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Law School Case Brief

Durand v. IDC Bellingham, L.L.C. - 793 N.E.2d 359


The proper focus of review of a zoning enactment is whether it violates state law or constitutional provisions, is arbitrary or unreasonable, or is substantially unrelated to the public health, safety, or general welfare.


After an earlier attempt to rezone certain land for industrial use failed, the power company suggested to the town that it would be willing to make a gift of enough money to enable the town to build a new high school if the rezoning were permitted. The town meeting approved the idea in principle, although the board of selectmen and the zoning board handled the final details. On its own initiative, the court transferred directly to itself an appeal by defendants, the power company, previous landowners, a town, and the local zoning board, from a summary judgment of the Land Court Department (Massachusetts), in favor of plaintiff neighbors, that declared invalid as against public policy a zoning amendment that permitted the power company to build a new plant.


Was the town meeting vote to rezone a parcel of land located in the town invalid because the prospective owner of the parcel had offered to give the town $8 million if the rezoning was approved and a power plant was built and operated on the site?




The high court held that under the Home Rule Amendment, Mass. Const. amend. art. 89, legislative acts in the exercise of police power were protected against close scrutiny for their motives, so long as an enactment complied with all applicable statutory and constitutional provisions and was not arbitrary or unreasonable. The zoning amendment was properly enacted in compliance with all the provisions of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A and was not arbitrary or unreasonable. Economic viability was, in fact, an important focus for the exercise of the police power, especially in a needy town, so the arrangement made with the power company was a proper exercise of that power. The court vacated the summary judgment and remanded the matter to the trial court for entry of summary judgment in favor of the various defendants.

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