Special Permits, Variances, and Appeals
The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) holds meetings as needed. Announcements of these meetings and hearings are posted on the Town Clerk’s posting board at the Town Hall and on-line at http://www.shutesbury.org/calendars Questions can be brought to the ZBA at any scheduled meeting. If you have a question, please call the secretary or the chairperson and decide if attendance at a meeting for discussion and information would be valuable.
Purpose of the ZBA
The Zoning Board of Appeals performs the following functions:
- Hears and decides applications for Special Permits as provided by the Zoning By-Laws
- Hears and decides applications for Variances from zoning, and
- Hears and decides appeals of Decisions made by the Building Inspector or other authority regarding Zoning
The Shutesbury Zoning By-Laws set forth the rights and limitations on land usage within the town of Shutesbury. While the by-laws generally either allow or deny particular uses, there are cases where they allow a particular type of use or change in use only after the ZBA finds that the proposed use meets criteria set forth in the by-laws and grants a special permit, often with conditions. The by-laws list the particular uses allowed by special permit.
A variance exempts the applicant from some aspect of the zoning regulations in cases where the proposed use satisfies the general intent of the by-laws but a literal reading of the regulations would result in a substantial hardship to the applicant. The state severely limits the conditions under which the ZBA may grant a variance. These conditions are listed in the by-laws.
The Zoning Enforcement Officer, in our case the Building Inspector, has among other duties, authority to decide whether uses are allowed, building permits are accepted or rejected, or other orders such as cessation of use. The applicant or land owner may decide to appeal such decision, and the Zoning Board of Appeals hears those appeals.
Applying for a special permit or variance, or preparing an appeal
The first step in applying for a special permit or variance or preparing an appeal is to understand the Shutesbury Zoning By-Laws and how they apply to your situation. A printed version may be obtained from the Town Clerk for a fee, or they may be read and downloaded on-line (Shutesbury Zoning By-Laws and Amendments) or read at the town Library. It is your responsibility to address all of the requirements set forth in these by-laws and to demonstrate to the ZBA that your proposed use satisfies all of the necessary conditions. You may choose to seek legal counsel to determine your rights and/or represent your position under the Zoning By-laws.
Once you have read/understood the by-laws regarding your interests and determined whether you need to apply for a special permit, variance, or appeal take the following steps:
- Complete the application form for the type of request (there are separate forms for special permits, variances and appeals).
- Gather all of the necessary documentation to support your application.
- Obtain a certified abutters list.
- Submit your application, supporting documentation and abutters list to the Town Clerk and pay the application fee.
After you have submitted a complete application the ZBA will schedule a Public Hearing. This hearing will take place within 65 days of the completed filing. Notice of this hearing will be sent to the applicant, the abutters, and various officials of this and neighboring towns. It will appear in the Amherst Bulletin, and it will be posted at the Town Hall.
The ZBA will notify you of their Decision as soon as possible after completing the Public Hearing. Massachusetts law provides the following maximums: the Decision must be made within 90 days of the Public Hearing on applications for special permits and appeals to Zoning Enforcement actions, and within 100 days of filing an application for a variance. The Notice of Decision will be filed with the Town Clerk and sent to all parties mentioned above within 14 days of the Decision. A Favorable Decision becomes final if there are no appeals within 20 days of when it is filed. You are responsible for recording the Decision with the Registry of Deeds.
The Abutters List
All applicants must submit a list of all “parties in interest” and their addresses to the Town Clerk along with their application. Parties in interest shall include, but not be limited to:
- The applicant
- The owner of record
- All abutters
- Owners of land directly opposite on any public or private street or way, and
- Abutters to the abutters within 300 feet of the applicant’s property line,
- Regardless of whether any such land is within the town of Shutesbury,
The Tax Assessor’s Office will compile this list and certify that the list contains all of the names and addresses of parties of interest as they appear on the most recent applicable tax list. Please allow two seeks for the compilation of the abutters list.
Guidelines for supporting documentation
Since the burden of proof is on the applicant, it is important that you provide good documentation to support your application. The ZBA, when reviewing your application, may suggest additional documentation as may be required by the by-laws. However, it is best if you read the by-laws carefully to determine beforehand what documentation is required and what additional information will help your case. The ZBA uses the following guidelines when evaluating the completeness of the supporting documentation:
- All applications for special permits or variances must include a plot plan stamped by a Massachusetts Registered Surveyor showing the following information (the applicant may ask the board at an application review to wave or limit this requirement):
- All existing and proposed physical and sanitary structures within 150’ of the applicant’s proposed or existing sanitary structures, whether on the applicant’s lot or on adjacent lots.
- Town right of ways and all existing easements.
- Applications must include all supporting documentation specifically required by the by-laws.
- Applications for variances must include documentation that demonstrates the specific conditions.
- Appeals should include all pertinent information to support the appeal. If possible, certified copies of documents should be obtained.
The applicant should also include additional plans, sketches, photographs, and any other information pertinent to the application that will help them present their case before the board.
As mentioned earlier, cases are formally heard in public hearings held by the ZBA in scheduled meetings. During public hearings, the board considers the content of the application and supporting documents, asks questions, hears testimony from a variety of sources including but not limited to the applicant, the applicant’s experts, other town boards, abutters, and the Shutesbury public in attendance and from submitted letters or other documents from the public.
Zoning Board of Appeals Forms
Effective March 1, 2016
|Special Permit Application||$300|
|Appeal from Building Commissioner Determination||$300|
|Site Plan Review||$100|