Proterra Design Group

May 20, 2010

Zoning and Land Use Laws

Filed under: Land Development,Resources — Tom Johnson @ 4:55 pm

Did you know that zoning and land use laws are made up of regulations and policies to protect community resources while guiding new development? Zoning and land use laws are enacted as a device of land planning that regulates nearly all new construction, most alterations, commercial occupancy changes, property line changes and most site development activity including some tree cutting and landscaping. The word is derived from the practice of designating permitted uses of land based on mapped zones which separate one use of land from another. Zoning may be use-based to dictate activities that can be conducted on the land or it may be dimensional-based to regulate building height, lot coverage, or a combination thereof.

These regulations are often difficult and cumbersome to navigate and are enforced by various federal, state and local laws and by-laws. Before beginning a project, it is necessary to become familiar with the regulations and policies that need to be adhered to in your jurisdiction. The web has a collection of searchable databases containing information on the zoning codes, subdivision requirements, and environmental regulations. Interested parties can search the database by regulation or locality and can download information in a variety of formats. A word of caution, however, is to contact your local jurisdiction make sure you are relying on the latest information.  The staff at ProTerra would welcome the opportunity to sit down with you to perform an assessment of your property to help determine its highest and best use. Pay subscriptions to some of the website may apply.

Massachusetts Housing Regulations Database

Massachusetts City & Town Websites by MIT

MACC Database of Wetlands Bylaws, Regulations, & Policies

Navigating the New Stormwater Regulations in Massachusetts

Filed under: Land Development,Resources — jmoreno @ 4:51 pm

Mass DEP has recently revised the Stormwater Management Standards and Handbook to promote increased stormwater recharge, low impact development (LID) techniques, pollution prevention, the removal of illicit discharges, and the maintenance of stormwater BMP’s.  The Stormwater Standards, originally adopted as Policy in 1997, are now adopted as part of the State’s Wetlands Protection Act (WPA) and Water Quality Certification Regulations that took effect in early 2008.

Many of the 350 cities and towns have enacted local by-laws requiring compliance with the new rules which went into effect on January 2, 2008. Unlike previous iterations, the new standards apply to smaller projects such as telecommunications facilities, parts of phased projects, and in some instances, a discharge outside a protected area.  The Applicability of the regulations has in the past been ambiguous in certain instances and has been clarified to include stormwater runoff from all industrial, commercial, institutional, office, residential, and transportation projects including site preparation construction, redevelopment and all point source stormwater discharges from those projects.

The updated Standards accomplish seven goals listed below through a series of substantive and minor changes made to seven of the original nine standards, the addition of a new tenth standard, and the inclusion of Low-Impact Development (LID) Site Development Credits.

Increased Stormwater Recharge: Developers are encouraged to allow run-off to be absorbed into the ground on-site rather than routing the water away from the development. This allows for continual recharge of groundwater sources which are being depleted across the Commonwealth.

Low Impact Development (LID): New techniques are designed to treat stormwater at its source using natural features and processes leading to more recharge and decreased pollution. DEP now requires that LID techniques be “considered” for every development.

Redevelopments must improve existing conditions: All redevelopments — large and small — must contribute to a continual improvement of the site’s stormwater management. Redevelopments can no longer get away with maintaining the status quo.

Eliminate Illicit Discharges: Illicit and unknown discharges must be identified and removed. Removal is critical in sensitive environments where small amounts of contaminants can have far-reaching effects.

Operation and Maintenance: Mass DEP requires that the stormwater controls put in place during construction be maintained through the life of a development. A plan of inspection will be outlined to gauge the effectiveness of the controls over time and repair or replace them as necessary.

Soil Evaluation: New procedures have been enacted to more thoroughly evaluate the on-site soils while the design process is in its infancy. A certified soils professional will visually identify the depth to groundwater, infiltration rates, presence of fill materials, and soil classification.

New Stormwater Attitudes: A number of regulations within the Stormwater Handbook have been revised to reflect more progressive attitudes and the latest scientific data from the past decade of active stormwater management in the Commonwealth.

The new standards reflect changing attitudes towards stormwater management in the Commonwealth. The complexities of stormwater permitting in Massachusetts and many other jurisdictions require knowledge and careful review of state, municipal and federal guidelines and regulations. Let the professionals at ProTerra assist you with your next stormwater or jurisdictional project or make sure you have a design that meets the new standards. For more information about Massachusetts stormwater visit the MassDEP website.  Other state regulatory guides can be found at Stormwater

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