The Supreme Judicial Court has dealt a blow to the town of Weston in its nine-year-old fight with Regis College, which is seeking zoning protection for a proposed retirement community.
In a ruling issued Tuesday, the court sent the case back to Land Court.
Regis wants to build a 362-unit luxury retirement community under the so-called Dover Amendment, which bestows zoning exemptions for educational facilities.
Weston has argued that the proposal is primarily a housing development and therefore not eligible for the zoning exemption. The college says its Regis East would be an educational facility, where the residents, 55 and older, would be required to take at least two courses per semester. The housing would also create internships for Regis students in gerontology and social work, according to past college statements.
In its decision released Tuesday, the SJC said that for Weston, the defendant, to win its summary judgment request, the town would have had to show that Regis “has no reasonable expectation" of proving its claim. The SJC ruled that Weston did not meet that burden and remanded the case back to Land Court.
A Land Court judge had previously ruled that Regis did not qualify for Dover protection.
“We are enormously gratified that the state’s highest court has recognized that our proposed Regis East project, as conceptualized, is entitled to assert legal protection as an educational use under the Dover Amendment, and has remanded the case to the Land Court for further proceedings toward its realization," said Regis President Antoinette Hays, in an emailed statement. "Regis looks forward to engaging in discussions with town officials and the community in the prospect of moving forward collaboratively."
Neither Weston’s town manager nor attorney in the case could be reached immediately for comment.