Downtown District Zoning: A look at the specifics

Above: I’m trying to make it easier for readers to understand what would and wouldn’t change under zoning Article 10 of the Special Town Meeting Warrant.

I see a lot of comments and internet chatter about what the proposed Downtown District zoning will do. Frankly, I’m not sure how many readers are actually familiar with what the proposed changes really are.

To paraphrase Planning Chair Don Morris from Monday night’s hearing, it’s difficult to educate voters on zoning, because its complex but boring.

(It doesn’t help that due to Covid Safety, the Town can’t hold traditional in-person, pre-Town Meeting forums. Plus, Article proponents won’t be able to make on screen presentations at the Special Town Meeting on November 1st.)

So, I’m trying to help readers understand in advance what the proposed zoning changes mean. (Or, at least, figure out what questions you want to ask.)

I tried to do the most boring part of the work for you of studying the proposed bylaw line by line to compare with the current code.*

Downtown District Zoning MapClick here to see the differences in what building uses would be allowed by right or special permit. (At least, in the area defined for the Downtown District in the map right. For properties shown as remaining in the Downtown Business Village District, nothing will change.)

But uses aren’t the only part of the zoning code that would change.

To update zoning (and presumably compensate for allowing more by right uses), the proposed bylaw refines details on the layout for lots. There are specific requirements for landscaped green space, parking by use, and more. You can take a look at those differences here.

*[Note: The comparisons I make are based on the version of the Article that voters will be asked to approve, based on modifications after the Warrant was posted.

You can find the Warrant here on the Town’s website. (The handout for amending the Article had yet to be posted when I posted this story. But that is the page that Town officials are likely to post handouts to.)]

Updated (10/28/21 9:47 am): Based on a comment from Advisory’s Tim Martel about a section I missed on Site Plan Approval applicability, I revised the document describing building and lot requirements. This week, selectmen posted their own analysis of the differences between the current and proposed bylaw. You can read that here.

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