Massachusetts laws

MGL c. 40A Zoning
Gives cities and towns authority to adopt ordinances and bylaws to regulate the use of land, buildings and structures.

MGL c. 40B Regional planning
Permits a city or town to plan jointly with other cities or towns to promote development and prosperity within their area. Sections 20-23 of Chapter 40B specifically deal with affordable housing. Chapter 40B is also referred to as the "Anti-Snob Zoning Act" or the "Comprehensive Permit Statute."

MGL c. 40R Smart-growth zoning
Encourages "smart growth" to preserve open space while increasing affordable housing.

Massachusetts city and town zoning ordinances

Selected case law

Bjorklund v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Norwell, 450 Mass. 357 (2008) 
McMansions. Town's zoning board could stop a homeowner from tearing down a small house and replacing it with a bigger one. "Our decision recognizes that many municipalities do not welcome the building of structures that represent the popular trend of 'mansionization.'"

Murrow v. Esh Circus Arts, LLC, 93 Mass. App. Ct. 233 (2018)
Extensive discussion of "parties in interest," "parties aggreived," and "standing."

Spenlinhauer v. Town of Barnstable, 80 Mass. App. Ct. 134 (2011)
A town ordinance limiting overnight off-street parking on private property of single-family residences should be done through a zoning ordinance and not a general ordinance.

Valley Green Grow Inc. v. Town of Charlton, Land Court Misc. 18-000483 (2019)
Post-harvest processing of marijuana was an appropriate accessory use to marijuana cultivation under the town’s zoning bylaw.

Web sources

1953 House Bill 2249: Report of the special commission on planning and zoning, December, 1952.
Commission reviewed issues of municipal planning, zoning and subdivision control and made recommendations for changes in the law.

Appeals under M.G.L. c. 40A, § 17: de novo review and deference to boards, Jeffrey Angley, 2012.
Explains the judicial standard of review for litigants in zoning appeals filed under M.G.L. c. 40A, § 17

Chapter 40B planning and information, Mass. Department of Housing and Community Development
Provides information "to assist planners and developers in their affordable housing efforts," such as comprehensive permit guidance, design review, housing production plan guidelines, unit sale prices and rents.

Manual of instructions for the survey of lands and preparation of plans, 2006. 
A guide to the minimum requirements for preparing surveys and plans to be filed in the Land Court. 

Zoning and land use resources, Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development
Site includes:

  • Overview of the Subdivision Control Law (2009)
  • The Zoning Act (2016)
  • Adopting and Amending Zoning Bylaws (2009)
  • Decision Making Requirements of the Zoning Act (2009)
  • Grandfathered Lots and Plan Protection (2009)
  • Nonconforming Structures and Uses (2009)
  • Procedural Requirements of the Subdivision Control Law (2009)
  • The ANR Handbook (Approval Not Required Plans) (2009)
  • Municipal Planning and Subdivision Legislation (2008)

Print sources

Handbook of Massachusetts land use and planning law : zoning, subdivision control, and nonzoning alternatives, 4th ed., Wolters Kluwer Law & Business, 2018 with supplement.

Massachusetts municipal law, 2nd ed., MCLE, looseleaf, Chapter 29 Land use regulations.

Massachusetts practice series:

Massachusetts zoning manual, 6th ed., MCLE, looseleaf.



Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only


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Last updated: March 3, 2021