A Robinson R44 helicopter. William Haney's flights of an R44 in and out of a Great Neck Road South neighborhood drew a cease-and-desist order from the town.

After 10 years of dispute with the Mashpee Zoning Board of Appeals, William R. Haney can once again land his helicopter at his Great Neck Road residence.

On January 27, the Mashpee Building Commissioner Michael Mendoza revoked his order that Mr. Haley cease and desist using a landing zone at his Great Neck Road residence. The Mashpee Zoning Board of Appeals also rescinded its decision upholding the order. The zoning board, the building commissioner and Mr. Haney all agreed to dismiss the case without prejudice.

Mr. Haney filed a civil action lawsuit against the zoning board at Barnstable Superior Court in December 2018.

According to court documents, Mr. Haney said that, in 2007, he registered his property at Great Neck Road as a private restricted landing area with the aeronautics division of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and constructed a gravel helipad.

In 2010, the Mashpee building commissioner initiated a zoning enforcement action against Mr. Haney and issued a cease and desist order regarding the use of the helipad. After Mr. Haley responded with a letter stating that the helipad was properly registered with the aeronautics division of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the building commissioner withdrew the order.

According to court documents, at the time that Mr. Haney constructed the helipad, state law prohibited towns from enforcing a zoning bylaw that restricted a private landowner’s use of a noncommercial landing area on his property, unless the bylaw had been approved by the Aeronautics Division. Mashpee’s zoning bylaw prohibiting the helipad had not been approved.

Things changed, however, in 2018, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled in Roma III, Ltd. v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Rockland that the aeronautics division of the Department of Transportation’s purview was limited to bylaws concerning “the use and operation of aircraft,” and that towns can regulate the “use of land” without approval from the aeronautics division, according to court documents.

After the SJC’s decision, a Mashpee resident filed a complaint against Mr. Haney, and Mr. Mendoza issued a new cease-and-desist order regarding Haney’s helicopter and helipad. Mr. Haney appealed the order on June 1, 2018.

In his appeal, Mr. Haney argued that the helipad is a lawful, pre-existing use under Massachusetts General Laws chapter 40A, section 6, which states that “a zoning ordinance or by-law shall not apply to structures or uses lawfully in existence or lawfully begun.”

At an emotional hearing before the zoning board in November 2018, Mashpee residents said that Mr. Haney’s helicopter made their houses shake and that he used his helicopter to bother women and children.

The zoning board denied Mr. Haney’s appeal.

In return, Mr. Haney filed a civil action lawsuit before the Barnstable Superior Court on December 21, 2018. He claimed grievance under Massachusetts General Laws chapter 40a section 6, and that the zoning board’s decisions were “erroneous, in excess of the Board’s authority, against the weight of the evidence, arbitrary, capricious and whimsical,” according to the complaint.

In the final agreement issued on January 27, the zoning board and the building commissioner admitted no fault or error in their actions, “but rather wish to avoid the cost of further litigation.”

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(1) comment


I wouldn’t want a helicopter landing in my back yard either. But I believe Mr Haney is correct that his use is a preexisting condition that existed prior to the SJC’s clarification. These “grandfather” clauses often will protect many of us but aggrieve the rest of us. Such is the nature of the laws of this nation.

Reminds me of back in the 90’s when they tried to shut down Zach’s Pub. I do not agree with strip clubs nor would I want a strip club in my neighborhood. But alas, the greater good is accomplished by upholding “grandfather” RIGHTS whether we agree or not.

Kudos to the ZBA & the Town for dismissing this litigation which would have been extremely costly with absolutely ZERO guarantee that the ZBA/Town would have prevailed.

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