Special Permits for Western Massachusetts Businesses: Know Your Rights

If your business is seeking to expand into an area that has a residential or other zoning classification, you may need to apply to the local zoning authorities for a special permit.  Massachusetts General Law chapter 40A allows each city or town to enact its own local zoning ordinance (for cities) or bylaw (for towns) that govern the circumstances in which a city or town may grant a special permit.  Zoning ordinances and bylaws in Western Massachusetts vary greatly depending on the city or town you are seeking to expand into.  In all cities and towns, however, you are entitled to a public hearing on your application that conforms to the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law (Mass. G.L. ch. 30A §§ 18-25).  It is often helpful to have an experienced land use attorney representing you as you prepare your application for a special permit to make sure that you have met all the requirements of the local zoning ordinance or bylaw. 

If the local zoning authority denies your request, you need to act quickly to preserve your right to appeal to the courts.  The appeal process is quite complicated for the uninitiated, and the courts will strictly hold you to all of the technical requirements.  In one notable case, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals dismissed a zoning appeal as untimely when the appellant delivered a notice to the local city office on the day of the deadline at 4:45 p.m.—fifteen minutes after the published closing time for the clerk.  See Bingham v. City Council of Fitchburg, 52 Mass. App. Ct. 566 (2001). 

If you need help with a special permit or zoning issue, please contact our main office and ask to speak with one of our municipal/land use attorneys

Author: Diana Day, Esq.