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Maroney v. Fiorentini

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 13, 2019



          Donald L. Cabell, U.S.M.J.


         This matter arises from a long-running dispute between residential developer Michael Maroney and various individuals and departments connected with the City of Haverhill (“the City”).[1]Maroney needed certain permits to advance a subdivision project, but the City refused to issue them. Frustrated, Maroney sued several entities in state court, see Maroney v. City of Haverhill Planning Bd., No. 1577-CV-001251 (Mass. Essex Sup. Ct. filed July 23, 2015), and then initiated the present action while the state court action was still pending.[2] The state court action was subsequently resolved on the merits in the defendants' favor. Defendant Fiorentini, who was not a defendant in the state matter, and defendant Ward, who was, move for judgment on the pleadings on the ground that res judicata bars the present claims because they are similar to those raised in the state court matter. (D. 61). For the reasons that follow the defendants' motion will be ALLOWED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The Parties and the Development

         In or around 2009 Maroney purchased land in Haverhill to build the Crystal Springs Cluster subdivision, a project that was to include 50 residential lots on Back Nine Drive and Front Nine Drive. (Amended Complaint, D. 51 ¶ 9). While subdivision approval was pending, the City received a professional evaluation indicating that the homes on Front Nine Drive would have inadequate water pressure to satisfy city standards for home and fire flow. (Id. ¶ 11). To address this problem, the plaintiff entered into an agreement with the Haverhill Planning Board to construct and install municipal ways and services, including a water booster station. In exchange, the Planning Board agreed to release lots for construction as they became serviceable, i.e., when the property was ready to receive utility services. (Id. ¶ 10).

         The plaintiff completed the homes on Back Nine Drive, for which he received all required permits. (Id. ¶17). The City Water Department refused to issue him permits for Front Nine Drive, however, because the water pressure and fire flow issues for that part of the development had not been addressed. (Id. ¶19).

         B. The State Court Action

         In an effort to compel the City to issue the needed permits, the plaintiff brought the state court action against the City's Planning Board and various departments.[3] (D. 51, ¶ 22). The complaint asserted claims for breach of contract, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, and misrepresentation, and sought as relief damages, a declaratory judgment that the plaintiff had satisfied all necessary permitting requirements, a writ of mandamus compelling the City to issue the necessary permits, and an injunction enjoining the City from refusing to issue the permits. (Id.).

         In response, City Building Inspector Richard Osborne counterclaimed for violation of the Massachusetts Residential Building Code and the City Zoning Law, and all defendants moved for summary judgment on the plaintiff's claims as well as Osborne's counterclaims. The plaintiff in turn filed a cross-motion for summary judgment on Osborne's counterclaims.

         The state court denied the plaintiff's motion and granted the defendants' motions in their entirety. See Memorandum of Decision and Order (Feb. 12, 2018) (Memorandum). (D. 62-1). The state court made the following findings of fact among others in so doing:

1. The City's water reports determined in 2009 that certain lots on Front Nine Drive would not be serviceable -i.e., ready to receive all utilities- because of inadequate water pressure. Id. at 5-6.
2. Maroney initially proposed building a water booster station to address the City's water pressure concerns, and Maroney's engineer acknowledged the need for a water booster station. Id. at 4.
3. Maroney agreed with the City that the booster station was necessary to meet water pressure and hydrant flow requirements. Id. at 17.
4. The City Planning Board's approval of the subdivision plan for the subdivision included documents from the Water Department about the need for the water booster station. Id. at 5.
5. In September of 2009, Maroney asked the City for permission to build homes on Back Nine Drive (“Phase I”), which did not need enhanced water pressure, before constructing the water booster station. The Water Department and the Planning Director agreed to this request so long as those homes did not require water boosting. Id. at 6-7.
6. Maroney agreed to build the water booster station before beginning construction of the homes on Front Nine Drive (“Phase II”), but he never built the station. Id. at 19.
7. In May of 2013, Maroney submitted a water boosting station plan to the Water Department, which made comments and revisions. Thereafter, Maroney never submitted a water boosting station design found acceptable by the City. Id. at 12.
8. After completion of Phase I, Maroney began building Phase II homes on lots the City had deemed unserviceable without first having built the water booster ...

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