The Massachusetts Appeals Court’s recent decision in McIntyre v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Braintree demonstrates the importance of subject matter jurisdiction in the context of administrative proceedings. The plaintiffs appealed the issuance of a building permit authorizing construction of a single-family house on an abutting lot. Though they knew immediately that the permit had issued, the plaintiffs didn’t file their appeal until 44 days later, well past the 30-day deadline imposed by M.G.L. c. 40A, § 15. Despite the lateness of the appeal, the Braintree zoning board of appeals (ZBA) held two hearings before determining that it had no jurisdiction to consider the merits of the appeal. At the second hearing the ZBA voted unanimously to deny the appeal but did not issue a written decision that day.
If these were all the facts there probably wouldn’t have been a court case. But of course there’s more. The same statute that imposes the filing deadline – M.G.L. c. 40A, §