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Donation does not invalidate rezoning.

A voluntary offer to donate $8 million, which was made by a utility that sought rezoning of a parcel to industrial use, did not invalidate the rezoning sought by the utility according to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

The Town of Bellingham, seeking to increase its property tax base, adopted a recommendation from an economic development task force to develop industrial land. The task force identified a specific parcel as a candidate for rezoning from agricultural and suburban use to industrial use. A proposal to rezone the parcel failed to pass. Subsequently IDC Bellingham, LLC (IDC), which owned a power plant in Bellingham, began discussions with town officials about the possibility of rezoning the subject parcel for building of a second plant. The town administrators told IDC that the town faced an $8 million shortfall in its plans to construct a new high school. IDC announced that it would make an $8 million gift to the town if IDC decided to build the plant. The company made it clear that the town could use the money for any municipal purpose. The town then approved an ordinance rezoning the subject property to industrial use. Neighboring property owners brought suit challenging the rezoning. The trial court ruled for the landowners. IDC appealed.

On appeal, the neighboring property owners argued that the town's consideration of the proposed $8 million donation invalidated the zoning ordinance. The court said that in general there is no reason to invalidate a legislative act on the basis of consideration of funds coming from outside the governmental unit because the courts defer to legislative findings and choices without regard to motive. It saw no reason to make an exception for legislative zoning enactments. The court found no persuasive authority for the proposition that an otherwise valid zoning enactment is invalid if it is in any way prompted or encouraged by a public benefit voluntarily offered. The trial court's decision was reversed.

Durand v. IDC Bellingham, LLC

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts

August 15, 2003

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Title Annotation:cases in brief; real estate valuation
Publication:Appraisal Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2004
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