MGL Chapter 40A section 3 (Dover Amendment) states:
“No zoning ordinance or by-law shall regulate or restrict the interior area of a single family residential building nor shall any such ordinance or by-law prohibit, regulate or restrict the use of land or structures for religious purposes or for educational purposes on land owned or leased by the commonwealth or any of its agencies, subdivisions or bodies politic or by a religious sect or denomination, or by a nonprofit educational corporation; provided, however, that such land or structures may be subject to reasonable regulations concerning the bulk
and height of structures and determining yard sizes, lot area, setbacks, open space, parking and building coverage requirements.”
Libraries exist for the purpose of education and provide educational opportunities throughout a patron’s lifetime. From early literacy programs, to adult education, a library provides the technology, materials, and programming for a lifetime of learning.
Any regulation that nullifies a project is not a “reasonable regulation.” Accordingly, the regulations for lot area and setbacks cannot be applied reasonably to the proposed Sharon library as they will nullify the project. Additionally, unfunded Town monetary expenditures that will result in a loss of the project would be patently inconsistent with the Dover Amendment. Therefore, these regulations cannot be applied under well-established State law. For example, the 25% maximum lot coverage regulation will result in the loss of the MBLC grant, per the MBLC (stated at the July 8th meeting, and in many other formats.) A ZBA board may request, but not require, something other than the regulation. Therefore, the ZBA may request, but not require, a lot coverage which is less than the current 32% but greater than 25%. Nevertheless, under the Dover Amendment, anything other than 25% may not be required, as the application of that regulation would nullify the project. Similarly, by law, a reduction of square footage from 32% may be requested by the ZBA, but cannot be enforced.
The regulations for the special permit also cannot be applied since those specific technical requirements cannot be met without nullifying the project. Notwithstanding any technical noncompliance, this project has over and above met the substantive intent and purposes of the special permit requirements. Revealingly, the applicant has never received any information as to what requirements were not met or as to how the project would fail to satisfy the substantive intent and purposes of those requirements.
Lastly, a ZBA board may not legally deny a special permit without some type of legal basis and reasonable factual evidence supporting that denial. No such evidence for denial has been presented in the case of the library to date – despite the many months this matter has been pending before the ZBA.