Planning Board Supports Legislation to Change Zoning and Planning Regulations

By Meredith McCulloch

Planning BoardThe Planning Board voted unanimously on July 20 to send a letter to the Speaker of the House in support of Senate Bill 122,“an Act promoting the planning and development of sustainable communities.” The letter written by Glenn Garber, the Planning Director says in part, “The State’s laws for planning, zoning, and subdivision control are antiquated, do not meet standard practice and lead to excessive litigation. The Zoning Act was last updated forty years ago, and it is much longer for the other statutes, and it is time to bring our land use laws into the 21st century.  These common sense reforms are important to keeping the Commonwealth competitive and to maintaining the quality of life of the state.”

The bill has been introduced in both the House and the Senate and is co-sponsored by both Bedford legislators, Senator Michael Barrett and Representative Kenneth Gordon. There will be a public hearing on the bill on September 15 at 10:30 at the State House. If the bill becomes a law, it must also be adopted by Bedford’s Town Meeting,

One example of the bill’s strengthening of local control is an option for a minor subdivision process rather than an ANR  (Approval Not Required) development. ANR development laws, designed for big developments, can move forward without review if they meet the zoning by-laws. Minor development laws can allow for regulations that could provide a design which makes better use of the topography and considers the specific neighborhood.

S122 is a complex bill affecting many areas of zoning while confirming powers of cities and towns. It brings together in one bill many reforms that have been proposed over the past decade and which would give the Planning Board more tools to guide development.

In an essay titled The Exceedingly Strange State of the Laws for Planning, Zoning and Subdivision Control in Massachusetts and Why this Effects Everyone Planning Director Glenn Garber writes about needed changes. Click Planning Board Legislation Update 07-2015   to read Garber’s essay. There is also a letter from the Planning Board to the Speaker of the Massachusetts House, Robert deLeo. Click Planning Board Legislation Letter 07-2015 to read the letter to Speaker DeLeo.

To read the full Act as proposed in the legislature, see https://malegislature.gov/Bills/189/Senate/S122


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