The Supreme Judicial Court today upheld a decision by Brookline's Zoning Board of Appeals that the owners of the topmost condo in a two-family house on Searle Avenue can add a dormer to their roof, and roughly 630 square feet of living space.
The zoning board approved the dormer in 2016 after the town planning board and most of Jason Jewhurst and Nurit Zuker's neighbors said the request was pretty minor and that, in fact, the dormer would make their home look more like all the surrounding homes.
But, of course, the owners of one neighboring home objected enough to sue to block the approval, saying that because the house didn't conform with its current zoning - the lot is too small and the house too dense - adding more living space would make the house even more non-conforming, which should have required Jewhurst and Zuker to apply for a variance, which is harder to get than the special permit the zoning board approved.
The neighbors lost in Land Court, then felt the matter was important enough to appeal to the Supreme Judicial Court.
As it has done in other, similar cases, the SJC first complained about the complexity of the section of state zoning law that deals with properties that don't conform with their current zoning, which has lots of clauses that can confuse even the hardiest of justices, never mind the general public.
But with that out of the way, the state's highest court continued that the law does, in fact, let local zoning boards issue special permits in cases such as this one, that while the plaintiffs were correct that the Brookline town zoning code pretty obviously would normally require a variance, that's a tougher standard than set by the state law and in zoning cases, state law trumps local code, so Jewhurst and Zuker can now set about hiring contractors to add that dormer.