Dover Amendment

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The Dover Amendment is the common name for Massachusetts General Law (MGL) Chapter 40A, Section 3. This law exempts agricultural, religious, and educational corporations from certain zoning restrictions. It allows a structure that provides certain services to ignore local zoning laws and build the facility it needs to provide those services. The Dover Amendment allows many developers to build facilities that are substantially larger than zoning laws would ordinarily allow or which would be considered inappropriate, by some, for the neighborhood.

Considered by many to be overly broad, the exemption granted by the Dover Amendment has been narrowed somewhat by recent [provide dates] court decisions. While a corporation must merely be nonprofit and legally able to engage in educational activities to be considered a "nonprofit educational corporation," the actual use of a particular facility must have education as the “primary or dominant purpose" to qualify for Dover protection. See Whitinsville Retirement Society, Inc. v. Northbridge, 394 Mass. 757, 760 (1985).


It is unclear if the city of Boston is exempt from the Dover Amendment. The Boston Globe has referred to an exemption for the city on occasion. The city of Cambridge passed an exemption in 1981 removing Harvard University from Dover protection, because Harvard was Cambridge's largest land owner.


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