What is the Planning Board deciding, anyway?

I’ve been doing some reading through the bylaws – both the current ones and the 2012 version (which are the ones that will be applied to the current proposal).

Aside from the question of ‘housing-only’ vs the ‘mixed use’ aspect that is at the core of why many of our readers object to the current proposal – see here for the text of the ‘Purpose’ section of the original 1989 bylaw that established the Town Center zoning status, I find it highly informative to read the sections  (pasted below) that relate to:

a) What are the goals of Town zoning by-laws? (Purpose – section 1100)

b) What are the components of a Site Plan Approval? (section 8000)

In other words, these are the specific aspects of the project that the Planning Board is weighing in on during the current decision process. I think it is helpful to keep in mind that all of these things are in the scope of their Purview.

It is also helpful to keep in mind that there are many other aspects of this project that will be considered locally by the Housing Board and the Conservation Committee, as well as aspects related to the state highway (111) by MassDOT, the state Board of Health, and the state MEPA process regarding environmental aspects. We will continue to provide updates on all of these processes, especially when the Public Comment periods are open in each case.

Below is the text pasted from the 2012 bylaws (I was going to add bold and italics to emphasize relevant text, but it is really all relevant):

1100       Purpose

This Zoning Bylaw is hereby adopted to lessen congestion in the streets; to conserve health, to secure safety from fire, flood, panic and other dangers; to provide adequate light and air; to prevent overcrowding of land; to avoid undue concentration of population; to encourage housing for persons of all income levels; to facilitate the adequate provision of transportation, water, water supply, drainage, sewerage, schools, parks, open space and other public requirements; to conserve the value of land and buildings, including the conservation of natural resources and the prevention of blight and pollution of the environment; to encourage the most appropriate use of land throughout the town; and to preserve and increase amenities by the promulgation of regulations to fulfill said objectives.

8000       Site Plan Approval

8001       Purpose

The purpose of site plan approval is to promote public health, safety, and welfare by encouraging the laying out of parking, circulation, and buildings in a safe and convenient manner; to ensure that new developments are designed to protect and enhance the visual and environmental qualities of the Town, and to provide for an adequate review of development plans which may have significant impacts on traffic, drainage, town services, environmental quality, and community character.

8007       Decision

Site plan approval shall be granted upon determination by the Planning Board that new buildings or other site alterations have been designed in the following manner, after considering the qualities of the specific location, the proposed land use, the proposed building form, grading, egress points, and other aspects of the development. Where the Planning Board renders a decision contrary to the recommendations of the Design Review Board, the Planning Board shall state the reasons in writing.

(1)  The proposal shall comply with the purpose and intent of the Zoning Bylaw and with existing local and regional plans.

(2)  The development shall be integrated into the existing terrain and surrounding landscape and shall be designed to protect abutting properties and community amenities. To the extent possible, building sites shall be designed to minimize the use of wetlands, steep slopes, floodplains, hilltops; minimize obstruction of scenic vistas from publicly accessible locations; preserve unique natural, scenic and historic features; minimize tree, soil and vegetation removal; and maximize open space retention.

(3)  Architectural style shall be in harmony with the prevailing character and scale of buildings in the neighborhood and the Town through the use of appropriate building materials, screening, breaks in the roof and wall lines, and other architectural techniques. Proposed buildings shall relate harmoniously to each other.

(4)  Adequate measures shall be proposed to prevent pollution of surface and ground water, to minimize erosion and sedimentation, to prevent changes in groundwater levels, to minimize potential for flooding, and to provide for stormwater drainage consistent with the functional equivalent of the Planning Board’s Subdivision Rules and Regulations.

(5)  Roadways and circulation system shall be designed to promote convenience and safety for both pedestrians and vehicles. Access roads by which the proposed development is reached shall be adequate in width, grade and construction to carry, without danger or congestion, the additional traffic that is generated from the development.

(6)  Adequate buffers shall be provided to protect abutting properties from lighting, sight, sound, dust, and vibration.

(7)  Adequate facilities shall be provided for water supply and for handling and disposal of waste and other production by-products.

(8)  Any new building construction or other site alteration shall provide adequate access to each structure for fire and service equipment.

(9)  Architectural Standards in the Town Center District Only. Materials shall be harmonious with existing buildings. In the interest of maintaining a sense of history, vertical siding shall be discouraged and synthetic siding shall imitate the character and dimensions of traditional clapboards. Masonry block buildings should be faced in an appropriate material, such as horizontal wooden siding or brick of a traditional red color. Buildings shall fit in with existing architecture in terms of height, massing, roof shapes, and window proportions.


Leave a Reply