Real Estate Blog

Massachusetts SJC rules in favor of Hume Lake Christian Camp zoning appeal under the Dover Amendment

06/09/2023 | by Briana McCarthy


Real Estate Blog

Massachusetts SJC rules in favor of Hume Lake Christian Camp zoning appeal under the Dover Amendment

By Briana McCarthy on June 9, 2023

The Supreme Judicial Court finds that Hume Lake Christian Camps, Inc.’s proposed recreational vehicle park would be exempt from Monterey’s bylaws under the Dover Amendment, G.L.c. 40A, §3, due to its religious purpose.  The court finds that “the use of land or structure can serve a religious purpose without itself being a form of religious practice.”

Hume acquired the Hume New England campground in 2012, where they run “program camps” and “guest retreats” with the purpose of furthering their religious mission.  In May 2019, Hume submitted to the Planning Board of Monterey an application for the construction of an RV camp on Hume NE’s grounds.  These sites would be located within walking distance of the other facilities, in order to accommodate “temporary travel trailers, motorhomes, tents, and seasonal staff housing trailers.” The RVs were to be used for families, volunteers, and seasonal, temporary staff during the summer months.

Under Monterey’s zoning bylaws, the principal use of a “trailer or mobile home park” is prohibited in all zoning districts. In July 2019, the board denied Hume’s application to construct the RV camp on the grounds that the trailer park is not customary religious use and should not fall under the umbrella of the Dover Amendment.  Hume appealed.

The court looked to whether Hume’s proposed construction of an RV camp at Hume NE would be exempt from the zoning by law pursuant to the Dover Amendment.

When deciding if this use falls under the Dover Amendment, the court looked to “whether [the land] or structure as a whole is to be used for religious purposes”. The religious purpose exemption covers any use the primary or dominant purpose of which is to “aid a system of faith”. “The court emphasized that the religious purposes exemption does not require that a proposed use be intrinsically religious in order to serve a religious purpose.” The court found while the RV park is not intrinsically religious, the court has taken the broad view that the RV park facilitates the religious purpose of Hume NE camp by house the families and staff that attend and operate the religious camp.

The court concluded that the RV camp’s dominant purpose was a religiously significant goal and would be exempt under the Dover Amendment. The court found that the RV parks use by the volunteers and employees would facilitate the operations of the camp and the use by families attending the camp, would strengthen attendance at Hume NE.

The court stated that “A religious organizations may depend upon secular tasks, such as the provision of food and house, in order to operate effectively.” The court took the broad view that if the land or structure is used for the purpose of carrying out its religious goals and to serve a religious purpose, the use itself can be secular in nature and can be deemed an exemption under the Dover Amendment.

View a copy of the Hume Lake Christian Camps, Inc. vs. Planning Board of Monterey decision.

Briana McCarthy – Associate

Briana McCarthy assists clients in commercial real estate transactions including acquisitions, dispositions, development, environmental, and leasing.