Zoning laws in the United States came into existence at the turn of the twentieth century and were deemed constitutional under state police power. Since zoning’s inception, states have delegated the bulk of zoning authority to local municipalities, and accordingly, this area of the law is quite diverse. The manifold nature of zoning is strikingly evident at the judicial-review level, where courts grapple with upholding zoning’s legal underpinnings, while at the same time maintaining deference to local decision-making. The interplay between state and local authorities results in a body of law that can be, at times, contradictory and unpredictable.
To have standing to oppose an act of a local zoning board, Massachusetts law requires a person to be “aggrieved”; however, courts’ attempts to define aggrievement have yielded inconsistent results. Recently, in Kenner v. Zoning Board of Appeals, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) attempted to clarify the standard, but only managed to further shroud standing laws in confusion and ambiguity. In essence, the SJC raised the bar for threshold standing determinations, and in doing so, utilized vague and imprecise language in defining aggrievement. In addition, the SJC created potential disruption in the well-settled area of the law of particularized harm. . .