision in 2016, the court found the property owners did not change the fundamental nature and purpose of the property’s use as an inn. Here, the record supported the board’s conclusion that the changes highlighted by the appellants – such as the rise in long-term occupancy, the streamlining of the complimentary amenities offered, and the reliance on word-of-mouth advertising to market the property — were all reasonable adaptations in how the property served the changing needs of Rockport’s “guest” demographic. Accordingly, the court held there was enough evidence to support the Board’s determination that these changes did not alter the property’s fundamental nature. Thus, the court affirmed the entry of summary judgment in favor of the Board and Turks Head.

Browne v Zoning Board of Appeals of Rockport, 2020 WL 1609129 (MA App. 4/2/2020)

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