Christopher R. Vaccaro

Christopher Vaccaro

Special To Banker & Tradesman

Christopher R. Vaccaro is a partner at Dalton & Finegold in Andover.
Christopher Vaccaro can be reached at editorial@thewarrengroup.com

Campground Operator Gains 36 Acres By Adverse Possession

Law students studying real property law encounter the doctrine of adverse possession. According to this doctrine, known colloquially as “squatter’s rights,” if a person holds open, continuous, exclusive, adverse and notorious possession of land for several years, that person becomes the legal owner of the land, without a written deed from the record owner.

Recreational Marijuana Vote Raises The Stakes

Massachusetts voters legalized medical marijuana in a 2012 referendum. Next month voters will consider another referendum which would legalize recreational marijuana use, as Colorado and Washington have already done. Federal and state marijuana laws are newsworthy as election day draws near.

Plaintiffs Make Gains In Premises Liability Lawsuits

Businesses owe customers a duty of reasonable care to prevent them from being injured by others, but even the best-run restaurants and stores cannot avoid occasional spills by careless customers. These spills can cause slip and fall accidents and serious injury. In recent years, Massachusetts courts have made it easier for injured customers (and...
Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs

Turbine Projects Marred By Litigation

For those concerned about possible missteps when developing wind energy projects, the story of Falmouth’s municipal wind turbines is instructive. These 400-foot turbines, known as Wind 1 and Wind 2, were each intended to generate 1.65 megawatts of clean energy for Falmouth’s municipal wastewater treatment plant, with excess output sold to the electric utility....

Another Blow For Residential Landlords

Much can be said about the Massachusetts legal system, but nobody claims that it favors residential landlords. The unfortunate Garth Meikle learned this firsthand when the Supreme Judicial Court decided Meikle v. Nurse last month. Meikle rented an apartment in his Dorchester three-family to Patricia Nurse in 2011, collecting a one-month rent security deposit...

Supreme Judicial Court Expands Condominium Lien Priority

The Massachusetts legislature faced a dilemma during the 1990s real estate recession. Defaulting condominium owners stopped paying monthly assessments, and projects fell into disrepair. First mortgages held priority over condominium liens, so mortgage lenders had little incentive to see that condominium assessments were paid. Neighborhoods became blighted and unsafe. In response, the legislature amended...

The Definitive Gateway City

Massachusetts law defines “gateway municipalities” as cities and towns with populations between 35,000 and 250,000 where median household incomes and rates of residents with bachelor’s degrees are below the state average. The city of Lawrence is the quintessential gateway municipality, with over 75,000 residents, many of whom are recent immigrants in lower-income households. Textile...

Going Coconuts Over Shoreline Erosion

Residents of beach neighborhoods in Newbury, Scituate, Sandwich and Nantucket are painfully aware that ocean waves and currents are ruthless, especially in winter. Rarely does a storm season pass without these forces inflicting severe damage on coastal properties in those communities. Unfortunately, available options for protecting properties from such damage are limited. Erosion and...

A New Law Governing Defective Foreclosures

On Nov. 25, Gov. Charlie Baker approved Massachusetts Senate Bill No. 2015, entitled “An Act Clearing Titles to Foreclosed Properties.” This new statute pleases real estate professionals who transact in foreclosed properties, because it promises to cure undesirable results of defective mortgage foreclosures. The statute addresses the mischief wrought by sloppy mortgage foreclosure practices...

The Limits Of Landlord Liability

Are landlords legally responsible for random murders that occur on their property? The short answer: It depends on the circumstances. Last September, the Massachusetts Appeals Court offered guidance on whether landlords can be held liable for negligence when criminal homicides happen on their properties. Deborah Furr, a Brockton resident, had owned a two-family rental...

When Legislatures Delegate, Agencies Flex Their Muscle

The Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA) was enacted in 1990 to protect at-risk wildlife. Like many statutes, MESA authorizes an administrative agency (the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife) to issue regulations furthering the statute’s goals. Questions often arise about whether administrative agencies overstep their delegated authority. Pepin v. Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, decided by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court last year, shows how courts handle challenges to agencies’ authority.

’Tis The Season … For Percentage Rent Breakpoints

With Black Friday and the holiday shopping season approaching, retailers hope for sales revenues that will make them profitable in 2015. Landlords who receive percentage rent from retail tenants share their hope. Percentage rent clauses in retail leases encourage a symbiosis between shopping center landlords and their tenants. Landlords have incentive to promote their...

Filling In The Gaps In Cellular Service

The Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 (TCA) brought major changes to the American telecommunications industry. As to wireless communications, the TCA is a legislative compromise designed to facilitate expanded service, while allowing local control over cell tower sites. Local authorities can regulate placement of towers, subject to limitations. Last May, the U.S. District Court...

As UMass Grows, Amherst Struggles With Housing Availability

Conflicts between town and gown are business as usual in Amherst, home to UMass’s flagship campus, as well as Amherst College and Hampshire College. With about 28,000 students in a town with fewer than 40,000 residents, problems arise when students and non-students compete for housing. Amherst recently created a Town and Gown Steering Committee...

A Declaration Of Rights Victory For Strip Clubs

Article 16 of the Massachusetts Constitution’s Declaration of Rights assures that “the right of free speech shall not be abridged.” This month inShowtime Entertainment, LLC v. Town of Mendon, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court invoked this fundamental right to strike down a local bylaw banning alcohol at adult stores and strip clubs. In June...

Legal Challenges Stack Odds Against Cape Wind Project

In 2001, Cape Wind Associates announced bold plans to install giant wind turbines on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound. Fourteen years later, this renewable energy project remains stuck on the drawing board. It has not generated a single watt of electricity, but it has kept dozens of lawyers, government regulators, and judges busy in...

The Limits Of Grandfathering

Expanding land use laws are a familiar trend in Massachusetts, as zoning and subdivision control regulations become more comprehensive. Despite this trend, existing buildings are generally exempt from new land use regulations that would otherwise render them illegal. These preexisting nonconforming buildings are commonly referred to as “grandfathered.” A Martha’s Vineyard homeowner learned the...