Frequently Asked Questions

      

FREQUENTLY ASKED ZONING BYLAW QUESTIONS

 

 

HOW IS MY PROPERTY ZONED?

 

In order to determine the zoning designation of any property, you need to know the street address and then by looking at the official zoning map, you can determine the zoning designation. A call to the Building Inspector’s office with this information will give you the answer.

 

WHAT CAN I USE MY (OR ANY OTHER) PROPERTY FOR?

 

In order to determine what uses are allowed for a particular zoning district, you may go to the Zoning Bylaw, find the applicable Section, and review the uses allowed. In each zoning district you will notice that certain uses are allowed by right and others are subject to a Special Permit. For both categories, other approvals may also be necessary (such as Site Plan Review, Historic District Commission Approval or Conservation Commission Approval).   For a quick overview of the allowed uses by district, you may use the Table found in Section 3. The entire text of the Zoning Bylaw is available on this web site at the bottom of the Home Page.

 

HOW BIG OF A LOT DO I NEED AND HOW CLOSE TO THE LOT LINE CAN I BUILD?

 

These types of dimensional and density questions can be answered by looking at the applicable Section of the Zoning Bylaw for your district. The regulations for lot size, setback, frontage, etc. vary from district to district.

 

WHAT IF I CANNOT MEET THE ZONING REQUIREMENTS? CAN I STILL GET A PERMIT? 

 

Maybe you can. A committee known as the Zoning Board of Appeals (appointed by the Board of Selectmen) is empowered to hear requests to vary the terms of the Zoning Bylaw. This form of relief is known as a variance. The process for requesting approval is best explained on a case-by-case basis by the Inspector of Buildings' office. Depending upon the circumstances, a telephone call may result in an answer or an appointment to meet with one of the inspectors to review your issues. You should be aware that this approval process would take up to two months or longer due to the requirements of the law regulating the zoning process.

 

WHAT DOES THE TERM “GRANDFATHERED USE,” MEAN?

 

The term means a use or condition that exists, which does not comply with the applicable zoning regulation, and either predates the bylaw or existed in compliance with an earlier version of the bylaw, which has subsequently been amended. The proper term is “nonconforming”.

 

  

CAN I CHANGE A NONCONFORMING USE?

 

Yes, provided the Zoning Board of Appeals grants the proper form of relief. Typically, a finding is needed but a variance may also be required depending upon the circumstances. Section 3 of the Zoning Bylaw details nonconforming uses.

 

HOW LONG IS A VARIANCE GOOD FOR? WHAT ABOUT A SPECIAL PERMIT?

 

A variance must be exercised no later that one year from the date it is granted (this date is actually 20 days after the decision is filed with the Town Clerk as that date is the first opportunity to commence whatever activity was authorized by the variance). A special permit lapses two years from the date of grant if it is not exercised. A variance can be extended but only by application to the Zoning Board of Appeals prior to the expiration date. See MGL Chapter 40A for specific details.

 

HOW DO I APPLY TO THE BOARD OF APPEALS?

 

Applications are available in the office of Code Administration. Essentially, the completed application, all plans and specifications necessary to adequately explain the proposal and the property deed are filed with the Town Clerk through the office of Code Administration. A schedule of hearing dates is posted on this site. While these dates are subject to change based upon case load and/or conflicts with other Town activities, the Board normally meets twice each month except July and August, with only one meeting scheduled in those months. The Filing deadlines are approximately three weeks prior to the hearing to allow for legal notices to be published and abutter notices to be sent. A step-by-step web page is currently being developed, including forms, to fully detail the process and to enable you to prepare your application prior to coming to Town Hall to officially file your request.

 

 

 

WHAT IF I AM NOT SATISFIED WITH AN OPINION, INTERPRETATION OR DECISION OF THE BUILDING INSPECTOR?

 

You may appeal to the Zoning Board of Appeals in accordance with the provisions of MGL Chapter 40A, Section 8.

 

 

WHAT IF I AM NOT SATISFIED WITH A DECISION OF THE ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS?

 

If you are the applicant, abutter or other party in interest, and you are aggrieved by a decision of the Board, you may appeal to District or Land Court as explained in MGL Chapter 40A, Section 17.

 

WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, PLEASE CALL OUR OFFICE (978-777-0001, EXT 3062).

 

 

 

 
 
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