Zoning bylaws set for town meeting vote

by Town Reminder

By William Pead
Turley Correspondent

SOUTH HADLEY – June 19 is set as the date that Town Meeting members will vote on planned revisions to South Hadley Zoning Bylaws. Know Your Town spent Monday evening explaining what’s at stake.
Planning Board Chairman Jeff Squire was joined by members Helen Fantini, Mark Cavanaugh and Joan Rosner, and Town Planner Richard Harris to answer questions about the ten revision articles that will be voted on.
The program was moderated by Linda Young, who explained that zoning bylaws affect every aspect of our lives.
She encouraged questions to be asked regarding the proposed changes.
Squire said the revisions in zoning bylaws are “the town’s way of directing development in a fashion that is consistent with what residents of the town have sought.”
Article 1 would create a new South Hadley Falls Overlay District, to allow more flexibility of uses and dimensional waivers in keeping with the area’s historic character and urban reality.
Mixed use development including residential and business use would be encouraged, as well as more pedestrian traffic. Squire said the zoning bylaws we currently have are largely outdated and aren’t compatible with the vision of the town as expressed in the Master Plan.”
Article 2, Zoning District Purpose Descriptions, would add purpose statements for each zoning district.
Planning Board member Mark Cavanaugh explained “it will help the Planning Board interpret the zoning if there’s a description associated with each title.”
It does not impact the zoning map, but Cavanaugh said it will makes things much clearer to the board and to the public.
Article 3, Dimensional Requirements, would reduce front setback requirements in business districts, and would increase maximum heights in some business districts with the same requirements for both residential and nonresidential in Business B.
Ray Rondeau questioned whether the changes might impact on the costs to businesses that might choose to remodel their properties or apply for a change of use.
Squire said there are provisions for nonconforming properties. Harris also pointed out that a special permit can be applied for in such a case.
“These bylaw changes don’t remove any of the ability to address those business concerns through a very straight forward waiver process,” he said.
Article 4, Off-Street Parking, would provide a flexible system for determining required parking through flexible and modifiable standards.
It would also reduce the visual impact of large and unsightly parking lots. On-street parking would not be impacted.
Article 5, Special Permits, would more clearly define currently vague special permit criteria, in coordination with the town’s Master Plan.
Squire said the goal is to provide more clarity and to streamline review.
Article 6, Site Plan Review, would more clearly spell out the relationship between site plans and special permits, and allow for a more streamlined review process for minor projects.
Fantini also said it would also provide minimum “frontage occupancy” requirements for some commercial districts.
Article 7, Home Occupations, clarifies definitions and would establish two tiers, with low impact home occupations by right, and higher impact occupations requiring a special permit.
Article 8, Affordable Housing, would provide specific regulations for affordable housing. It would also offer incentives to developers while also offering an in-lieu-of payment as an alternative, with money collected going to the town’s state-mandated subsidized housing inventory.
Article 9 adds new definitions and clarifications, including defining multi-family developments and flexible development. And Article 10 adds new definitions and clarifies others.
The 10 zoning bylaw articles will be voted on at a special Town Meeting June 19 at 7 p.m. in the South Hadley Town Hall auditorium.