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J.M. Hollister, LLC v. Architectural Access Board (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-121-14)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.  If you find a typographical error or other formal error, please notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500, Boston, MA, 02108-1750; (617) 557-1030; SJCReporter@sjc.state.ma.us   SJC-11473   J.M. HOLLISTER, LLC.  vs.  ARCHITECTURAL ACCESS BOARD. Suffolk.     March 3, 2014. – July 10, 2014.   Present:  Ireland, C.J., Spina, Cordy, Botsford, Gants, Duffly, & Lenk, JJ.     Architectural Access Board.  Handicapped Persons.  Administrative Law, Judicial review, Substantial evidence, Agency’s interpretation of regulation.  Statute, Construction.  Zoning, Variance.  Words, “Entrance.”       Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on June 25, 2010.   The case was heard by John C. Cratsley, J., on a motion for judgment on the pleadings.   After review by the Appeals Court, the Supreme Judicial Court granted leave to obtain further appellate review.     Daniel P. Dain for the plaintiff. Douglas S. Martland, Assistant Attorney General, for the defendant. Richard M. Glassman, for Disability Law Center & others, amici curiae, submitted a brief.     CORDY, J.  This case turns on the interpretation and application of a Massachusetts regulation requiring that each “entrance” to a public building or facility be accessible to persons with disabilities.[1]  See G. L. c. 22, § 13A; 521 Code Mass. Regs. §§ 5.1, 25.1 (2006).  The Architectural Access Board (board) issued a final decision concluding that each of the three doorways of a retail store in Kingston, operated by J.M. Hollister, LLC (Hollister), was a separate entrance, and therefore that each doorway was required to be accessible to persons with disabilities.  The board also denied Hollister’s request for a variance from compliance with the accessibility regulations.  Hollister sought judicial review of the decision pursuant to G. L. c. 30A.[2]  A Superior Court judge affirmed the board’s decision, as did the Appeals Court on appeal.  See J.M. Hollister, LLC v. Architectural Access Bd., 83 Mass. App. Ct. 513, 524 (2013) (Hollister).  We granted Hollister’s application for further appellate review and also affirm the judgment of the Superior Court, because the board’s decision was based on substantial evidence of meaningful differences in the use and functionality of the three doorways at issue, and because the denial of the variance was based on evidence of a substantial benefit of access for persons with disabilities.[3] Background.  1.  Regulatory framework.  General Laws c. 22, § 13A, empowers the board to adopt rules and regulations “designed to make public buildings and facilities accessible to, functional for, and safe for use by persons with disabilities.”  See 521 Code Mass. Regs. § 2.1 (2006).[4]  These regulations are intended to ensure that “all […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - July 10, 2014 at 6:52 pm

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