Port City Plans: A Comprehensive Update to Newburyport’s Zoning Ordinance

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

Several years ago, City officials, led by the Office of Planning & Development, began work on a comprehensive update to Newburyport’s 200+ page Zoning Ordinance. The Newburyport Zoning Ordinance (NZO) is a code for development patterns across the City, and within various zoning districts. Like the DNA in human cells, the Zoning Ordinance dictates what happens, where, and how – in this case the form of development, our “built environment” and related permitting processes.

It has been several decades since the last comprehensive update and numerous piecemeal zoning amendments have made the NZO longer and more complicated than is necessary to achieve similar objectives. The length and formatting of the NZO, and inclusion of vague, ambiguous or even conflicting provisions, can make interpretation and application of the regulations difficult for City officials, applicants and other interested parties. Vague or ambiguous language can also result in disputes requiring litigation through the courts to resolve the discrepancies. For these reasons, the Office of Planning & Development (OPD) and Zoning Advisory Committee (ZAC) have been working diligently to craft new chapters to the NZO intended to address these, and many other, issues. Because of the length of the NZO, and the complexity of this legal document, updating it is a slow and tedious process involving numerous iterative debates. For example: a small change in language in one section may necessitate an in-depth review of other cross-referenced sections.

The ZAC is comprised of representatives from the OPD, the Planning Board (PB), the City Council (CC), the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), the Mayor’s office, the City’s consultant - Community Opportunities Group (COG), and others. The purpose of the ZAC is to review and vet proposed zoning changes, like the comprehensive update, and provide an advisory opinion regarding such amendments prior to adoption. The ZAC is also tasked with identifying problematic areas of our zoning regulations and permitting processes so that improvements can be made moving forward.

After several years of work, the Office of Planning & Development (OPD) and Zoning Advisory Committee (ZAC) are releasing draft documents for community review. While the typical zoning amendment and adoption process involves a formal “joint public hearing” between the Planning Board and City Council, to obtain public input on proposed changes prior to adoption, the magnitude of this project calls for more informal review and vetting with community stakeholders prior to initiating such a formal process. Stakeholders include, but are not limited to: the City Council; the Planning Board; the Zoning Board of Appeals; the Zoning Advisory Committee; City staff and departments; residents; businesses; developers and their representatives.

The following reports and presentations were generated as part of this so-called “comprehensive rezoning” initiative, providing a baseline diagnostic of known zoning and development permitting issues, as well as a road map for potential improvements:

The following new draft chapters have been prepared by the Office of Planning & Development (OPD) and Zoning Advisory Committee (ZAC) with assistance from Community Opportunities Group (COG), a Boston-based planning and community development consulting firm:

Additional draft chapters will be posted here as they become available.

The Office of Planning & Development (OPD) is seeking public input on these draft documents. While it is preferred that a single comprehensive update to the NZO is adopted through one efficient process of public hearings and adoption, it is possible that portions of the comprehensive update will be adopted as time and “bandwidth” are available to vet the complex public policy and legal considerations involved. Based upon feedback from the Mayor, CC, PB, ZBA, ZAC, COG and the community at large, City officials will proceed as appropriate.

The OPD and ZAC have chosen to use this platform (EngageNewburyport) to roll out the project (Port City Plans: A Comprehensive Update to Newburyport’s Zoning Ordinance) so that all stakeholders are well informed and engaged during the review and adoption process. Comments and survey responses submitted using the tabs below will be reviewed by OPD staff and shared with the Mayor, CC, PB, ZBA, ZAC, COG and others as needed. Summarized responses to frequently asked questions (FAQ) will also be posted here. While today’s social media platforms can be a source for information or misinformation, the OPD believes that the City and all of its stakeholders are better off when everyone is well informed with the facts and relevant context. It is our hope that the EngageNewburyport platform will provide: (a) a single source for accurate information (in lieu of unofficial social media platforms or word of mouth); and (b) a tool by which to submit comments, questions and concerns for consideration by City officials in relation to this, and similar public projects.

Since EngageNewburyport is a new tool, launched in conjunction with our comprehensive zoning update project, we also welcome community feedback on how the platform is working, and what improvements can be made. While initially developed as a tool for community outreach and engagement on initiatives from the Office of Planning & Development (OPD), this community engagement platform was designed to accommodate a wide range of community projects and initiatives, along with the tools to better inform and engage the community at large. Like the City of Newburyport website, EngageNewburyport is a web-based tool for residents and stakeholders to stay well informed and involved in local government and public policy decisions, especially those involving land use and community development.

Several years ago, City officials, led by the Office of Planning & Development, began work on a comprehensive update to Newburyport’s 200+ page Zoning Ordinance. The Newburyport Zoning Ordinance (NZO) is a code for development patterns across the City, and within various zoning districts. Like the DNA in human cells, the Zoning Ordinance dictates what happens, where, and how – in this case the form of development, our “built environment” and related permitting processes.

It has been several decades since the last comprehensive update and numerous piecemeal zoning amendments have made the NZO longer and more complicated than is necessary to achieve similar objectives. The length and formatting of the NZO, and inclusion of vague, ambiguous or even conflicting provisions, can make interpretation and application of the regulations difficult for City officials, applicants and other interested parties. Vague or ambiguous language can also result in disputes requiring litigation through the courts to resolve the discrepancies. For these reasons, the Office of Planning & Development (OPD) and Zoning Advisory Committee (ZAC) have been working diligently to craft new chapters to the NZO intended to address these, and many other, issues. Because of the length of the NZO, and the complexity of this legal document, updating it is a slow and tedious process involving numerous iterative debates. For example: a small change in language in one section may necessitate an in-depth review of other cross-referenced sections.

The ZAC is comprised of representatives from the OPD, the Planning Board (PB), the City Council (CC), the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), the Mayor’s office, the City’s consultant - Community Opportunities Group (COG), and others. The purpose of the ZAC is to review and vet proposed zoning changes, like the comprehensive update, and provide an advisory opinion regarding such amendments prior to adoption. The ZAC is also tasked with identifying problematic areas of our zoning regulations and permitting processes so that improvements can be made moving forward.

After several years of work, the Office of Planning & Development (OPD) and Zoning Advisory Committee (ZAC) are releasing draft documents for community review. While the typical zoning amendment and adoption process involves a formal “joint public hearing” between the Planning Board and City Council, to obtain public input on proposed changes prior to adoption, the magnitude of this project calls for more informal review and vetting with community stakeholders prior to initiating such a formal process. Stakeholders include, but are not limited to: the City Council; the Planning Board; the Zoning Board of Appeals; the Zoning Advisory Committee; City staff and departments; residents; businesses; developers and their representatives.

The following reports and presentations were generated as part of this so-called “comprehensive rezoning” initiative, providing a baseline diagnostic of known zoning and development permitting issues, as well as a road map for potential improvements:

The following new draft chapters have been prepared by the Office of Planning & Development (OPD) and Zoning Advisory Committee (ZAC) with assistance from Community Opportunities Group (COG), a Boston-based planning and community development consulting firm:

Additional draft chapters will be posted here as they become available.

The Office of Planning & Development (OPD) is seeking public input on these draft documents. While it is preferred that a single comprehensive update to the NZO is adopted through one efficient process of public hearings and adoption, it is possible that portions of the comprehensive update will be adopted as time and “bandwidth” are available to vet the complex public policy and legal considerations involved. Based upon feedback from the Mayor, CC, PB, ZBA, ZAC, COG and the community at large, City officials will proceed as appropriate.

The OPD and ZAC have chosen to use this platform (EngageNewburyport) to roll out the project (Port City Plans: A Comprehensive Update to Newburyport’s Zoning Ordinance) so that all stakeholders are well informed and engaged during the review and adoption process. Comments and survey responses submitted using the tabs below will be reviewed by OPD staff and shared with the Mayor, CC, PB, ZBA, ZAC, COG and others as needed. Summarized responses to frequently asked questions (FAQ) will also be posted here. While today’s social media platforms can be a source for information or misinformation, the OPD believes that the City and all of its stakeholders are better off when everyone is well informed with the facts and relevant context. It is our hope that the EngageNewburyport platform will provide: (a) a single source for accurate information (in lieu of unofficial social media platforms or word of mouth); and (b) a tool by which to submit comments, questions and concerns for consideration by City officials in relation to this, and similar public projects.

Since EngageNewburyport is a new tool, launched in conjunction with our comprehensive zoning update project, we also welcome community feedback on how the platform is working, and what improvements can be made. While initially developed as a tool for community outreach and engagement on initiatives from the Office of Planning & Development (OPD), this community engagement platform was designed to accommodate a wide range of community projects and initiatives, along with the tools to better inform and engage the community at large. Like the City of Newburyport website, EngageNewburyport is a web-based tool for residents and stakeholders to stay well informed and involved in local government and public policy decisions, especially those involving land use and community development.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

Do you think Newburyport's zoning should require architectural design review?

Yes, but in commercial zones only.
5%
Yes, in both commercial and residential zones.
65%
No
20%
Maybe/Unsure/Other
10%
Total Votes : 20
Vote