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March 8, 2024

On March 8, 2024, litigation attorneys Tom Vangel and Jamie Radke obtained an appellate victory when the Massachusetts Appeals Court issued a decision in favor of the firm's client Notre Dame Training School.

The case concerned the School's application for an abatement of a betterment assessment levied by the Sewer Commission for the Town of Tyngsboro, Massachusetts arising from the Town's construction of a sewer system. The Appeals Court affirmed the judgment of the Superior Court in the School's favor, finding that the Commission failed to follow the Town's regulations when it calculated the assessment on the School's property. 

The Notre Dame Training School owns a 200-acre campus in the Town of Tyngsboro where it operates a co-ed Catholic school. The Town installed a sewer system and, as permitted by statute, recovered the project costs through betterments assessed on the landowners that benefited from the system. The regulations adopted by the Town for the project required the Commission to calculate the betterments using two years of water records at each property, unless it determined that the records were not representative of the landowner’s potential sewer use in the future.

Rather than using the School’s water records to calculate the assessment, the Town applied an assumed rate of water flow for all affected properties without ever making a finding that the School’s water records were not representative of its potential use.  This resulted in the Commission calculating and levying an assessment of $511,000 on the School, which was three times what it would have been had the Commission performed the calculation using the School’s actual water records. The Commission argued that it was entitled to make a finding for all properties as a whole and that its calculation was the most “fair and equitable“ means of calculating the assessments. The Appeals Court rejected those arguments and determined that the Commission’s interpretation was not entitled to deference because it conflicted with the plain language of the Town’s regulations.

Jamie Radke handled the case at the Superior Court, where he obtained summary judgment in favor of the client.

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