Town Meeting to Decide Whether Site Plan Review Moves to Planning Board or Stays with ZBA

Town Meeting voters will decide which one of the town’s two land use boards will have site plan review power.

Right now, it is in the hands of the Zoning Board of Appeal, which is appointed. Article 3-3, developed by the Planning Board, and Article 3-4, by citizens petition, both address the issue and seek to have site plan review in the hands of the Planning Board, an elected board. Board boards have written positions papers outlining their opinion on the topic.

The Planning Board has said why it believes it should have the ability to conduct site plan review.  The Zoning Board of Appeal has said why it should retain the ability to conduct site plan review.

Bay Road, South Hamilton, Mass.

Site plan review is the process of looking at the design of a development – things such as landscaping, stormwater management, parking and noise level standards, according to the Handbook of Massachusetts Land Use Planning Law. Site plan review also oftentimes includes feedback and input from town department heads and committees, including the Police Department, Fire Department, Conservation Commission, Department of Public Works, Building Inspector and Board of Health.

Projects that undergo site plan review tend to be “larger.” For example, in recent years projects that have undergone site plan review include the new gymnasium at Pingree School and the expansion of the Shoppes at Hamilton Crossing shopping plaza.

Article 3-3 was developed by the Planning Board and put on the Annual Town meeting warrant to address some of the deficiencies they saw with Article 3-4 because they felt it may be unworkable and insufficient to accomplish what it intended to do. If Article 3-4 passes, the Planning Board felt that there could be process errors which would render it ineffective.   In essence, both articles ask voters the same question – whether site plan review should become a duty of the Planning Board. A yes vote will shift the function to the Planning Board. A no vote will keep it as it is now, in the hands of the ZBA.

A complete copy of the proposed zoning bylaw, with site plan review a function of the Planning Board, is attached to the Town Meeting warrant as Appendix K. The proposed bylaw language in the citizens petition, Article 3-4, can be found in Appendix L. Both the Board of Selectmen and Finance and Advisory Committee have not taken a position on the articles and will do so at Town Meeting.

If Article 3-3 is adopted, Article 3-4 will not be needed and can be passed over.

Planning Board Position

Zoning Board of Appeal Position

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