Court not clowning around as it approves small expansion of Somerville circus school

The Massachusetts Appeals Court today dismissed a lawsuit against Esh Circus Arts and the Somerville zoning board, saying the person who brought it does not live close enough to be legally aggrieved by the circus center's request to use some vacant office space in its building.

In 2015, the zoning board approved Esh's request for permission to renovate and use a roughly 850-square-foot vacant office space for a new lobby and reception area. Claudia Murrow, who lives across and down the street, promptly sued, saying the move would cause "detrimental health, safety, and welfare effect on Murrow and Esh's surrounding neighbors."

In its ruling, though, the appeals court agreed with a lower-court judge that Murrow lived too far down the street to be the sort of person who could legally make that kind of claim under state zoning laws. Basically, immediate neighbors of a property and their immediate neighbors, at least up to 300 feet away from the property in question, as well as people who live directly across the street, are considered "parties in interest" who can file suit against zoning decisions which they feel aggrieved by.

Although Murrow lives within 300 feet of the circus school, she is not an immediate neighbor of an immediate neighbor of the school, nor does she live directly across the street, and so is not legally allowed to appeal a zoning decision, the court said.

Murrow also argued that the city of Somerville certainly felt otherwise, because it included her on a list of people who had to be notified about the zoning hearing. The court shot that out of a legal cannon as well, saying that while the list of people notified about the hearing might include "parties in interest," that doesn't mean the city certified the list it used was only of people who might be covered by state zoning laws.

At the same time, the court rejected Esh's demand that Murrow be required to reimburse it for its legal fees - and pay additional damages:

Although Murrow has failed to persuade us that the judge erred in dismissing her claims, sanctions are not warranted as this appeal is neither frivolous nor was it initiated in bad faith.


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PDF icon Complete Murrow ruling106.4 KB


Three years of lawsuits over

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Three years of lawsuits over a business occupying available office space in the building where it was already located. We've gone mad.


Blaming the wrong party

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Zoning was fine with it. The NIMBY neighbor who is suing everyone over everything all the time for ridiculous reasons made up her own zoning law interpretation and tried to block the change.

She also sued over their occupancy permit. And a four unit building near her. And the entire plan by the City of Somerville to reuse vacant warehouse space after the envelope factory and other factories left the area.


Something I can't figure here

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1. that facility has been some sort of school for a while
2. it is directly across a very active rail line from Brooklyn Boulders

I don't know what this woman has been smoking, but she should switch to real weed.


This person likes to sue over

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This person likes to sue over zoning issues. Look her up on Google. She must make for a fine neighbor.

Clearly not rational

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She lives on the other side of the train tracks, and has sued the city at least five times in the last decade over anything and everything.

When you grant almost

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When you grant almost universal veto power to anyone who happens to live in a neighborhood just because they live there, and you create a system of laws that presupposes that almost any sort of activity one might perform on their property has the possibility of "harming" someone nearby just by virtue of interacting with the public, this is the inevitable result.

Just imagine how many less well established business ventures never even get off the ground because one neighbor in a thousand doesn't like new things.

This just reaffirms how

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This just reaffirms how important it is for land use courts in MA to make speedy decisions on these kinds of cases, otherwise people like this woman are tempted to use this process purely for the purpose of making development more difficult and expensive.


Now I see why they wanted her to pay their fees

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This actually IS frivolous. She lives WAY down the street, behind another building, across a set of train tracks. They could start a tuba school in the circus building and it wouldn't affect her one bit.