This is the fourth in a series of posts on challenges to zoning bylaws and ordinances. Before reaching the merits of zoning challenges, one more jurisdictional issue should be considered: standing-also referred to in the case law as "harm", "injury" or "aggrievement". "'The question of standing is one of critical significance. "From an early day it has been an established principle in this Commonwealth that only persons who have themselves suffered, or who are in danger of suffering, legal harm can compel the courts to assume the difficult and delicate duty of passing upon the validity of the acts of a coordinate branch of government.'"' Ginther v. Commissioner of Ins., 427 Mass. 319, 322 (1988), quoting Tax Equity Alliance v. Commissioner of Revenue, 423 Mass. 708, 715 (1996), ultimately quoting Doe v. The Governor, 381 Mass. 702, 705 (1980).
This is the third in a series of posts on challenges to zoning bylaws and ordinances, and the second addressing the question of where to bring a challenge to a zoning bylaw or ordinance. The prior post covered the Land Court. The Land Court, however, is not the only court of competent jurisdiction to hear these cases. As the Department of the Massachusetts Trial Court having general jurisdiction, the Superior Court has the authority to hear all manner of claims challenging zoning bylaws and ordinances. As discussed below, the United States District Court, depending on the type of challenge, has the subject matter jurisdiction to hear these types of cases as well.
This is the second in a series of posts on challenges to zoning bylaws and ordinances. An important threshold issue, apart from diagnosing what type of bylaw challenge should be brought, is where to bring these claims. Depending on the circumstances, these claims may be brought in the Land Court, the Superior Court or the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. This post will address the considerations applicable to the Massachusetts Land Court.
In January we featured a short post about City of Arlington, Texas v. FCC, 668 F.3d 229 (5th Cir. 2012), an interesting case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, involving administrative law and the Chevron doctrine. Incidentally, the secondary, underlying substantive issue in the lower court related to the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) definition of a "reasonable period of time" for the local board to issue a decision for siting a telecommunications tower under the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996. The City of Arlington ultimately challenged the FCC's interpretation of what that timeframe should be, which the FCC had issued via a declaratory ruling in 2009.*
An interesting case is on appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court: City of Arlington, Texas v. FCC, 668 F.3d 229 (5th Cir. 2012).* Oral arguments were held at SCOTUS on January 16.
An interesting case-much less frustrating one for the plaintiff-developer involved-came out of the Appeals Court at the very end of 2012. In Buccaneer Dev., Inc. v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Lenox, Docket No. 11-P-1159 (Mass. App. Ct. Dec. 28, 2012), the sole issue before the court was whether the Housing Court had jurisdiction to decide a transferred case that was initially filed in the Land Court permit session.