Boston Zoning Appeals

Like nearly every municipality in the United States, the City of Boston regulates land use through a series of rules and ordinances known as “zoning.” Zoning in Boston, and the process of appealing a decision on such a matter, is slightly different than the process used for other towns and cities across Massachusetts.

Overview of Zoning in the City of Boston

As the largest city in Massachusetts, Boston has its own zoning process which is more detailed and complex than most other zoning ordinances across the state. A state enabling act gives Boston a lot of autonomy in its zoning process.

Similar to most cities, zoning in Boston is done through various districts, which often correspond to the many different neighborhoods of the city.

The City of Boston’s Inspectional Services Department regulates zoning in the city. Appeals of zoning matters go before the Zoning Board of Appeal.

Appealing a Zoning Decision

Similar to the appeal process required for the rest of Massachusetts, an “aggrieved” party is permitted to appeal a zoning decision in Boston (or a refusal of the city to enforce a zoning matter). This is a critical, threshold requirement for such an appeal: a party seeking such an appeal must show they will suffer some harm if the zoning relief is allowed.

Such appeals must generally be filed in Suffolk Superior Court or Housing Court. Unlike zoning matters for other towns and cities in Massachusetts, Land Court cannot decide most zoning matters from Boston.

In a zoning appeal, the burden is put on the party seeking the zoning relief to show they are entitled to it. The Court will hear evidence and testimony, and determine whether the board exceeded its authority in making the zoning decision.


I’ve helped many homeowners with a wide array of zoning disputes. If you assistance with such a matter, contact me for a consultation.