- The Planning Board is comprised of five volunteer members elected to overlapping three year terms. Additionally, there are two associate members appointed by the Planning Board and the Board of Selectmen. The associate members may be called upon to participate in all board matters.
- A subdivision is a division of land into two or more lots and involves the creation of a new road. An ANR is the division of land into lots with frontage on existing roads, whether public or private, or simply reconfiguring lot lines. The Planning Board endorses ANR’s certifying that approval under the Subdivision Control Law is not required.
That depends on what you are proposing. Certain uses or actions may require review with the Planning Board such as a Special Permit request. Samples of uses that require a Special Permit from the Planning Board are: restaurants with over 10,000 SF in certain zoning districts, Major Business Developments, Storage Facilities, multi-family housing uses, and Open Space Residential Developments.
Additionally, the most common application before the Planning Board is an EIDR (Environmental Impact & Design Review), pursuant to Section 7.3 of the Zoning Bylaw, which is also commonly referred to as “site plan review”. Any construction, expansion, reconfiguration or expansion of a parking facility or change of use, requires an EIDR. The purpose of the EIDR is to ensure that the proposed construction complies with the Zoning Bylaw. Generally, any exterior changes proposed to commercial, industrial, institutional, or multi-family properties requires an EIDR review. Applications for Open Space Residential Developments and Earth Material Movement to import, export, or re-grade more than 200 cubic yards of earth also trigger an EIDR review, for residential and commercial properties.
- The Planning Board is limited by the Zoning Bylaws and the Rules and Regulations of the Town and does not have the right to refuse a property owner from developing land if the development meets the Town’s regulatory requirements.
- As an abutter, the Planning Board is interested in hearing your favorable or opposing views, alternative plan options, and questions on issues with respect to the property under review. Often the best alternatives come from those who understand the area best which can often be the people living in that area.
- A Variance is an authorization granted by the Zoning Board of Appeals, waiving a requirement of the Zoning Bylaw as it pertains to land development dimensional standards and setbacks requirements. In effect, a Variance is an "exception" to the Zoning Bylaw, which can only be granted when specific standards or criteria are met. Westwood’s Bylaw prohibits Use Variances (Westwood Zoning Bylaw § 10.4.1).
Finding #1: Soil, Shape, Topography
Owing to circumstances relating to soil conditions, shape or topography of the land or structure and especially affecting such land or structure but not generally affecting the zoning district in which it is located.
- The board must also find that the peculiarity is unique to the zoning district where the parcel is located.
- The peculiarity must not be found in the district as a whole.
Finding # 2: Hardship
A literal enforcement of the provisions of the bylaw or bylaw would involve substantial hardship, financial or otherwise.
Finding # 3: Public Good
Desirable relief may be granted without substantial detriment to the public good and without nullifying or substantially derogating from the intent or purpose of the bylaw or bylaw.
- In certain instances the Zoning Board of Appeals may grant a Special Permit. For example, a Special Permit is necessary to add a second floor to a nonconforming house (i.e. a house which is closer to the lot line than currently allowed). In the case of a Special Permit, it is not necessary for the applicant to demonstrate any "hardships" as is the case of a variance. Rather, it is necessary for the Board to make a positive determination based on criteria set forth by the Zoning Bylaw. Click here for more information.
The Planning Board, Conservation Commission, or Historical Commission may make recommendations to Town Meeting to designate certain roads as scenic ways. Criteria to be considered for designation are ways bordered by trees of exceptional quality; ways bordered by stone walls; ways bordered by features of aesthetic value; ways for which any alteration would lessen the aesthetic value; and ways for which alteration is being planned or likely to be planned in the future.
Once a road is officially designated as scenic, pursuant to M.G.L. Chapter 40, Section 15C, certain alterations require an application and meeting with the Planning Board. Any person wishing to cut or remove trees or trim branches greater than 4 inches in diameter in the right-of-way or to remove more than 15 ft. of stonewall within the right-of-way on a scenic road must submit an application to the Planning Board for a public hearing.
- The Planning Board is responsible for making recommendations on Zoning Bylaw and Zoning Map amendments, and reporting on any other land use related plans and studies. The Planning Board regulates the subdivision of land in accordance with the Town's Subdivision Rules and Regulations and serves as the local authority of the MA Subdivision Control Law. The Board is responsible for reviewing proposed developments and making decisions on them in accordance with state statutes, local bylaws and regulations. The Planning Board is also charged with long-range planning for the community, including preparing and updating the Town’s Master Plan (also referred to as a Comprehensive Plan).
Most subdivisions involve multiple lots on a larger parcel of land with the construction of a roadway. In some cases, single lots can be carved out of a larger lot or there can be a land swap between neighbors that does not require a full subdivision plan because the lots will meet the dimensional requirements of the current zoning as it applies to frontage requirements. In that case the term “approval not required” actually means “approval not required under the Subdivision Control Law.” In that instance the Planning Board reviews the plan to ensure that it meets the following three standards:
- The lots shown on the plan must front on one of three types of ways as specified in MGL Chapter 41, Section 81L;
- The lots shown on the plan must meet the minimum frontage requirements as specified in MGL Chapter 41, Section 81L; and
- The Planning Board’s determination that the vital access to the lots as contemplated by MGL Chapter 41, Section 81L, otherwise exists.
- Dimensional requirements for land in the Town of Westwood are governed by the Town’s Zoning Bylaw, specifically in Section 5.2 Table of Dimensional Requirements, which outlines the minimum requirements such as frontage along the street, upland areas, and lot area. You must first determine whether you have sufficient land to meet the applicable requirements in the Zoning Bylaw to be subdivided. Contact a local surveyor or engineer to determine whether your property meets the requirements of the Subdivision Rules and Regulations. Click here to review a copy of the Rules and Regulations Governing the Subdivision of Land in Westwood.
Potentially. A property owner may submit a zoning petition to the Board of Selectmen to request that a lot or tract of land be rezoned or submit zoning bylaw text changes. A zoning petition can also be initiated by the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the Board of Selectmen, or by 10 registered voters to be heard at an annual Town Meeting and 100 registered voters for a special town meeting – See Section 5 in Chapter 2 of the Town Charter for information on petition submissions.
To be approved, a zoning change requires public hearings of the Planning Board and the Finance and Warrant Commission, followed by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of Town Meeting. For further information on the rezoning process, please see the flow chart. It is recommended that petitioners meet with the Town Staff (i.e., Town Counsel, Director of Community and Economic Development, Town Planner, and/or Inspector of Buildings) and the Planning Board prior to submitting a zoning petition to the Board of Selectmen.
How can I get more information about applications submitted to the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, or Conservation Commission?
Planning Board applications, plans, and supporting materials are available at the Planning Office at 50 Carby Street during business hours, Monday – Thursday 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM and Friday 8:30 AM – 1:00 PM. The applications, plans and supporting materials can also be found on the Planning Board’s webpage under “Current Planning Board Applications”. The webpage may not include all items received such as supplemental material, all drafts of plans, very large files, or items received late, although the complete paper file is available for review in the Planning Office.
Zoning Board of Appeals posts Current Applications on its webpage.
Conservation Commission posts Current Conservation Applications on its webpage.
- At the first public hearing the applicant will present plans and summarize what is being proposed. Following the presentation the Board will summarize comments it has received from Town Staff and oftentimes peer review engineers, then ask questions of the applicant. Following this, the chair of the Board will open the hearing to those in the audience wishing to ask questions or offer comments on the proposal. Following this, the Board will decide whether the hearing will be closed or continued to a later date. If the Board determines that it has received all the information needed to make a decision, it will deliberate and vote on the proposal during the public meeting. If a public hearing is continued, the Board will announce the new date, time and location of the continued hearing without further notification. After the vote, a written decision of the Board's action will be prepared.
- Comments may be submitted by abutters and parties in interest in writing to the Board or Commission, prior to the close of the public hearing. Correspondence should be submitted by mail to the Planning, Zoning, or Conservation office at 50 Carby Street or emailed to the Board or Commission's staff at least three business days prior to the hearing or close of the hearing to ensure that it is part of the public record. Correspondence should include the name and address of the writer. Copies will be provided to members of the Board or Commission.
Are meetings of the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals & Conservation Commission open to the public?
All Board and Commission meetings are open to the public. Meeting agendas are required to be posted at least 48 business hours in advance with the Town Clerk and on the Town’s website here. The only time meetings would not be open to the public is if the Board deems it necessary to enter into an executive session as permitted by M.G.L. Chapter 30A, Section 21. Meetings of a subcommittee of a Board (no more than two members) to perform work outside of the regular meetings are not open to the public.
All are welcome to attend our meetings and encouraged to join the electronic mailing list to be notified of upcoming meetings and agenda items. Please sign up here.
- Every land owner has a constitutional right to develop their land. The Planning Board must work within the specific Federal, State and Town regulations such as the Zoning Bylaw, that address growth controls and act accordingly within those laws. An abutter has the opportunity during the public hearing process to voice concerns about a project that may alter the final decision. The Planning Board encourages interested persons to attend the public hearing and make their views and concerns known, and suggest alternatives.
The Planning Board's Decision notices are sent to abutters for Special Permits and Variances but not for EIDRs, Subdivisions or other applications unless specifically requested during the hearing. However, the Decision is posted on the Planning Board’s webpage under “Planning Board Decisions” and available at the Planning, Zoning and Conservation offices at 50 Carby Street and at the Town Clerk's office at Town Hall, 580 High Street. If you need assistance finding a decision please contact the Department of Community & Economic Development at (781) 767-6344.
Conservation Commission Decisions are available here.
Zoning Board of Appeals Decisions are available here.
- Appeals of a Definitive Subdivision or Special Permit Decision may be made to the Superior Court, Land Court, or District Court. There is a 20-day appeal period from the date the decision is filed with the Town Clerk.
- The Master Development Plan was first approved by Town Meeting on May 6, 2013. The Master Development Plan was later modified to reflect changes to Development Area B as shown in the Modified Master Development Plan, last revised on November 22, 2016, and approved by the Planning Board on April 11, 2017.
- The Westwood Zoning Bylaw provides for specific types of uses which shall only be permitted in specified districts upon the issuance of a Special Permit. A Special Permit may be issued for uses which are in harmony with the general purpose and intent of the Bylaw, and shall be subject to general or specific provisions set forth in the Bylaw. Special Permits may also impose conditions, safeguards and limitations on time or use. The Special Permit Granting Authority may be the Zoning Board of Appeals and in some cases the Planning Board. Some special permits are required when the Bylaw allows an exception to the rule provided that certain findings are met. For more information visit M.G.L. Chapter 40A, § 9.
The Zoning Board of Appeals may approve any Special Permit applications only if it finds that, in its judgment, all of the following considerations are satisfied in accordance with Westwood Zoning Bylaw § 10.3. Certain Special Permits for particular uses or those issued by the Planning Board may also have more specific criteria for approval. Section 10.3 of the Zoning Bylaw are the general findings for approval of Special Permits from either the Planning or Zoning Board, unless otherwise specified in the zoning.
- Social, economic or community needs which are served by the proposal;
- Traffic flow and safety, including parking and loading;
- Adequacy of utilities and other public services;
- Neighborhood character, aesthetics, and social structures;
- Impacts on the natural environment; and
- Potential fiscal impact, including impact on Town services, tax base and employment.
Additional criteria for approval of applications filed under Westwood Zoning Bylaw § 4.5.6 “extension, alteration or change of non-conforming use or structure” is that the Board must also find that the extension, alteration or change not be substantially more detrimental to the neighborhood than the existing nonconforming structure.
A Special Permit is generally required when a proposed use, due to its size or external impacts, needs greater scrutiny by the Town and may require special conditions to mitigate its impact. The approval or special exceptions shall not be granted unless the applicant demonstrates that "the adverse effects of the proposed use will not outweigh its beneficial impacts to the Town or the neighborhood, in view of the particular characteristics of the site, and of the proposal in relation to that site” (Westwood Zoning Bylaw § 10.3.3).
In making its special permit decision, the granting authority is limited to consideration of the criteria detailed in the bylaw. The Board may not refuse to issue a permit for reasons unrelated to the standards of the bylaw.
A Variance is required if you want to do something with your property which is generally prohibited by the Zoning Bylaw (dimensionally only, not uses). 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 – See Westwood Zoning Bylaw §10.4. Relief may be granted without substantial detriment to the public good, and without nullifying or substantially derogating from the intent or purpose of such bylaw or bylaw. The criteria for a Variance is very strict, you might want to look at all of your options before applying.
- The application process varies greatly depending on the project. However, the appeals process generally takes 2-3 months. You can help move the process along by providing the Board with up-to-date information (and by providing the Board with all the necessary information and plans, including Certified Plot Plans). Please refer to the application packet, the Board’s Rules and Regulations, the Board’s webpage or contact Sarah Bouchard, Zoning and Housing Agent for more information on what must be submitted.
Variances and Special Permits from the Zoning Board of Appeals require a unanimous vote of a 3-Member Board. Three members must vote in the affirmative for an application for it to be approved.
Special Permits from the Planning Board require four of the five members to vote in the affirmative for an application to be approved.
Subdivisions and EIDR approvals from the Planning Board require a simple majority, which is 3 of the 5 members to vote in the affirmative for an approval.
What should I expect to take place at the Zoning Board of Appeals or Planning Board’s public hearing?The Board Chairman will open the hearing and ask the Applicant to come forward. The Applicant (or their representative) is then called to make their presentation to the Board. Correspondence received from other town boards and or committees is read or summarized for the record as well as any correspondence from abutters. The Board members may ask questions of the applicant, may ask for staff comments, and then the Chairman will ask if any audience members in the public wish to speak. When the Board feels they have received all the material and comments necessary to make an informed decision, the Board will close the public hearing. Once the public hearing is closed no new information can be considered. The Board will then discuss and deliberate the case and material received. A decision is usually made by a vote of the Board members the night that the public hearing closes or possibly continued to the next meeting to allow time for staff to prepare a written decision for the Board’s review. All meetings are open to the public. Once the Board votes on the application, the written decision is prepared, signed, and submitted to the Town Clerk. The submission to the Town Clerk begins the 20-day appeal period and abutters are notified of the Board’s final decision for variances and special permits.
- You may appeal the decision at Norfolk County Superior Court, Land Court, or District Court. Appeals procedures are outlined in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 40A §17 and must be filed within 20 days of the filing of the decision with the Town Clerk.
Yes, if the rights authorized by a Variance are not exercised within one (1) year of the date of grant of the variance it shall lapse in accordance with M.G.L. 40A, § 10 and Westwood Zoning Bylaw § 10.4.9. Special permits shall lapse not later than 24 months from the granting of such permit if construction has not commenced in accordance with M.G.L 40A, § 17 and Westwood Zoning Bylaw § 10.3.9.
A Planning Board's EIDR approval must commence within two years, unless an extension is granted by the Board.
Special Permits = 2 years
Variance = 1 year expiration
EIDR = 2 years
- A Special Permit is necessary due to the proposed use or that the existing structure to be altered does not meet setback or other dimensional requirements set forth in the Zoning Bylaw. For example, in order to "alter, change or extend a pre-existing non-conforming structure", you may need relief from the Bylaw in the form of a Special Permit or Variance. Usually you will be referred to the Zoning Board of Appeals by the Building Commissioner upon application for a building permit. Requirements for a Special Permit or Variance are set forth in the Zoning Bylaw.
I received a notice that my neighbor is applying for a permit for his/her property. What should I do?You may call or visit the office of the Zoning Board of Appeals or Planning office to review the plans prior to the hearing or view the plans and materials posted to the Board's webpage. The Board receives correspondence and/or commentary from the public during the hearing process and considers these comments in rendering its decision. You will have an opportunity to make comments at the hearing before the Board. If you cannot attend the hearing you may submit comments in writing to the Zoning Board of Appeals or Planning Board in person, by mail, or by email to the Town Planner or Zoning and Housing Agent. Letters received prior to the close of the hearing will be entered into the record.
My Special Permit application was approved. Can I get started on the work prior to the end of the appeal period?
A Special Permit or Variance shall not take effect until a copy of the decision bearing the certification of the Town Clerk that 20 days have elapsed after the decision has been filed and that no appeal has been filed is recorded at the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds (recording fees are at the applicant’s expense).
Anyone that begins work authorized under a Special Permit or Variance exercised prior to the recording does so at their own risk, as a court could reverse a decision upon appeal and any construction performed under the permit may be ordered undone as outlined in M.G.L Chapter 40A, § 11.
- It is not required or always necessary to be represented by a lawyer or other professional to obtain a decision from the Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Board or Conservation Commission. However, it is important that you understand what action you are requesting from the Board or Commission and how you qualify for it. If you do not understand the Bylaw or what you need from the Board, a lawyer or other representative may be able to help you. You may also want a lawyer or representative to present your case before the Board if you do not feel comfortable doing so yourself. The Town Planner, Zoning & Housing Agent, and Conservation Agent are available to help answer questions on this process.
- The Zoning Board of Appeals generally convenes once a month, on Wednesday evenings, with a reduced summer schedule in August. Since all applications are public hearings there are strict filing deadlines. The Board sets the meeting schedule and the corresponding filing deadlines a year in advance. The Board’s current meeting dates and filing deadlines can be found at the ZBA’s office or webpage. The filing deadlines are the last day in which you can file for the next meeting and you are encouraged to file early. While we strive to schedule all applications on the date they submitted for, depending on the number of applications received, the completeness of the application and the complexity of the application, an application may be moved to a later meeting.
No. The Planning Board nor the Zoning Board of Appeals can change the zoning or allowed use of a property. Only Town Meeting with a 2/3 vote has the authority to rezone a property. Zoning changes are regulated by M.G.L Chapter 40A, §5.
To learn more about the re-zoning, zoning amendment and zoning change process please contact the Town Planner. A zoning amendment flow chart is also helpful in visualizing the process.
- All new applications to the ZBA require 6 sets of completed packets including all plans and materials. Each packet should include the completed application, certified plot plan, building plan, and copy of the Building Commissioner’s Denial of the Building Permit or equivalent. Additionally, the applicant must submit one electronic copy of the application and plans.
Zoning is a community planning tool by which a local government specifies how properties within a community can be developed and used. In order to regulate land use across a community and thereby guide its development, areas known as zoning districts are created in the Zoning Bylaw and displayed on the Zoning Map.
The Zoning Bylaw is the legal framework that regulates development in municipalities. The Zoning Bylaw has two major parts: the official zoning map that illustrates how the town is divided into different zoning districts, and the zoning text that describes the regulations that apply in each district. Municipal zoning ordinances are governed by Chapter 40A of the Massachusetts General Laws.
Zoning districts regulate the types of structures that can be built as well as the kinds of businesses that can be operated in a given area. The Westwood Zoning Bylaw and Official Zoning Map represent governing documents for allowable land use and development in Westwood. They specify not only the areas in which uses for commercial, industrial, recreational, and residential purposes can take place but also the processes by which these uses are approved.
- There are two kinds of applications heard by the Planning Board: those necessitating publication of a legal notice for a public hearing and those which do not. If an application is submitted at least 48 business hours in advance of a meeting and does not require a Public Hearing, it may be placed on the Planning Board’s next agenda in accordance with the state’s Open Meeting Law. ANR plans should be submitted at least 3-5 business days in advance of a Planning Board Meeting. Special Permit Applications, Applications for Environmental Impact and Design Review (also known as Site Plan Review), and Subdivision applications require a public hearing and are must be submitted at least four weeks in advance of a meeting date. The Board’s meeting schedule and corresponding filing deadlines can be found on the Board’s webpage here. However, meeting times and dates are subject to change and should be verified with the Planning Department staff.
The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) is composed of three voting members and five associate members appointed by the Board of Selectmen. All members must be residents of the Town of Westwood.
The Zoning Board hears and decides individual cases brought by persons seeking land use approval and/or relief in the form of Specials Permits, Variances, Comprehensive Permits, and Appeals of the Building Commissioner. Click here for the Zoning Board's webpage.
View Decisions of the Planning Board. (Decisions are available usually 1-3 weeks after the meeting).
View Decisions of the Zoning Board of Appeals. (Decisions are usually available 1-3 weeks after the meeting).
View Decisions of the Conservation Commission. (Decisions are usually available 20-30 days after the meeting).
- The verbal vote of the Planning or Zoning Board is not yet considered official. After the Board has voted, the written decision will be prepared, signed, and filed with the Town Clerk which will begin the 20-day appeal period (in accordance with statutory timelines. (For most applications the Board has 90 days to submit the written decision but it is typically submitted within 14-30 days). After the end of the appeal period, and no appeal has been filed, the certified Decision will be provided to you by the Town Clerk. If an appeal has been filed you will be notified by the Town Clerk. Once the applicant receives the true and attest copy from the Town Clerk, the applicant/petitioner is responsible for recording the Decision at the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds for Subdivision, Variance and Special Permit approvals. Once the Decision is recorded and proof of recording has been provided to the Building Department, you may submit a building permit application. A Decision is not considered official until it is recorded at the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds for Subdivisions, Variances and Special Permits.
The Board must make a decision within the statutory time frames unless otherwise extended by mutual agreement between the applicant and the Board.
- Special Permits - 90 days after the close of the public hearing
- Variances - 100 days from the application filing date
- Environmental Impact & Design Review (EIDR) - 90 days after the close of the public hearing
- Preliminary Subdivisions - 45 days after submission
- Definitive Subdivisions (with Preliminary) - 90 days after submission
- Definitive Subdivisions (without Preliminary) - 135 days after submission
The Conservation Commission, Planning Board, and Zoning Board are moving towards electronic application submissions. Upcoming applications submitted for public hearings are now posted to the webpage for each of the Boards.
Conservation Commission webpage click on the tab on the left that says "Current Conservation Applications"
Zoning Board of Appeals webpage click on the tab on the left that says "Current ZBA Applications"
Planning Board webpage click on "Current Planning Board Applications"
If you would to view hard copies or request paper copies, Please contact Karyn Flynn at email@example.com, or visit the office of Community & Economic Development at 50 Carby Street.
- Please contact the Planning Office at (781) 767-6344 or (781) 251-2581 to get on an upcoming agenda. Some request require a public hearing notice, a butter notification, which will determine which meeting you'll be scheduled for. Complex projects requiring additional review time and the amount of other items on the agenda will determine the meeting date. Please contact the Land Use Specialist or Town Planner at the above phone numbers for scheduling.
- The Planning Board generally meets on Tuesday’s beginning at 7:00 PM twice a month, however, meeting times may vary throughout the year depending on the workload. The Board’s meeting schedule is posted on their webpage here. Please check with the planning staff for the most up to date information as meeting times and locations are subject to change.
Meeting minutes are typically approved at the following meeting and posted on the individual board's webapge within 30 daysa and also filed with the Town Clerk.
- Minutes of the Conservation Commission
- Minutes of the Planning Board
- Minutes of the Zoning Board of Appeals
A public meeting refers to a meeting that is open to the public. According to the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law, all meetings of a governmental body shall be open to the public, and any person shall be permitted to attend any meeting except as indicated by the law. The public may attend the meeting; however, public comments are at the body’s/board’s discretion. A public hearing is held with the intention of hearing questions and comments from the public about a specific proposal.
We encourage you to sign up to receive notifications of upcoming meetings and agendas. You may sign up here.
- Planning Board members are Westwood residents and elected to three year terms. Planning Board members come from a variety of backgrounds. Board members should have the ability to listen, read and understand plans, attention to detail, and be comfortable making decisions in front of a public audience. Board members must consider the impacts to neighbors and understand the local zoning regulations, local and state land use laws. The Planning Board typically meets on Tuesday evenings twice a month throughout the year and often attend other meetings such as Town Meeting and other forums, workshops, or other board and committee meetings. If you are interested in becoming a Planning Board member it is recommended to attend Planning Board meetings to familiarize yourself with the workload and to contact the planning staff to learn more about this important volunteer position.