How Much Discretion Do Local Boards Have? Or, What’s Sauce For the Goose

Last week, I posted about the Pollard decision, which made clear that local boards to not have unlimited discretion to ignore evidence provided by project proponents. This week, the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak. In Macero v. MacDonald, the Massachusetts Appeals Court reversed a decision in favor of a project opponent, on essentially the same analysis as that in Pollard.

In Macero, the developer sought a variance from state and local septic system regulations. The developer provided some information from a professional. However, the local Board of Health did not, apparently, formally review that information, and its decision did not include specific findings that the standards for the variance had been met. As the Appeals Court stated, “the authority of the board is broad…. However, competent judicial review … is … rendered difficult if not impossible by the lack of specific findings and rationale for the agency decision.”

The lesson here? Even if the board is on your side, make sure that they take the time to dot all their i’s and cross all their t’s.

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