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Hancock Vill. I, LLC v. Town of Brookline

Massachusetts Land Court

September 4, 2019, Decided

PERMIT SESSION CASE No. 18 PS 000192 (HPS)

Opinion

 [*444]  DECISION ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

INTRODUCTION

"You call this a barn? This looks like a stable."

"Well, if you look at it, it's a barn; if you smell it, it's a stable."

"Well, let's just look at it."1

Sometimes one's perception of the nature of a thing (or in this case, a law) depends on one's perspective or on the context in which it is perceived. In the present dispute, plaintiff Hancock Village I, LLC ("plaintiff") perceives Brookline's Neighborhood Conservation District Bylaw as a zoning bylaw illegitimately masquerading as a general bylaw in order to stymie the redevelopment of the plaintiff's property. The town of Brookline ("Brookline" or "the town") perceives the same bylaw as a legitimate exercise of its home rule powers to enact a general bylaw. According to the plaintiff, however, Brookline has chosen to view the bylaw from a perspective that willfully and conveniently ignores its true substance and nature. In short, the plaintiff contends that the town has elected not to smell the stable so that it might insist that it is a barn.

In 2011, the town of Brookline adopted a "neighborhood [**2]  conservation district" bylaw. This bylaw would serve to create local commissions with the ability to regulate the dimensions, layout, and design of construction in designated districts. Brookline adopted the bylaw not as an amendment to its zoning bylaw pursuant to G. L. c 40A, or as a historic district bylaw pursuant to G. L. c. 40C, but as a general town bylaw pursuant to its general home rule powers.

 [*445]  The first district established under the bylaw comprised solely the entire Brookline portion of the 70-acre property of plaintiff.2 Plaintiff filed this action seeking to invalidate both the bylaw establishing the framework for the creation of neighborhood conservation districts in the town, as well as the particular section of the bylaw creating the district encompassing the plaintiff's property. It contends that the bylaw was not a proper exercise of Brookline's general police power, as its subject matter falls squarely under the purview of G. L. c 40A and G. L. c. 40C, and must therefore have been enacted pursuant to the procedures provided in those statutes, and with the substantive protections and mechanisms required by those statutes.

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27 LCR 444 *; 2019 Mass. LCR LEXIS 169 **; 2019 WL 4189357

HANCOCK VILLAGE I, LLC v. THE TOWN OF BROOKLINE

CORE TERMS

Bylaw, zoning, regulation, neighborhood, Village, dimensional, structures, architectural, open space, invalid, landscape, municipal, districts, purposes, preservation, procedural requirements, ordinance, historic district, land use, Articles, town meeting, alteration, height, compatible, contends, features, conservation district, summary judgment, subject matter, provisions