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Section 6 ofMGL Chapter 40A, Massachusetts Zoning Act, creates two kinds of so-called zoning “freezes” (i.e., temporary exemptions from certain types of zoning bylaw amendments; they are referred to as freezes because they effective “freeze” in place certain provisions of the zoning bylaw): (1) non-plan freezes and (2) plan freezes.
Non-Plan Freezes. Section 6 provides that an amendment to a zoning bylaw does not apply to any use lawfully begun, or any building permit or special permit issued “before the first publication of notice of the public hearing on such ...bylaw [amendment] required by section five [of the Zoning Act].” This provision means that a zoning bylaw amendment adopted by Town Meeting in accordance with the procedures and time periods set forth in Section 5 of chapter 40A is deemed to be effective — and hence binding on any use not lawfully begun and on any project for which a building permit or any required special permit has not been issued, as of the date of that first published notice.
Plan Freezes. Section 6 creates two categories of plan freezes: (1) a definitive subdivision plan freeze and (2) an ANR plan freeze. These so-called plan freezes are a very powerful tool for a developer, since as the court said in Long v. Board of Appeals of Falmouth, 32 Mass.App.Ct. 232, 238 n.7 (1992), “[a]s we interpret the statute, it has the potential for permitting a developer, or at least a sophisticated one, to frustrate municipal legislative intent by submitting a plan not for any purpose related to subdivision control and not as a preliminary to a conveyance or recording but solely for the purpose of obtaining a freeze.”
Definitive subdivision plan freeze. The fifth paragraph of Section 6 provides that a parcel of land is entitled to have all zoning provisions (i.e., use, density, bulk, dimensional, parking etc.) in effect on the date that there is submitted to the Planning Board a definitive plan (or a preliminary plan followed by submission of a definitive plan within seven months), written notice of such submission is given to the Town Clerk, and such definitive plan is eventually endorsed by the Planning Board, frozen for a period of eight years following such submission date (that 8-year period is extended by the length of any town imposed moratorium on construction or the issuance of permits). This provision means that a zoning bylaw amendment adopted by Town Meeting will not be effective, and hence will not be binding on, any parcel of land for which a definitive subdivision plan is submitted to the Planning Board and notice given to the Town Clerk as provided above prior to the actual date and time on which Town Meeting votes to approve the zoning bylaw amendment, until 8 years have passed.
ANR Plan Freeze. The sixth paragraph of Section 6 provides that a parcel of land is entitled to have all zoning use provisions in effect on the date that that there is submitted to the Planning Board a so-called “Approval Not Required Plan, written notice of such submission is given to the Town Clerk, and such ANR plan is eventually endorsed by the Planning Board, frozen for a period of three years following such submission date (that 3-year period is extended by the length of any town-imposed moratorium on construction or the issuance of permits). This provision means that a zoning bylaw amendment regulating the use of property adopted by Town Meeting will not be effective, and hence will not be binding on, any parcel of land for which an ANR plan is submitted to the Planning Board and notice given to the Town Clerk as provided above prior to the actual date and time on which Town Meeting votes to approve the zoning bylaw use amendment, until 3 years have passed. Although an ANR plan freeze only freezes use regulations, case law has ruled that an ANR plan use freeze may also extend to bulk and dimensional regulations that may, when applied to the use protected by the freeze, have the practical effect of prohibiting the protected use.
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Use the Assessor's GIS map > On the left-hand side click on the black FIND PROPERTIES tab > enter the information > select your property from the list > click on the blue LAYERS tab along the side on the map >
Click on the "Zoning Districts" layer
Click the "Aquifer Protection District" layer to determine if your property also falls in the Aquifer District requirements under Section 16 of the Zoning Bylaw
Call the Building Commissioner or Town Planner for help in determining the various laws and regulations that govern your project and your site.
New construction and additions sometimes requires one or more permits, depending on the size, location, and proposed use of the structure. Your first step should be to consult the Building Commissioner. The Building Commissioner will discuss with you the property improvements you propose, and what the typical permit requirements are. The Building Commissioner will inform you of other regulations, like environmental regulations, wetlands, etc. that might apply to your site. He will also guide you to the Zoning Bylaw, which specifies minimum lot area, setbacks for front, rear, and side yards, lot coverages, and permitted uses in specific districts.
All property in Medfield is classified into a zoning district. These districts are located on the official Zoning Map, which can be found in the Zoning Bylaw or on the free online interactive maps on the Town website. These districts define the uses that are allowed in that district by right or by special permit (see Attachment 1 of the Zoning Bylaw). Each district also has specific regulations for lot sizes and setbacks (see Attachment 2). Specific regulations for parking (see Section 8), various commercial uses allowable by special permit (see Section 14). There are also several “overlay” districts that stipulate additional development controls in some areas of the Town such as floodplains, watershed, and aquifer protection.
Zoning regulations are established by the Town and adopted at Town Meetings. Zoning determines the types of structures and uses that are allowed in each zoning district. No matter where your property is located in town, it is subject to some type of zoning. The Building Code is established by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and applies to all structures and buildings, no matter the use or location. The Building Code sets the minimum safety standards to protect the health and safety of the building occupants and neighbors.
Some uses are not allowed, and others are allowed only with a Special Permit. A Special Permit means that the use is not normally permitted, but the Town will consider allowing it if it meets certain criteria and is judged to be an overall benefit to the Town. Section 14 of the Zoning Bylaw outlines the process and the uses subject to Special Permits. In other cases, when a proposed structure cannot fit properly on a lot, a Variance pursuant to MGL Chapter 40A Section 10 may be required. Use variances are not allowable in Medfield. Please contact the Building Commissioner or Town Planner for more information.
Zoning nonconformities are defined as parcels, land uses, buildings, structures, or situations that do not conform with current zoning regulations. Examples include: older lots or subdivisions with lots that met the size requirement at the time (an increase in lot size or a reduction in density is called “down-zoning”), a building built to lesser setbacks than are currently required, a two-family or multi-family dwelling in a single-family zoning district, or a residential dwelling in a business zone.
Yes. The zoning bylaw allows nonconformities to continue. If certain nonconformities are abandoned, damaged, or destroyed, the regulations restrict their replacement. For further information talk to the Building Commissioner or Town Planner.
Generally, no. However, a nonconforming parcel (substandard lot) and nonconforming residential use (lot size, perfect square, setbacks, etc.) may be enlarged under certain circumstances and with some restrictions. The Building Commissioner is authorized to make certain Section 6 findings during the building permit review process. If the project proposes to make existing nonconformities worse or create new nonconformities, please speak with the Town Planner for an application to the ZBA. All teardowns on nonconforming lots require a special permit from the ZBA.
Zoning nonconformities can be replaced as they currently exist when they require maintenance, become damaged, or in the case of most residential uses, are destroyed by an act of nature or other unintentional event.
When zoning nonconformities are intentionally destroyed, demolished or removed from the site, they may only be replaced in conformance with the current zoning requirements. Also, when nonresidential nonconformities are abandoned or demolished (intentionally or unintentionally), they may only be replaced in conformance with the current zoning requirements.
You received a hearing notice via first class mail because you are a "party in interest", aka an abutter, to proposed construction or use that will be reviewed by the Medfield Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals. The notice is required by statute to let you know that a public hearing is being held on the project at a particular place, date and time (the time may shift from the actual time on the notice due to other hearing scheduled the same night). It is also published in the legal notice section of the Medfield Press for two Fridays preceding the opening of the hearing (note: the notice does not appear in the paper the Friday immediately prior to the public hearing due to precise wording in the statute).
"Parties in interest’’ as defined by statute, "shall mean the petitioner, abutters, owners of land directly opposite on any public or private street or way, and abutters to the abutters within three hundred feet of the property line of the petitioner as they appear on the most recent applicable tax list.
The application, plans, and supporting materials are on file at the Planning Department. You are welcome to review this information during regular Town Hall hours (M, W, Th 8:30 - 4:30, T 8:30 - 7:30, F 8:30 - 1:00). Most applications and supporting materials are available electronically and can be emailed.
At the first public hearing, the applicant will present plans and explain what is proposed for the Board. The Board will ask questions, generally where clarification is needed. There will be an opportunity for those in the audience to ask questions or offer comments in support or opposition. Comments may also be submitted in writing for inclusion in packets if submitted to the Town Planner the week before the hearing. The Board shall not consider any additional materials once the evidentiary portion of the public hearing has been closed, as this material would not be subject to public review and comment.
For simple projects, hearings can be completed in one night and are closed; meaning that no further testimony is taken. More often, hearings will be continued with direction given by the Board to the application on revisions to the plans or information that is needed. Continued hearings may be several weeks or months in the future depending on how long it takes the applicant to gather the required information and the Board's workload.
The Chair shall preside over the meeting and the following rules shall apply:
Section 300-6.2 K Medfield Zoning Bylaws:Generally, if the shed is no bigger than 10'x15' and is not higher than 12', it shall be
From the Medfield Zoning Bylaw:
300-6.2 K In any R District, permitted accessory buildings shall conform to the following provisions: They shall be not less than 60 feet from any street lot line, except for a garage on a corner lot, which shall be set back at least the same distance as the front yard setback for the adjacent lot; and they shall be set back from side and rear lot lines at least the distance specified in the Table of Area Regulations, provided that one accessory structure that will not exceed 15 feet by 10 feet, and not exceeding 12 feet in height, shall be allowed to be located in the rear yard with a setback to the rear lot line of no less than 20 feet and side lot line of no less than 12 feet.
The Board will first hear evidence from the applicant who will give a presentation on the project and requested relief. Then there will be a period of time when the Board may ask questions. Following that, there will be a question and answer period from the audience. If you want to speak or ask a question, please direct your question through the Chair and identify yourself by stating your name and address for the record. After that, there will be a period where people may speak in favor or in opposition to the application. The Board will then close the public hearing. The Board may or may not take a site visit, depending on the nature of the relief and the Board’s familiarity with the neighborhood of the property. If the Board does take a site visit, they will only observe the property and not take additional evidence from attendees. Once the hearing is closed the only evidence that the Board will take in is their observations at the site visit. Following that, the Board will render a decision. There are statutory time periods in which the Board must file their decisions with the Town Clerk. If you feel aggrieved by the Board’s decisions, there are certain statutory time periods in which to appeal the decision. If you do want to appeal the Board urges you to promptly consult an attorney because the time periods are short and strictly enforced.
The rights of parties to appeal zoning board decisions are governed by a statute, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 40A, Section 17. Under Section 17, only a “person aggrieved” by a decision of a local zoning board has standing to bring a court appeal of that decision. Appeals may be filed in either Superior Court or Land Court within 20 days of the decision being filed with the Town Clerk. You will need a certified copy of the decision from the Town Clerk in order to file the court appeal. A copy of the court appeal must also be submitted to the Town Clerk with copies sent to all board members.
If you wish to appeal a decision, you are urged to promptly consult an attorney because the time periods are short and strictly enforced.
A Special Permit is required generally if your lot or structure is non-conforming and you wish to make an alteration or extension to it. The Board of Appeals approval or special exceptions shall not be granted unless the applicant demonstrates "that such change, extension or alteration shall not be substantially more detrimental than the existing nonconforming use to the neighborhood" plus additional criteria.
Refer to MGL Chapter 40A Section 6 (Existing structures, uses, or permits) & Section 9 (Special Permits), and Medfield Zoning Bylaw Article 300-9 (Nonconforming Uses, Structures and Lots) & Article 300-14.10 (Special Permits by the ZBA).
A Variance is required if you want to do something with your property which is generally prohibited by the Zoning Bylaw. The applicant must show a hardship imposed by the Bylaw which is caused by a unique condition of the lot, or structure, and the hardship is owing to circumstances relating to the soil conditions, shape or topography of the land or structure and especially affecting the land or structures, but not affecting generally the zoning district in which it is located. Relief may be granted without substantial detriment to the public good, and without nullifying or substantially derogating from the intent or purpose of such ordinance or bylaw. The criteria for a Variance is very strict, you might want to look at all of your options before applying. It is also recommended that one seeks legal counsel when considering applying for a variance as the requirements are a matter of law.
Refer to MGL Chapter 40A Section 10 (Variances) and Medfield Zoning Bylaw Article 300-14.11 (Variances).
Use the Assessors online database to retrieve basic property information then click the "map" tab to view the property with zoning layers.
A very generic wetlands layer is available online but contact Leslee Willits, Conservation Agent, for more specific information (note: Leslee works part-time and is often out of the office at site visits)
Please send an email to Sarah Raposa, Town Planner, with any specific questions.