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dpinto

Donald R. Pinto, Jr.

This author Donald R. Pinto, Jr. has created 6 entries.

Perpetual Easement or Expired Restriction? Mass. Appeals Court Weighs In

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In its decision this week in Perry v. Aiello, the Massachusetts Appeals Court addresses an interesting question: whether a 1947 grant of easement-like rights created an affirmative easement, which can be perpetual, or a disfavored restriction whose duration is limited by sections 26-30 of M.G.L. c. 184.

The case involved a dispute between two storied Boston institutions:  DeLuca’s Market, a high-end grocery store that’s been in the same spot at the foot of Beacon Hill for over 100 years, and King’s Chapel, which dates back a bit further – as in 1686.  DeLuca’s, King’s Chapel, and another abutter share the use of a ten-foot-wide passageway between their buildings (the King’s Chapel building is a nice old brownstone, not the historic chapel itself, which is across town).  Fee ownership of the passageway is divided in half, with the abutters on each side owning to the center line.

In 1947, the parties’ predecessors entered into an agreement

Breaking: Mass. SJC Overhauls SLAPP Statute Practice

The Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) today issued two decisions which together make important changes in how Massachusetts courts apply the often troublesome SLAPP statute, M.G.L. c. 231, § 59H, enacted in 1994. While of general application, the SLAPP statute often surfaces in disputes over real estate development.

Today’s decisions are dense and will require further study, but at first glance Blanchard v. Steward Carney Hospital, Inc. (pdf) is the more dramatic of the two. Massachusetts courts have long recognized that, as drafted, the reach of the SLAPP statute is not limited to classic SLAPP suits – weak or baseless cases brought primarily for the purpose of chilling a defendant’s legitimate “petitioning activity” – but extends to virtually any claim asserted in response to petitioning activity. After over 20 years of decisions construing the statute, Blanchard directly addresses this scope issue. As the SJC puts it, “[u]nder current case law, the inquiry ends without permitting confirmation that the fundamental

In Self-Renewing Lease, Tenant Has Burden of Proving Timely Termination

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In a case of interest to commercial landlords and tenants, the Massachusetts Appeals Court recently ruled that where a commercial lease is self-renewing but can be terminated on six-months’ notice to the other side, the party seeking to terminate – in this case the tenant – has the burden of proving it timely exercised its right.

Patriot Power, LLC v. New Rounder, LLC is a classic “she said-she said” dispute.  The parties’ lease provided that it would automatically renew for successive terms of one year unless either party served on the other written notice of its intent not to renew at least six months before the expiration of the then-current term.  About two weeks before the six-month deadline, the tenant sent the landlord a Federal Express envelope containing documents the landlord had requested in connection with its refinancing of the property.  At trial, the tenant’s executive assistant testified that she had “no doubt at all” that, in addition to the refinancing documents,

Safety Issue Can Be “Hardship” Justifying A Zoning Variance

The Massachusetts standard for granting a zoning variance is notoriously difficult to meet.  In a nutshell it requires proof that: (1) due to circumstances concerning soil conditions, the shape of the lot, or the topography of the land; which (2) especially affect the land but not the zoning district generally; (3) literal enforcement of the zoning ordinance would cause a substantial hardship (financial or otherwise); and (4) relief can be granted without substantial detriment to the public good; (5) without nullifying or substantially derogating from the intent or purpose of the ordinance.  See M.G.L. c. 40A, § 10.  Each requirement must be met and the courts tell us variances should be “sparingly granted.”  As a result, while zoning boards issue variances with some frequency, the percentage of those variances that meet the standard and would survive judicial scrutiny is relatively small.  A new, easier-to-meet variance standard is a perennial feature of the zoning reform bills that are introduced each year in the Legislature and, so

No Prescriptive Easement Over Registered Beach Lots That Expanded By Accretion

In an important decision for owners of waterfront property, a divided Appeals Court panel has ruled in a case of first impression that where registered land expands by accretion, the owner need not return to court to separately register the accreted land.  As a result, that land enjoys the same protection against adverse claims as the originally registered parcel.

Cape Cod beachIn Brown v. Kalicki (pdf), the plaintiffs were owners of adjoining beach lots in Harwich, Massachusetts.  The lots were registered in the 1920s and 1930s and each lot’s southern boundary was “Nantucket Sound.”

Over the ensuing decades, accretion caused the beach to expand seaward by some 350 feet.  In 2011, the owners filed so-called “supplemental petitions” asking the Land Court to determine the sidelines of the expanded lots.  Several Harwich residents intervened in those cases and objected, claiming they had acquired a prescriptive easement to use the beach.  The status of the accreted land as registered – or not – was critical,

SJC Keeps Bright-Line Test for Overloading of Easements

In its recent decision in Taylor v. Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Commission (pdf), the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) put the brakes on a trend toward eliminating bright lines in the enforcement of easement rights.

The Facts

The case involved a nature preserve on Martha’s Vineyard encompassing the famed Gay Head cliffs (pictured).  The Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Commission (Land Bank), which owns and manages the preserve, has an easement over the grounds of a nearby inn owned by Taylor Realty Trust (Trust), connected to the equally famed singing Taylor family.  In 2010 the Land Bank created a looped hiking trail that runs across the Trust’s property onto three Land Bank-owned lots that are benefited by the easement and then continues onto a fourth Land Bank-owned lot that is not benefited.

The Land Court Case

The Trust, invoking the black-letter rule that an easement can’t be used to benefit land