SJC: ROMA vs. BOARD OF APPEALS OF ROCKPORT

KeywordsMunicipal Corporations, By-laws and ordinances. Zoning, Validity of by-law or ordinance, Private landing area. Federal Preemption

The SJC has ruled in favor of the Town of Rockport, whose building inspector and ZBA had found that a heliport on a residential property was neither an allowed use nor a permitted  accessory use.  The landowner had argued that, based on the state’s aeronautics statutes, a municipal zoning bylaw concerning private noncommercial aircraft landing areas is subject to prior approval by the DOT Division of Aeronautics.  Here is a link to the decision:

ROMA vs. BOARD OF APPEALS OF ROCKPORT

The SJC ruling is summed up in the following excerpt:

“The issue on appeal is whether cities and towns may exercise their zoning authority to determine whether land in their communities may be used as a noncommercial private restricted landing area, here a heliport, or whether they may do so only with the approval of the division because the exercise of such zoning authority is preempted by the State’s aeronautics statutes, G. L. c. 90, §§ 35-52 (aeronautics code). We hold that there is no clear legislative intent to preempt local zoning enactments with respect to noncommercial private restricted landing areas, and that a city or town does not need the prior approval of the division to enforce a zoning bylaw that requires some form of approval, variance, or special permit for land to be used as a private heliport.”

Congratulations to Jackie Cowin of KPLaw, who represented the Town of Rockport.

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