Discrimination Case Dismissed against Town of Mattapoisett

            The Town of Mattapoisett received notification recently that a case that had been wending its way through the United States Land Court and more recently the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination was brought to a close when the commission dismissed the case.

            The issue was whether or not a condominium complex that had been permitted as an age-related subdivision with all the waivers and consensus therein needed to meet Zoning and Planning Board regulations could amend conditions – in this case, to allow someone under 55 to reside at the complex.

            In 2016, Cheryl Martin and her husband Brian Porter received permission from the Mattapoisett Landing condominium board of trustees granting Porter, who at the time was not yet 55, to remain as a resident of the complex.

            In a follow-up on September 12 with Mattapoisett Landing board of directors, chairman Arthur Layton, he said, “the trustees reached an agreement; we wanted to find a way to solve the matter amicably.” He said that the board considered many aspects of Martin’s request to grant her husband residency, especially given that, “By the time it went through court he’d probably be 55.” Layton said the board simply wanted to find a ”friendly basis to resolve the matter.”

            But the Zoning Board of Appeals was brought into the equation when the Building Department was informed of the agreement between Martin, Porter, and the trustees. A cease and desist order was filed against Porter. Speaking on behalf of the town at that time, then-Town Administrator Mike Gagne defended the town’s position that the development had residency age-restrictions and that the developer had received significant “concessions” to build the cluster compound based on those restrictions. The Special Permit was denied.

            A press release received by The Wanderer on September 11 reads in part: “… the Town has received a decision granting a motion to dismiss from the Massachusetts Commission on Discrimination.” The motion was in reference to a complaint filed by Cheryl Martin and Brian Porter regarding the 55-and-over age requirement for residents of the Mattapoisett Landing Condominiums.

            Since its inception, the Mattapoisett Landing Condominium development was granted a permit by the Mattapoisett Planning Board with specific restrictions. The board procedurally conditioned the project to be developed with a 55-and-over age requirement in order to allow for a higher density of condominiums than would normally be allowed under the existing overly zoning for the area.

            The town was informed that one tenant residing in the development did not meet the mandatory age restriction. In response, the town’s zoning-enforcement officer issued a cease-and-desist order (under the conditions of the Mattapoisett Planning Board Special Permit) to the individual in violation. Litigation involving both parties ensued.

            The United States Land Court, in a separate decision dated July 2017, upheld the town’s cease-and-desist order, and the tenant, who was in violation with the mandatory age restriction, was forced to vacate the development.

            In her decision, MCAD Commissioner Sunila Thomas George favored the Town of Mattapoisett. When considering the previous US Land Court decision, the commissioner determined that there was “no public interest served in allowing this matter to remain open.”

            Director of Inspectional Services Andy Bobola stated in a follow-up, “I’m charged with applying the rules and regulations equally – imagine the chaos otherwise.”

            The press release received from Town Administrator Mike Lorenco goes on to say, “The Town of Mattapoisett is pleased with the decision. Administration would like to recognize and acknowledge the hard work of the Town’s Planning Board in properly permitting a project of definite need for Mattapoisett. The Town will continue to try to discover different avenues to promote affordable and appropriate housing for Mattapoisett’s growing senior population.”

By Marilou Newell

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