Supreme Court of the Land Court Interprets the Definition of Overlapping Zoning for Hot Tubs and Swimming Pools

This post was written by Amy Lavine, Esq.

The Massachusetts case decided in August considered the City of Nantucket’s zoning definitions for “hot tub/spa” and “swimming pool”. Specifically, the zoning code defines a “hot tub/spa” as a structure with a surface area of ​​less than 150 square feet and a depth of more than two feet, while a “swimming pool” is defined as a structure with an area of ​​more than 150 square feet. feet of surface area or contain more than 1,000 gallons of water. The definition poses a dilemma because a structure “can at one time have a surface area of ​​less than 150 square feet and hold more than 1,000 gallons of water, thereby simultaneously being a spa and swimming pool.”

The court ruled that the 1,000 gallon threshold in the definition of “swimming pool” should be read into the definition of “hot tub/spa”. As the court explained: “Restricting what is meant by “Hot Tub/Spa” by interpreting the statutory independent clauses in the definition of “Swimming Pool” does not render the statutory definition of “Hot Tub/Spa” completely meaningless or ambiguous … . The practical effect of interpreting the definitions in this way would allow both definitions to exist without the court having to replace its decision with a municipal decision.”

The Court also observed that its interpretation was consistent with the context of the zoning code as a whole, as the ban on ponds in historic districts indicates that the city’s intention was to “prevent ponds in [historic] district because of its size — either because of its large surface area or its large volume. Finally, the court rejected the argument that it should follow a previous city decision that applied the definition of “hot tub/spa” to other properties, because the property owner in this case was not contesting the previous decision and was instead seeking a decision on how the code should be interpreted as applied to the property. they. The prior determinations, the court explained, “provide insight into the general view of cities but do not address specific questions as to how these definitions apply to the potential future uses of their properties.”

Bartlett v. Town of Nantucket, 2022 WL 3335657 (Mas. LCR 8/12/22).

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