Pitman v. City of Medford

CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
Citation45 N.E.2d 973,312 Mass. 618
PartiesPITMAN et al. v. CITY OF MEDFORD et al.
Decision Date29 December 1942

312 Mass. 618
45 N.E.2d 973

PITMAN et al.

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk.

Dec. 29, 1942.

Exceptions from Land Court, Suffolk County; C. Smith, Justice.

Petition by Harry P. Pitman and others against the City of Medford and others to determine the validity of a zoning ordinance wherein certain property owners were allowed to intervene. The trial judge made a finding that the proceedings were in accordance with law and that the amendment to the zoning ordinance was valid and petitioners and intervenors bring exceptions.

Petitioners' exceptions waived and respondents' exceptions overruled.

[45 N.E.2d 974]

Before FIELD, C. J., and DONAHUE, QUA, COX, and RONAN, JJ.

F. A. Thayer, of Boston, for petitioners.

J. H. Coakley and J. H. Coakley, Jr., both of Boston, for respondents.

RONAN, Justice.

This is a petition filed in the Land Court in accordance with G.L.(Ter.Ed.) c. 240, § 14A and c. 185, § 1 (j 1/2 ), as inserted by St.1934, c. 263, §§ 1, 2, by the owners of five parcels of land and a person holding options to purchase them, to determine the validity of a zoning ordinance and the extent that said parcels are affected by said ordinance, passed by the board of aldermen and approved by the mayor of the respondent city of Medford, which purported to amend an ordinance by changing the zoning classification of the locus from an ‘apartment house district’ to a ‘business district.’ One Maggio was permitted to intervene as a party respondent, and thereafter fifty-seven other persons appeared as respondents. Two of them filed a motion to dismiss, challenging the jurisdiction of the court. The judge allowed this motion in so far as the petition sought a review of any discretionary action by the city officials, and denied the motion in so far as it pertained to those portions of the petition that sought a determination of the ‘legality only of said officials.’ The judge found that the proceedings of the board of aldermen and the planning board were had in accordance with law and that the amendment to the zoning ordinance was valid and is in full force and effect. All parties excepting the city have taken exceptions to the rulings of the judge. Their bills of exceptions also refer to appeals having been taken by the parties, but no appeal by any party has been entered in this court. As the rulings to which the appeals were taken are included in the bills of exceptions we deal with them as presented by the exceptions.

We now consider the questions raised by the individual respondents.

The locus is situated on Winthrop Square in Medford. It is bounded on three sides by public ways and on the fourth by private property, and comprises about five acres of land. The petitioner Churchill,

[45 N.E.2d 975]

who holds valid options for the purchase of all this land, is a straw for a department store owner, who, if the amendment is held to be valid, intends to purchase the land and to erect a department store on a portion of it and to use the remainder for a parking area, landscaping, driveways, and other necessary uses. The petitioners seek to have the amendment declared valid. The judge stated that, as a practical matter, one should have such assurance as the law allows that his land may be used for the contemplated purpose before he has incurred a large expenditure in the development of his plans. He ruled that the Land Court had jurisdiction to hear and decide the petition.

The individual respondents contend that the jurisdiction of the Land Court is limited to hearing only such petitions as are filed by a landowner who is aggrieved by a zoning ordinance which he contends unlawfully restricts the use and occupancy of his land, and that it does not extend to a petition, like the present, seeking an adjudication that the ordinance is valid, for in such a case the interests of the petitioners and the respondent city are not adverse and there is, therefore, no real controversy between the parties of which a court can take cognizance.

General Laws (Ter.Ed.) c. 240, § 14A, in its present form, provides that ‘The owner of a freehold estate in possession in land may bring a petition in the land court against a city or town wherein such land is situated, which shall not be open to objection on the ground that a mere judgment, order or decree is sought, for determination as to the validity of a municipal ordinance, by-law or regulation, passed or adopted under the provisions of sections twenty-five to thirty A, inclusive, of chapter forty or under any special law relating to zoning, so called, which purports to restrict or limit the present or future use, enjoyment, improvement or development of such land, or any part thereof, or of present or future structures thereon, including alterations or repairs, or for determination of the extent to which any such municipal ordinance, by-law or regulation affects a proposed use, enjoyment, improvement or development of such land by the erection, alteration or repair of structures thereon or otherwise as set forth in such petition. The right to file and prosecute such a petition shall not be affected by the fact that no permit or license to erect structures or to alter, improve or repair existing structures on such land has been applied for, nor by the fact that no architects' plans or drawings for such erection, alteration, improvement or repair have been prepared. The court may make binding determinations of right interpreting such ordinances, by-laws or regulations whether any consequential judgment or relief is or could be claimed or not.’

The statute authorizes the Land Court to render a declaratory judgment on the validity of a zoning ordinance or by-law and the extent to which it affects the land of a petitioner. Petitions under the statute must be brought against the city or town in which the land is situated. The respondent city is therefore the same body that is authorized by G.L. (Ter.Ed.) c. 40, § 30B, inserted by St.1938, c. 133, § 2, to enforce the provisions of the zoning ordinances and by-laws. Town of Lexington v. Bean, 272 Mass. 547, 172 N.E. 867;Town of...

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13 cases
  • Gamache v. Town of Acushnet
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • 22 Julio 1982
    ...was a defect in notice, but it caused no prejudice. See Clancy v. Wallace, 288 Mass. 557, 564, 193 N.E. 546 (1934); Pitman v. Medford, 312 Mass. 618, 623, 45 N.E.2d 973 (1942). The plaintiffs found time to prepare for the hearing. See Kasper v. Board of Appeals of Watertown, 3 Mass.App. 251......
  • Morganelli v. Building Inspector of Canton
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • 30 Abril 1979
    ...an action, the proceeding in substance is one by or against the municipality. Brady, 348 Mass. at 518, 204 N.E.2d 513. Pitman v. Medford, 312 Mass. 618, 621, 45 N.E.2d 973 (1942). The municipality "represents its public," "appears in their behalf," and "represents the residents and property......
  • Crall v. City of Leominster
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • 5 Junio 1972
    ...either admitted the validity of the notices or waived their invalidity by participating in the hearings. See Pitman v. Medford, 312 Mass. 618, 623, 45 N.E.2d 973. Compare Gallagher v. Board of Appeals of Falmouth, 351 Mass. 410, 414--415, 221 N.E.2d Spot Zoning. The petitioners contend that......
  • Kasper v. Board of Appeals of Watertown
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • 7 Mayo 1975
    ...without requesting a postponement thereof. Compare Clancy v. Wallace, 288 Mass. 557, 564--565, 193 N.E. 546 (1934); Pitman v. Medford, 312 Mass. 618, 623, 45 N.E.2d 973 The final decree is to be modified so as to provide for dismissal of the bill as to John Kasper, Jr. (see n. 3), and, as s......
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