Zoning Recodification and Updates

Town Planner Recommendations on Draft Bylaw Section 8.0

April 2020 - Zoning Bylaw Recodification and Update  - What and Why?

The Town of Manchester’s Planning Board, members of the Board of Appeals, Zoning Enforcement Officer, Town Planner and others have been working with the Town’s legal consultant since June of 2019 to recodify and update the Town’s Zoning Bylaws.  The monthly meetings are open to the public and agendas and minutes are posted online.  But what is this initiative and why is it important?

Codify in its strict interpretation means to put into a code, systematize, and classify.  Re-codify then means to “re-code, re-systematize, re-classify” or more simply put “re-format and re-organize”.    Reformatting and reorganization is one focus of the Planning Board’s recodification project and includes such things as adding a Use Table that shows what land uses are allowed for each district and whether the use is by right, special permit, or variance, and whether it requires site plan review.   In the current Zoning Bylaw, the same information is found within paragraphs of text and is not consistent in order or language.  Other formatting and organizational changes include 1) adding and improving definitions, 2) rearranging sections of the bylaw into a logical order, 3) bringing references up-to-date, and 4) eliminating illegal, unnecessary or out-of-date bylaws.

In addition to reorganizing and reformatting, there are also updates, changes and additions to the existing Zoning Bylaws that are being considered as part of this current initiative.  The updates, changes and additions are intended to create regulations that are easier to understand, provide greater guidance to permitting Boards, reduce redundancy and help align Zoning regulations with the goals and objectives of the Town’s Master Plan. 

When the Planning Board has a full preliminary draft Bylaw to be considered, anticipated within the next few months, the Board, supported by its legal consultant will host community workshops to present and discuss all the changes being proposed for the Recodification and Update of the Bylaws.  Following these workshops, the Planning Board will make necessary changes based on community input and will then hold Planning Board hearings on the revised draft, before a Final Draft Bylaw is put forth for a vote at Fall Town Meeting.

To answer why the Planning Board is undertaking this initiative, consider that Manchester’s original Zoning Bylaw and map was adopted in 1945. In 1978, after 35 years of additions and revisions, the Bylaw was reorganized and updated to provide a more cohesive framework for the regulations. In the forty-two years since this reorganization, over 80 changes have been made ranging from adding and changing definitions, dimensional requirements, and uses, to adding entirely new sections to allow, prohibit or condition new development. Manchester’s Zoning Bylaw today includes regulations based on both past and present goals and best practices, in large part is organized by date of changes and has outdated, overlapping and some bylaws that may now be considered illegal.  This Zoning Recodification and Update initiative allows the Town an opportunity to make its Zoning regulations easier to understand, administer and enforce, and align Zoning regulations with current land use goals, best practices and municipal capacity.

In addition to the Bylaw Recodification and Update, the Planning Board is also considering some more substantive changes to the Zoning Bylaw that the Board will vet through other thorough community review processes.  Principal among these is a Smart Growth Overlay District: a strategy for guiding development in the Limited Commercial District consistent with the Town’s goals. Please look for an update on this in the near future. 

The Planning Board encourages town residents, land and business owners to take part in this and all Town planning initiatives to assure that we are all working together for a strong and resilient Manchester.   For any questions, please feel free to contact Sue Brown, Manchester’s Town Planner at browns@manchester.ma.us .

May 2019 Update: http://www.manchester.ma.us/DocumentCenter/View/3126/May-2019-Recodification-Update

View the Town’s Bylaws: https://www.manchester.ma.us/317/Bylaws-Regulations 
View the Town’s Current Zoning Map: http://www.manchester.ma.us/documentcenter/view/649
View the Planning Board’s agendas and minutes here: https://www.manchester.ma.us/AgendaCenter 
Subscribe to automatically receive updates here: https://www.manchester.ma.us/list.aspx 

Cluster type Bylaw Comparison Matrix June 15, 2020

Zoning Bylaw Draft June 15, 2020 w tracked changes

Use Table Draft June 15, 2020

Draft Zoning Bylaw Table 12.28

Draft Zoning Bylaw Definitions

Draft Table of Contents for Draft 2 12_28_19