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Reagan v. Brissey

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts

February 6, 2006, Argued ; April 4, 2006, Decided

SJC-09630

Opinion

 [*453]   [**673]  GREANEY, J. The plaintiffs, owners of one or more lots in Bellevue Heights, a subdivision in the town of Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard, commenced this action against the defendants seeking declaratory and injunctive relief in connection with proposed residential construction on four parcels of land that had been designated as parks or plazas in a subdivision plan recorded in 1872. A Land Court judge denied relief and entered a judgment declaring that the parcels are not burdened, as the plaintiffs had claimed, by an easement in their favor. The Appeals Court affirmed the judgment. Reagan v. Brissey, 64 Mass. App. Ct. 154, 164, 832 N.E.2d 659 (2005). We granted the plaintiffs' application [***2]  for further appellate review. We conclude that an implied easement exists with respect to the parks.

The factual and procedural history of the case is as follows. The property comprising the Bellevue Heights subdivision was originally owned by Tarleton C. Luce (Luce). In Oak Bluffs, the subdivision is situated to the east of Vineyard Haven Harbor and Crystal Lake. On June 22, 1872, Luce recorded a "Plan of Bellevue Heights, Martha's Vineyard" (plan), which divided 165 acres of land into approximately 917 rectangular shaped and numbered buildable lots, measuring approximately fifty by one hundred feet. The plan also laid out several proposed ways and identified the four parcels at issue with the words "Prospect Park" (which consisted of two parcels divided by a proposed way), "Webster Park," and "Plaza" (collectively, the parks).

In comparison to the buildable lots, the parks are larger in area, are not numbered, and have irregular dimensions. The parks are dispersed over the subdivision, with Prospect Park located just east of the northern tip of Crystal Lake, and the other two parks located to the east of  [**674]  the middle and southern areas of Crystal Lake. (Crystal Lake is located to [***3]  the east of Vineyard Haven Harbor, and while a proposed way designated "The Drive" was laid out on the plan on the small strip of land between the two bodies of water, no lots were laid out in that area.) None of the parks (nor lots) had water frontage because  [*454]  Crystal Lake was bounded on the north, east, and south, by a proposed way designated "Marginal Street." All of the parks, however, are situated in close proximity to Crystal Lake, while only a small number of lots are bounded by Marginal Street. 3

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446 Mass. 452 *; 844 N.E.2d 672 **; 2006 Mass. LEXIS 112 ***

JOHN P. REAGAN & others 1 vs. LOUISE BRISSEY & others. 2

Prior History:  [***1]  Suffolk. Civil action commenced in the Land Court Department on December 6, 2001. The case was heard by Karyn F. Scheier, J., on motions for summary judgment. After review by the Appeals Court, the Supreme Judicial Court granted leave to obtain further appellate review.

Reagan v. Mott, 2003 Mass. LCR LEXIS 67 (2003)Reagan v. Brissey, 64 Mass. App. Ct. 154, 832 N.E.2d 659, 2005 Mass. App. LEXIS 726 (2005)

CORE TERMS

subdivision, deed, Street, Lake, advertisement, individual defendant, implied easement, parcels, plaintiffs', designated, conveyed, easement, bounded, plans, building lot, residential, recorded, rights, Plaza, recreational, Resort, taxes

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Allocation, Real Property Law, Deeds, Construction & Interpretation, Easements, Easement Creation, Easement by Implication, Encumbrances, Adjoining Landowners, Easements, Limited Use Rights, Affirmative & Negative Easements, General Overview, Priorities & Recording, Restrictive Covenants