Late last year, pursuant to her review authority under M.G.L. c. 40, § 32, then-Attorney General (now Governor) Maura Healey (the AG) issued a decision disapproving the Town of Carver’s moratoria on large-scale solar projects and battery storage systems. The grounds for the decision were straightforward and well-supported: citing the Supreme Judicial Court’s June, 2022 decision in Tracer Lane II Realty, LLC v. City of Waltham (see our blog post on that important opinion), and case law disfavoring moratoria generally, the AG determined that Carver’s moratoria violated M.G.L. c. 40A, § 3 (Section 3) by unlawfully restricting solar and battery storage systems “with no articulated evidence of an important municipal interest, grounded in protecting the public health, safety, or welfare […] sufficient to outweigh the public need for solar energy systems.” The AG found that instead of promoting the policy behind Section 3, the moratoria “undermined the state policy favoring solar energy” and that the town’s interest
Massachusetts has committed to increasing the generation of electricity from renewable energy sources, such as solar power, through a series of laws and policies. As solar energy systems have proliferated, trial courts have been asked to determine the limits of local government power over where large ground-mounted solar energy facilities can be sited. For the first time, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has interpreted statutory language enacted decades ago that exempts solar energy systems from zoning regulation. In its decision yesterday in Tracer Lane II Realty, LLC v. City of Waltham (pdf), the SJC acknowledged the need for large ground-mounted solar arrays to meet the Commonwealth’s renewable energy goals.
Section 3 of the Massachusetts Zoning Act (Section 3) – aptly named “Subjects which zoning may not regulate” – protects certain favored uses from local zoning laws. At issue in Tracer Lane was the ninth paragraph of Section 3, which concerns solar energy systems. The plaintiff solar
Mass. SJC Reaffirms that Zoning Exemption for Educational Uses is Expansive; Residential Psychiatric Program for Adolescents Easily Qualifies
In a noteworthy decision today, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) reaffirmed that the exemption in the state’s Zoning Act, M.G.L. c. 40A, for uses deemed to be “for educational purposes,” is construed very broadly. That exemption, which appears in Section 3 of Chapter 40A and is known as the Dover Amendment, provides in relevant part that:
[n]o zoning ordinance or by-law shall . . . prohibit, regulate or restrict the use of land or structures for religious purposes or educational purposes on land owned or leased by . . . a religious sect or denomination, or by a nonprofit educational corporation . . . .
The statute goes on to say that such land or structures may be subject to reasonable regulations concerning the bulk and height of structures, yard sizes, lot area, setbacks, open space, etc.
In The McLean Hospital Corp. v. Town of Lincoln (pdf), the high court considered a