Public hearing on zoning bylaw warrant article – March 31

On Monday, March 31st, the Planning Board will hold a public hearing. The warrant article for discussion is replacement of the zoning bylaws for Site Plan Review.

This will be the first bylaw revision to come up for vote out of work done by the 2008-2012 Zoning Advisory Committee. (For a recap of the zoning bylaw revisions history, click here.)

The Planning Board has posted the new version of the bylaw on the town website. (Click here.)

The bylaw purpose is to:

provide adequate review of development plans that may have significant impacts on traffic, stormwater, community services, environmental quality, and the character of the Town; to regulate development so as to protect public health and safety; and to promote logic, imagination, and innovation in the design process while protecting properties in the vicinity of the site.

It will apply to:

  1. Any construction or alteration, expansion, or reconstruction on a site used for purposes other than a single-family or two-family dwelling;
  2. Any change in use or reactivation of a structure that has not been in use for two or more years;
  3. Any construction, expansion, or alteration of any off-street parking with five (5) or more parking spaces serving a nonresidential or multi-family use; or
  4. Any removal, fill, or change of grade of earth materials undertaken in order to construct or locate buildings, structures, and such features accessory thereto as ways, driveways, areaways, walks, or parking areas when such removal, fill, or change of grade of earth materials precedes construction by three months or more.

The warrant article, sponsored by the Planning Board, will be up for vote at the Annual Town Meeting. If you have any comments for the Planning Board, their public hearing is scheduled for 8:00 pm on March 31st in the Hearing Room at the Town House. (Click here for meeting agenda.)

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John Butler
8 years ago

It is now March 31, the date of this public hearing on the proposed zoning bylaw change and just about two weeks before Town Meeting. If you want to know what is proposed to change from the existing zoning bylaw to the new site plan review process, to prepare yourself for tonight’s public hearing, the Planning Department cannot tell you what will change. Members of the Planning Board have been saying for several weeks, at various public meetings, that a document highlighting the changes from the current to the proposed law would be available, but a search of the web site over the weekend and a call to the Planning Office today confirmed that there is no such document.

So the simple voter’s question, “What is being changed?” cannot be answered as of now, as we go into the public hearing. In two weeks, at Town Meeting, the Planning Board wants to ask us to make this change, whatever it is, into law.

It is hard to make an excuse for not having this ready before a public hearing but, if the changes being requested were very small, a word here or a sentence there, this situation would be one that perhaps the voters could deal with during the next two weeks before Town Meeting. However, when I tried to assess the magnitude of the change a few weeks ago, and was told that the text of the new bylaw still had errors that were being fixed, I can tell you that the changes looked to be very large and distributed throughout a large and complex text.

The process should be simple: make clear documents describing what you want to change in the existing law and why, give the voters time to consider that, then have the required public hearing; if the hearing is positive, then allow reasonable time before asking the public to enact it into law. There is no emergency here. Given that at this late date we cannot tell what is being proposed to be changed, and the changes are large, I am going to suggest tonight that the Planning Board reconsider their plan to bring this large change before the voters in two weeks.

Round 84
8 years ago

uh oh, I sense another open meeting violation coming

John Butler
8 years ago
Reply to  Round 84

Smile. I understand. I’m pretty tired of this also. But, no, no open meeting law violation that I see. We merely have a large proposed changed to our law with neither comparison to current law nor justification available, and we are down to the last minute. The public is supposed to respond tonight and has no basis for doing so. If it is hard for the Planning Department to determine what has changed, if they don’t have time to do such analysis, how much harder is it for everyone else? Is such a situation not worth bringing to the attention of the voters who may be asked to enact this into law? I would rather withstand your mild sarcasm for my attention to this than have the situation not see the light of day.

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