The Dover Amendment Explained
In 1950, Massachusetts granted religious and educational nonprofit corporations immunity from certain zoning restrictions. The official title is Massachusetts General Law (MGL) Chapter 40A, Section 3, but it is commonly called the Dover Amendment. This is important for our members because it impacts what they are allowed to build and where.
The intent for the Dover Amendment was to negate discriminatory local bylaws barring religious schools from residential zones. Though its roots are in education, the scope of the law has expanded since then to include agricultural usage as well.
MANSC is an ardent defender of the Dover Amendment, and we will work to ensure that any legislation aimed at eroding this amendment is defeated. Though we are early into this legislative session, MANSC is already tracking several of such bills in the House and Senate.
While there are factions which seek to limit or eliminate Dover altogether, others are pushing to expand it beyond its original intended scope. The word "educational" can be interpreted broadly, and recently some non-profit organizations have argued that it includes adult day programs and mental health community homes. In 1985, a ruling was made that the structures in question must have education as the “primary or dominant purpose," but this too leaves room for debate.
Regardless, the Dover Amendment is frequently under attack, and such bills pose a real threat to the financial stability and independence of nonprofit schools, colleges, and universities across the commonwealth. Through determined advocacy, MANSC has successfully blocked legislation targeting the Dover Amendment in the past, and will continue to do so moving forward.