Why you should care about zoning review

Frontage, setbacks, minimum lot sizes, floor area ratio, subdivisions, use regulation. It all sounds rather dull, doesn’t it? And it’s exactly what you might expect from something called the Comprehensive Zoning Bylaw Review and Update Project.

But look below the surface and you’ll find something a bit more interesting. Something that will play a major role in shaping the future of our town.

What the project is all about

Zoning bylaws govern what can be built where and how. There are provisions for all types of development from single-family homes to subdivisions to the huge developments that line Route 9.

In Southborough’s case, the zoning bylaws have been added to and tweaked for the past 20 years. I personally have not read the bylaws (yawn), but self-professed zoning geek and Southborough Town Planner Vera Kolias tells me the language is overly complex and out-dated. There are inconsistencies throughout the bylaws, and points where the provisions contradict state code.

It all needs to get cleaned up and reconciled. That’s part of the update project, but in my opinion, not the most interesting part. Where the project gets interesting is where it intersects with the Master Plan.

Implementing the Master Plan

The Master Plan lays out a 10-year vision for Southborough that covers everything from housing and transportation to open space and recreation. A big focus of the zoning bylaw review project is to figure out where the current bylaws fail to support the vision set out in the Master Plan.

“Zoning is how the goals in the Master Plan will come to life,” explains Kolias. Some of those goals include more diverse housing and increased opportunities for economic development.

The Zoning Advisory Committee was assembled to conduct the zoning review. Kolias said the committee will look at things like how zoning can help the town capitalize on real estate along Route 9 and whether the rules for subdivisions should be modified to allow for smaller lot sizes with more shared open space.

“It’s about encouraging the kind of development we want in town,” Kolias said.

Public information meeting

The first in a series of public meetings about the project will be held on Wednesday. Kolias said the meeting will provide the public with an introduction to the process, goals, and objectives. And she assured me, “We’re not here to drown people in information.”

There’s a good chance updates to the zoning bylaw will impact you, whether you plan to build a deck or an addition, or you care about what downtown or Route 9 might look like in 10 years. Now is the time to get informed.

Implementing the Southborough Master Plan
Public Information Meeting
Wednesday, February 11 @ 7:30 pm
Hearing Room, Town House 2nd floor
There will be refreshments!

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