Planning & Zoning Board Roles and Responsibilities
- Regulates the subdivision of land
- Creates and updates the Town's Master Plan
- Reviews amendments to the Zoning By Law
- Reviews applications for certain kinds of Special Permits and Site Plan Review
- Acts as the Plan Approval Authority (PAA) and reviews applications for Plan Approval in the Queset Smart Growth Overlay District
Below, learn more about Roles & Responsibilities of a the Planning & Zoning Board (information adapted from the Citizen Planner Training Collaborative website).
Learn more by spending some time with Online Training for citizen planners.
Subdivision is the legal process of dividing a parcel of land into two or more buildable lots. The word "subdivision" is also used to refer to the lots that have been divided. Subdivision regulation controls the conversion of undeveloped land into smaller lots to ensure that each parcel of land:
- Has proper access to roadways and municipal services
- Conforms to current zoning and complies with other bylaws
- Has adequate utilities and services
The density and development pattern reflect what the Zoning By Law allows and requires, but the Subdivision Rules & Regulations and the subdivision review process determines a great deal about how new development is laid on the landscape.
The Planning & Zoning Board:
- Determines whether a plan is ANR (Approval Not Required). That is, exempt from Subdivision Regulations because the lots have adequate frontage on an existing way.
- Adopts Subdivision Rules and Regulations. What should new roads look like? Just how much pavement fits on your landscape? What about sidewalks, paths, street trees, utilities, walls, other elements in public rights of way, including easements? What information should be on plans and in the submittal package before you accept and consider an application? Your Subdivision Regulations. tell the applicant up front what you expect, what you require, and what your standards are. Adoption or amendment of the Subdivision Rules & Regulations requires a duly posted Public Hearing followed by a majority vote of the Planning Board.
- Reviews and Approves (or Disapproves) Preliminary Subdivision Plans plans are required for non-residential plans, and strongly recommended for residential ones. At this early stage, the Board has the opportunity to suggest, influence, and negotiate. The Board can approve, conditionally approve, or disapprove the preliminary plan. In the case of disapproval, the Board must detail the basis for your disapproval.
Reviews and Approves (or Disapproves) Definitive Subdivision Plans. Definitive Subdivision Plans require a Public Hearing. The Board of Health must have received a copy at filing and must approve the plan. You cannot approve a plan that doesn't comply with their recommendations.
The Board can approve, approve with modifications, or disapprove a definitive plan. The Board can only disapprove an application for specific violations of the Subdivision Regulations or for not following Board of Health recommendations. If the Board disapproves the plan, it must detail in writing the basis for disapproval and specify definite suggestions for amendment.
A master plan, or a comprehensive plan, is a document that sets a vision for what a community wants to be in the future and then lays out how that vision will be achieved. The Planning Board initiated the process for developing a new Master Plan late in 2012. As a comprehensive document, Easton’s Master Plan will cover all issues that will have an impact on what kind of place Easton will be in the coming decades. Massachusetts State Law requires the plan include these elements: Goals and policies; land use; housing; economic development; natural and cultural resources; open space and recreation; services and facilities; circulation/transportation; and implementation.
Upon recommendation of the Planning Board, the Board of Selectmen appointed an Master Plan Steering Committee to oversee the effort. Horsley and Witten Group, consultants experienced in helping municipalities develop such long-range plans, was hired to help develop the plan. To learn more about the process and current activities, click on EnvisionEaston.com.
- Spearhead broad-based process to inform, involve, gain knowledgeable support from residents and other officials. Speaking philosophically, if this is a Plan for the community, the community must develop it. Speaking practically, no one board (even with a fantastic staff, RPA, or consultants!) can have enough knowledge or energy to generate a good Plan alone. For a plan to be implemented, it must be reviewed and approved by as many people as possible.
- Seeking Town Meeting and Board of Selectmen endorsement. A Master Plan is the community's plan, not the Planning Board's plan.
- Advocate use as guide for decisions. The purpose of creating a plan is to have tool to help make decisions easier. The Planning & Zoning Board has a role in reminding officials and residents that the Plan is there to help guide decision making. The Board should Ask that an agenda item in the All Board's Meeting be periodic consideration of whether the Plan is still a useful reference for the decisions confronting your fellow officials.
Purpose: health, safety, welfare.
Divides community into districts, each with regulations regarding: use of land, use, height, area of buildings.
Tool for implementing Comprehensive Plan: should be guided by and consistent with it.
Planning Board Duties Relating to Zoning
- Holds Public Hearings and makes recommendations on proposed Zoning or amendments. As the board responsible for long range planning, the Board must advise the Town regarding how a proposed change would work for or against the community's desired future. A good Comprehensive Plan clearly explains what that desired future is and provides the rationale for evaluating whether or not a proposed amendment would be in the best interests of the community.
- Acts as Special Permit Granting Authority (SPGA) (in some cases). The Planning & Zoning Board acts as the SPGA for Special Permits related to subdivisions, Estate Lots, and Common Driveways. The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) is the SPGA in certain other cases.
- Conduct Site Plan Review. This can be used to regulate a use, not to prohibit it. The Site Plan Review process ensures compliance with zoning.
Once municipality designates road scenic, trees and stone walls in the right of way cannot be cut, removed, or destroyed as part of road repair or reconstruction without prior written consent of the Planning Board.
Exception: A municipality cannot give scenic designation to a state-owned or maintained roadway.
Planning Board Duties Relating to Scenic Roads
- May recommend designation (Others can, too.)
- Holds Public Hearing on request to cut, remove, or destroy tree or stone wall (jointly with Tree Warden, if concerns cutting a Public Shade Tree
- Must provide written consent before certain alterations of designated scenic roads may take place.
- Once a road is designated as scenic, written consent from the Planning Board must be obtained before a tree or stone wall in its right of way can be cut, removed, or destroyed as part of roadway maintenance or reconstruction. Note that this protection does not extend to private landowners making these changes, for example to build a driveway. That concern must be addressed by other means, for example through your Subdivision Regulations or Site Plan Approval.
See, MGL Chapter 40, Section 15C, or Section 8 of the Planning & Zoning Board Administrative Rules and Regulations for more information.
Currently, there are no designated Scenic Roads in Easton.^ Back to Top