Can a town interfere with a land sale if it may lead to health problems?

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Can a town interfere with a land sale if it may lead to health problems?

The local gas company is in the process of purchasing some land from a private golf club in our town. They plan to place a gas metering station on the land. The property is in a residential area. Many of us have organized a group to stop the sale. Our concerns are with the health and safety issues of placing such a

metering station in a residential area. Our town council says that they have no power to block a private land sale. Our group doesn’t understand how this can be so, if there is a possibility of a health and safety issue because of the placement of this metering station in this area. We have presented them with evidence of the

health and safety issues. Is there anything that we can do?

Asked on January 7, 2019 under Real Estate Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

If the sale violates zoning laws, in that they are looking to place something on that land that it not approved for it, the town can block it. And even if it is zoned for this use, if something about how the installation, etc. is done or property used violates health or safety ordinances, the buyer can be fined for doing so or have their installation/use blocked. But if the proposed purchase and use is within the law--no violations of zoning or town health/safety code--then the town had no authority to stop it, even if neighbors oppose the use. All the town can do is enforce the town's laws on the books.
However, even if ostensibly legal, if the way the land is used in fact disturbs--not just ypothetically or from what people fear may happen, but from its actuall sounds/noise, sights, smells, and/or chemical discharges, etc.--neighbors in a way inappropriate for a residential neighborhood like this, the affected neighbors could bring a "nuisance" lawsuit to seek compensation and/or have the operations/use discontinued. There needs to be a concrete, provably impact on the neighbors that is inappropriate for a location like that. if you want to explore this option, consult with a real estate attorney.


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