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SJC Decisions Limits Local Fire Department Rules

On May 4th, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court announced a decision that represents a victory for private property rights against excessive regulations. In the case of St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Western Massachusetts, Inc. vs. Fire Department of Springfield, the court found that the statewide building code pre-empted a more restrictive local ordinance. In 2006 the City of Springfield passed a local ordinance that limited the type of fire suppression system to one type, despite the fact that the building code allowed for four alternatives. In addition the ordinance required the removal and replacement of any of the other three systems whose use is permitted by the state building code.

The court found that if the city ordinance was allowed to stand, it could sanction the development of different applicable building codes in each of the state's 351 cities and towns, precisely the result that the state code was intended to prevent.