SJC Supports NAIOP Position in Sudbury v. MBTA

This morning, in a landmark win for the commercial real estate industry, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) of Massachusetts unanimously affirmed the Land Court’s dismissal in Sudbury v. MBTA , holding that the prior public use doctrine is inapplicable when land owned by a public entity is conveyed to a private entity for a different use.

In September of 2019, NAIOP filed an amicus brief with the Real Estate Bar Association urging the SJC to uphold the Land Court’s determination that the state’s “prior public use doctrine” did not apply in this case. Such a requirement would have a significant impact on the ability of any developer to acquire property or even property rights (like an easement) from a public entity (whether a municipality or state agency), resulting in a long, unpredictable and expensive process requiring legislative approval for any change of use in a public property deal.

In its decision, the SJC expressly pointed to NAIOP’s amicus brief, which cited several recent housing projects creating hundreds of units of affordable housing and additional public benefits. Today’s decision allows these and other critical public-private partnerships to continue, creating massive community benefits across the state.

NAIOP is pleased with the SJC’s ruling, and grateful to Jessica Kelly, Daniel C. Johnson, and Ron Ruth from NAIOP Gavel member firm Sherin & Lodgen, and to members of the NAIOP Amicus Brief Advisory Committee, for their work on behalf of the commercial real estate industry on this matter. 

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