The contents of these documents address planning and land use law issues commonly dealt with by municipal planners throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Many were written or compiled some years ago. They continue to be useful today, for both general reference and clarification of the complex statutes and case law related to land use. As expected, portions of the information contained in these documents has been modified by changes in statutes and regulations, or clarified by more recent case law. Users are encouraged to keep this in mind when consulting these documents.
Guidebook to Massachusetts Land Use
The most up to date publication on Massachusetts land use is Guidebook to Massachusetts Land Use 2021 published by the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Planning Association. You must join Mass APA to access the Guidebook.
Building Community Resilience Through Local Regulations
Climate Change, including rising temperatures, sea level rise, stronger storms, more intense freeze-thaw cycles, and increased frequency of drought are creating immeasurable challenges for communities. At the local level, municipalities have significant power to avoid these impacts by implementing land use policies and development designs. However, it can be difficult to know where to start. A Regulatory review using existing tools, such as the Bylaw Review tool and the LID Self-Assessment, is a necessary early step.
The Zoning Act
Revised August, 2010 – This edition of the Zoning Act will aid planning boards, other municipal officials, and interested residents. The Zoning Enabling Act, Chapter 40A, was enacted by Chapters 368 and 551 of the Acts of 1954 and became effective on August 1, 1954, replacing the previous zoning enabling legislation, Section 25 to 30B, inclusive, of the Chapter 40, General Laws. On December 22, 1975, the Governor signed Chapter 808 of the Acts of 1975, the Zoning Act, which created a new Chapter 40A of the Massachusetts General Laws. The left-hand column of each section of the booklet includes bold-faced annotations which are not part of the law but which have been inserted to facilitate research.
Overview of the Subdivision Control Law
Revised December 2009 – Our Department has received numerous questions over the years concerning the operation of the Subdivision Control Law. This publication highlights many of the substantive and procedural requirements that apply to subdivision and non-subdivision plans which require an endorsement or an approval by a planning board. We have also noted interesting court cases that have looked at a variety of issues dealing with subdivision control.
Municipal Planning and Subdivision Legislation
Revised November, 2008 – This edition of the Municipal Planning and Subdivision Control Legislation will aid planning boards, other municipal officials, and interested residents. The Subdivision Control Law was enacted in 1953 and this publication includes any amendments since its enactment. The left-hand column of each section of the booklet includes bold-faced annotations which are not part of the law but have been inserted to facilitate research.
The ANR Handbook (Approval Not Required Plans)
Revised January, 2009 – Due to the numerous questions that have arisen over the years concerning the “Approval Not Required” (ANR) process of the Subdivision Control Law, DHCD felt it would be beneficial to produce and distribute a publication concerning this issue.
Procedural Requirements of the Subdivision Control Law
Revised November 2009 – This outline covers the process for reviewing ANR plans, preliminary and definitive plans, and the modification, amendment, and rescission of plans.
Adopting Amending Zoning Bylaws
Revised November 2009 – This outline covers the procedure that a municipality must follow when adopting or amending its zoning ordinance or bylaw. For detailed information regarding this procedure, please refer to Chapter 40A, Section 5.
ANR’s and Ancient Ways
Alexandra Dawson, Highland Communities Initiative, 2005. This booklet is discusses ancient ways and whether or not a road is a public way or, indeed, whether it qualifies for ANR approval.
Grandfathered Lots and Plan Protection
Revised November 2009 – This outline covers separate and common lot protection, the merger theory, subdivision plan protection, ANR, perimeter plan, and site plan.
Nonconforming Structures and Uses
Revised November 2009 – This outline covers nonconforming structures and uses, alteration to nonconforming structures and uses, the six (6) and ten (10) year protection, Section 6 review and finding, exemption of single and two-family residential structures, change of nonconforming use, and non-use and abandonment of nonconforming uses and structures.
Decision Making Requirements of the Zoning Act
Revised November 2009 – This outline covers the process for reviewing a special permit, variance, or appeal, constructive grants, reapplication, and enforcement action. The public hearing and decision and voting requirements for Special Permit Granting Authority and Zoning Boards of Appeal are also outlined.
Site Plan Review
Site plan review establishes criteria for the layout, scale, appearance, safety, and environmental impacts of commercial or industrial development. This document, from CPTC’s Site Plan Review workshop, covers the differences between site plan review and special permits, procedural requirements, decisions and appeals.
Tips on Drafting Bylaws
The thoughts of a municipal lawyer that just might jump-start your own reflection on how best to write good local laws. The structural elements of a good law are as applicable to general and special acts of our state Legislature as they are to local ordinances and by-laws, rules and regulations of government entities, and a variety of other things we do with the written word.
Land Use Manager Series, 1984 – 1999
This document is a compiled version of the entire “Land Use Manager” series distributed by the Executive Office of Communities and Development between the years 1984 and 1999. The contents of these advisory reports address planning and land use law issues commonly dealt with by municipal planners throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. They continue to be useful today, for both general reference and clarification of the complex statutes and case law related to land use. As expected, portions of the information contained in these reports has been modified by changes in statutes and regulations, or clarified by more recent case law. Users are encouraged to keep this in mind when consulting these reports.
Neighborhood Roads Design Book
Local governments in Massachusetts may not control the design of high volume roads or state roads within their boundaries. However, local Subdivision Standards do specify the design and construction rules by which residential roads are constructed. Once roads in a new residential subdivision are completed, most of them become public roads and a local government asset. The home building community brings design and construction expertise in its engineers and landscape architects, who design roads to meet local standards.
Neighborhood Road Designs Overview
CPTC Conference handout 2012. A quick reference to the topic above.
Checklist of the dates and filings associated with a variance application.
Special Permit Checklist
Checklist of the dates and filings associated with a special permit application.