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Massachusetts Law About Zoning

Massachusetts Laws

MGL c. 40A: Zoning. Gives cities and towns authority to adopt ordinances and bylaws to regulate the use of land, buildings and structures.

MGL c. 40B: Regional Planning. Permits a city or town to plan jointly with other cities or towns to promote development and prosperity within their area. Sections 20-23 of Chapter 40B specifically deal with affordable housing. Chapter 40B is also referred to as the "Anti-Snob Zoning Act" or the "Comprehensive Permit Statute."

MGL c. 40R: Smart-Growth Zoning. Encourages "smart growth" to preserve open space while increasing affordable housing.

Selected Case Law

Bjorklund v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Norwell, 450 Mass. 357 (2008). McMansions. Town's zoning board could stop a homeowner from tearing down a small house and replacing it with a bigger one. "Our decision recognizes that many municipalities do not welcome the building of structures that represent the popular trend of 'mansionization.'"

Other Web Sources

All About Variances, Donahue and Grolman, November 5, 2006. "This week we cover the importance of securing a variance before building." podcast

Chapter 40B Planning, Mass. Department of Housing and Community Development. Gives an overview of the statute with links to separate web sites to help developers, local officials and concerned citizens.

Housing Regulation Database, Pioneer Institute and Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston. This source allows you to compare housing ordinances from cities and towns across eastern Massachusetts in one simple interface. "The searchable database contains a unique, comprehensive set of information on the zoning codes, subdivision requirements, and environmental regulations that as of 2004 governed land use in 187 communities in eastern Massachusetts." You can search by town or subject. Excellent resource!

Manual of Instructions for the Survey of Lands and Preparation of Plans, 2006. Mass. Land Court. "This manual is issued for the information and guidance of land surveyors preparing surveys and plans to be filed in the Land Court. It is intended as a guide to the minimum requirements for what is commonly referred to in this commonwealth as a "Land Court Survey". Compliance with these instructions is mandatory, and no survey or plan will be accepted for filing unless these requirements have been fulfilled to the satisfaction of the Land Court's Survey Division."

Report of the Department of Community Affairs relative to proposed changes and additions to the zoning enabling act: (under Section 3 of Chapter 23B of the General Laws). House no. 5009, Report on zoning in Massachusetts -- Appendix: An act to modernize the zoning enabling statute, January 1972. [NOTE: This is a very large (18 MB) PDF document].

Zoning and Land Use Resources, Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. A great collection of resources to "aid planning boards, zoning boards of appeals, other municipal officials, and interested residents in the area of zoning and land use." Site includes:

Print Sources

Developing Housing Under c.40B, MCLE, 2007.

Land Use Litigation: Tactics and Trials, MCLE, 2007.

Massachusetts Zoning Manual, 4th ed., MCLE, loose-leaf.

Practical Guide to Zoning and Land Use Law, NBI, 2007.

Zoning, Subdivision and Land Development Law in Massachusetts, Lorman, 2006.