Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Commercial Use of Residential Land Assisted by the Internet.


I was in the Outer Banks a few weeks ago and became curious with the ever increasing mass of some of the houses being constructed along the beach in Kill Devil Hills. It was not that long ago that many of the homes along the beach were simple cottages. Now, some homes are being constructed with 24 bedrooms and 28 bathrooms. The local government is concerned that the homes are really hotels in disguise, but in a town that depends on tourism there is apparently some hesitancy to regulate the buildings.

The trip to Kill Devil Hills made me think of the 2012 case in Truro where a developer had constructed some large beach front homes in a residential neighborhood and had advertised rental of the homes for use for weddings and other large events. It became incumbent upon the neighbors to seek enforcement of the zoning bylaw in Land Court. The process started in 2007 when neighbors complained to the Building Commissioner about the large buses traveling through the neighborhood and the loud music. Five years later, Judge Piper determined that the ZBA was correct when it determined that the activity was an unlawful commercial use in a residential zone. DiGiovanni v. Pope, No. 08 MISC 380468 GHP, 2012 WL 259977 (Mass. Land Ct. Jan. 30, 2012).

This past weekend I was reminded of Kill Devil Hills and Truro when I read that a man had been shot at a house party in Lynnfield.  It was reported that the owner said he used the websites  FlipKey, Airbnb, and HomeAway to regularly rent out his house for corporate retreats, family reunions and other gatherings.  He was quoted as saying that he will continue to rent his house.

Something tells me that running a commercial enterprise in a residential neighborhood in Lynnfield is not a permitted use; as it was not a permitted use in Truro. Unfortunately the internet lets such cottage industries (pun intended) run under the radar until something terrible happens.  Perhaps cities and towns need to modernize their bylaws to clearly regulate cyber abuse of residential property.

Paul F. Alphen, Esquire

Alphen & Santos, P.C.

Westford, MA

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