Appeals Court: MICHAEL J. MARONEY, TRUSTEE v. PLANNING BOARD OF HAVERHILL

KeywordsBuilding Permit. Municipal Corporations, By-laws and ordinances, Building inspector, Enforcement of building code. State Building Code, Criminal penalty. Zoning, Enforcement, Criminal penalty. Notice. Moot Question. Practice, Civil, Summary judgment, Moot case, Counterclaim and cross-claim

[Excerpt] –  “The plaintiffs, entities owned or controlled by Michael J. Maroney (collectively, Maroney or plaintiffs), were the developers of a fifty-lot residential subdivision (property) in the city of Haverhill (city).  When Maroney was part way through the subdivision build out, with many of the homes already completed, city officials stopped issuing the necessary permits for the remaining subdivision lots.  The city[4] contended that Maroney had to complete a water pressure booster station before building on the lots in question, and that he had not done so.  Maroney then brought this suit in Superior Court, seeking, among other things, relief in the nature of mandamus to compel the appropriate officials to issue the permits.  Maroney also began building on several of the lots for which he did not have permits.  The city building inspector issued cease and desist orders, and counterclaimed in this action for civil penalties[5] due to the unauthorized building.

A Superior Court judge entered summary judgment for the city on Maroney’s affirmative claims, and also granted the building inspector summary judgment on his counterclaims.  At a subsequent damages hearing before a different judge (damages judge), the building inspector sought fines of $1,300 per day for each unauthorized build, but notably, only for time periods between when Maroney commenced construction and the dates the building inspector sent the cease and desist orders.  The damages judge entered judgment on the city’s counterclaims in the amount of $970,206.82, inclusive of prejudgment interest.

Maroney appeals.  We dismiss the appeal from the portion of the judgment dismissing Maroney’s claims, as the claims he now presses have become moot because he no longer owns the property, having lost it to foreclosure.  We reverse the judgment on the counterclaims, however, because the building inspector did not follow the required procedures to impose such fines.”

Click here for the full text of the Appeals Court’s decision.

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