•   Email
  •   Print
Serving
Massachusetts Agencies

Park Shown on Plan

Plan

The designation of an area on a plan as "park" results in the area being subject to the rights of owners of lots on the plan to use the same. Carroll v. Hinchley, 316 Mass. 724, 56 N.E.2d 608 (1944). However, Reagan v. Brissey, 64 Mass.App.Ct. 154, 832 N.E.2d 659 (2005) cast doubt on this rule. In Reagan houselots were sold off of an 1872 plan which also showed three areas, all larger than the individual houselots, designated "Prospect Park," "Webster Park" and "Plaza." Purchasers of the houselots brought a suit against the owners of the three areas (and the town that had taken the lots for taxes, but not yet foreclosed upon them) claiming that the areas were impressed with an easement for the benefit of the public and the various owners of houselots, such that the three areas were required to be kept open and not built upon.

The Appeals Court, affirming a decision of the land court, held that the three lots were not impressed with such an easement because there was no "intention" to create such interests. The land court and Appeals Court decisions turned on the fact that no deeds conveying the houselots made mention of any "parks" (easements are created not by mere reference to a plan that shows them, but rather by deeds that mention them), and there was no evidence that the marketing of the houselots showed any intention to convey interest in or impress easements upon the three larger parcels.

The Supreme Judicial Court reversed and held that the implied easement over the "parks" existed. The land court had ruled, and the Appeals Court agreed, that there was not enough to demonstrate that easements in the "parks" were intended, especially because that term was not used in the marketing materials. However, the Supreme Judicial Court:

[The] advertisement[s] did not specially mention parks. The advertisement[s] did, however, state that the [subdivision] was a Seaside Resort," with "gently undulating" lands, and also quoted poetry describing "pleasure in the pathless woods," With small lot sizes, the advertisement's references to lands and woods, accompanied by poetic embellishment, suggested the existence of parks for the enjoyment of all lot owners.

Of course, no conveyancer would know what the advertisements said. So, it's clear that the assumption in cases like these is that there are existing rights to "parks" shown on a subdivision plan for the benefit of the various lot owners, consistent with the prior decision in Carrollv. Hinchley cited above.