Planning Board

Public hearing

Monday, October 23, 2023
6:30 PM
Town Hall Room 5 or Zoom

Topic: To discuss the proposed Bylaw amendment for Special Town Meeting on November 13, 2023


2nd and 4th Mondays at 6:30 PM (Hybrid - Zoom and Town Hall Room #5) 

Agendas, Meeting Materials, and Minutes 

Agendas are available prior to the meetings; meeting minutes are posted after approval. View Agendas and Minutes, Meeting Packets


The Planning Board is established under the provisions of  Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 41, Section 81A. The purpose of the Planning Board is to guide the development of the Town in the best interests of all of its residents.

  1. Physical Address
    10 Central Street
    Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA 01944

  2. Gail Hunter

    Administrative Assistant

    Please direct all correspondence to be shared with the Planning Board or MBTA Zoning Task Force to Gail Hunter.  

What Rules Govern Special Permits and Site Plan Review?

Special Permits and Site Plan Review are reviewed based on a set of comprehensive performance standards. These standards can be found in Section 6.3 of the Zoning Bylaw (about page 35), but are not subject to debate at the June 28, 2023 town meeting.   

The performance standards are adopted in order to control the size, scale, and impacts of developments that require a special permit and/or site plan review. The standards include detailed requirements for:  

  • Lighting,
  • Traffic,
  • Pedestrian and bicycle access,
  • Aesthetics,
  • Noise,
  • Topographic changes,
  • Utilities, and
  • Fiscal considerations.

The Planning Board has authority to impose requirements within these broad categories and issues a special permit or site plan approval upon finding that the plan is in conformance with the requirements.  The planning board may waive certain requirements, provided that such waiver is not inconsistent with public health and safety, and where the proposed development will adequately serve the goals and objectives set forth in the bylaw.


In its role of guiding the development of the Town, the Planning Board has two primary responsibilities:

Conduct studies and plans of the resources and needs of the town.

The Town's 2019 Comprehensive Master Plan serves as a guide for the Town as it manages and improves existing assets, preserves character and natural resources, and directs future growth. The Plan informs our priorities for how the Town spends taxpayer money to provide for facilities, services, and support for our community. The Master Plan will be integrated into the decision-making process to ensure all policy, project and budgeting decisions align with the priorities identified by the community.


The 2019 Master Plan’s Guiding Principles are the product of community input provided by over two years of public meetings, working groups, forums and surveys.

  • Responsibly balance the cost of necessary infrastructure and facilities improvements and maintenance and the provision of desired services with funding sources that exist or can be developed.
  • Preserve Manchester’s small-town character and natural environment by recommending growth of a size, type and density compatible with the community and only in areas determined to be appropriate.
  • Focus on change that will strengthen the local economy, improve community health, and increase inclusivity, resiliency, sense of place and community spirit.
  • Support citizens of all ages and life stages by encouraging safe, assessable and appropriate housing, transportation and mobility choices, and other public and private services.

Consider land use and the layout and functioning of the public ways as they affect public health and safety. 

The Board hears applications relating to the use and division of land which fall into five general categories:

  1. Approval Not Required (ANR) – the endorsement of a lot conforming to specific requirements.
  2. Subdivision – the division of land into two or more lots, subject to specific Subdivision Rules and Regulations.
  3. Special Permit – required by law for a change of use or for a use not allowed by right in a certain district (zone) or in an overlay of that zone.
  4. Site Plan – required for a significant expansion or change of use of a property.
  5. Opinions – Planning Board opinion may be requested by other boards on matters before them.

The Planning Board is also responsible for drafting zoning bylaws and revisions; Curb Cut Approvals; Storm Water Management (MS4); Scenic Roads and other diverse roles.