Massachusetts Agencies

Subdivision Control vs. Zoning


The existence of the ANR plan — and even an approved subdivision plan — does not answer the question as to the buildability of a lot under applicable zoning bylaws. The respective jurisdiction of the planning board over subdivision matters and zoning matters is distinct. In Heritage Park Development v. Southbridge, 474 Mass. 71, 674 N.E.2d 233 (1997) the court said, "[w]e caution against confusing the rights and obligations of a planning board under the subdivision control law and its rights and obligations under the zoning laws." In Perry v. Planning Board of Nantucket, 15 Mass. App. Ct. 144, 444 N.E.2d 389 (1983) the court acknowledged that "an 81P endorsement carries no implication that the subject lots comply with zoning ordinances" and that the primary function of the planning board in passing upon subdivision plans was "to address the fact of adequate frontage of the newly created lots."

In Shea v. Board of Appeals of Lexington, 35 Mass. App. Ct. 519, 622 N.E.2d 1382 (1993) it was said that a municipal planning board's endorsement pursuant to G.L.c. 41, 81P, on a plan of land, "[A]pproval [under the Subdivision Control Law] not required," followed by registration of the land under G.L.c. 41, 81FF, did not operate to bind the town with respect to a zoning requirement that a buildable lot have the necessary frontage on a street, where the "street" shown on the subdivision plan had never been constructed.

The only way to determine whether a particular lot is a buildable lot is to review the zoning bylaws of the town. Neither the approval of the planning board, nor its endorsement upon a plan disposes of the matter.