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Island Properties, Inc. v. Martha's Vineyard Comm'n

ELR Citation: 7 ELR 20342
Nos. No. 16794, 361 N.E.2d 385/372 Mass. 216, (Mass., 03/23/1977)

Regulatory land use controls adopted by Martha's Vineyard Commission, being regional in scope, supersede a less restrictive local zoning bylaw. Plaintiff owns undeveloped parcels near Sengekontacket Pond, a major tidal pond on Martha's Vineyard, and had planned to develop the parcels pursuant to the Subdivision Control Law, G.L. c. 41. The applicable town bylaw, which "freezes" in favor of the developer for seven years, prescribed certain zoning requirements, including minimum lot sizes, setback lines, and height limitations. Chapter 637 of the General Laws, enacted in 1974 after the date of the town bylaw's enactment, established a regional commission for Martha's Vineyard to control what the General Court perceived as threats from uncontrolled development to the ecological and other values of the island.

Within a year of enactment, the commission was ti submit to the Secretary of Communities and Development standards for determining whether a proposed district on the island was of "critical planning concern" (CPC) or whether it would have regional impact (DRI). Upon designation of such a district, the commission's guidelines become incorporated into the town's bylaws. In 1975 and 1976, the commission designated three CPC districts on Martha's Vineyard, an "Island Road District," a "Coastal District," and the "Oak Bluffs Sengekontacket Pond District," which embrace plaintiff's parcels and restrict his development plans.

Chapter 637 cannot be characterized as a zoning law, and the direction of G.L. c. 40A, §7A that land shall be governed by applicable zoning laws in force at the time of development approval thus does not apply to it. Moreover, chapter 637's purpose is to import regional considerations into local zoning which cannot be thwarted by local zoning bylaws. Local zoning laws must be treated with circumspection. See Rayco Inv. Corp. v. Selectmen of Raynam, Mass. Adv. Sh. (1975) 2375. The court does not reach the issue of whether chapter 637, as special legislation, repeals pro tanto §7A.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (20 pp. $2.50, ELR Order No. C-1115).

Counsel for Defendant
Donald L. Connors
Tyler, Reynolds & Craig
One Boston Place, Boston MA 02108
(617) 523-6550

Counsel for Plaintiff
William G. Young
Bingham, Dana & Gould
100 Federal St., Boston MA 02110
(617) 357-9300

Peter Mullane
Vineyard Haven MA 02568
(617) 693-3200

Kaplan, J.