When do I need the ZBA?

Adding on when nonconforming

Questions about the ZBA

When do I need to go to the Zoning Board of Appeals?

The Zoning Board of Appeals ( ZBA ) and the Planning Board are here to help the property owner comply  with the Town of Otis Zoning By-law.  Do you have an existing home on a lot that is less than one acre in area?  Does that lot have less than one hundred and fifty feet of road frontage?  If you answered yes to either one of those questions your home is on a non-conforming parcel.  That means that your home was built before the regulation changed to our current “one acre and one hundred and fifty feet zoning”.  It doesn’t mean that your home is illegal or that you are grandfathered to do what ever you want. Below are listed some of the frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) and some responses.  It would be good to remember that any regulation has exceptions so if you don’t find what you need, call the office at 413-269-0100 x 205  or drop me an email and I’ll get back to you.

Here are some frequently asked questions and some responses.

I want to add a screen porch ( any addition ) to the side of my house but my contractor said that I was inside the setback requirement what does that mean?
The setback requirement is the distance the zoning by-law requires any structure to be placed away from the property lines.  From the frontage (road side is the frontage) 35’thirty-five feet is the setback.  From the side and rear property lines of the parcel the distance away is 25’ twenty-five feet.  This is for the principal structure, usually your home.  In the case of an accessory building, a garage or shed, the front requirement stays the same, 35’ but the side and rear distance shrinks to 10’ ten feet from the property line.

What do I have to do to build my screen porch?
The first thing you need to do is to find your property lines, use an existing survey or plot plan, have a registered surveyor mark and pin your property, research your deed, speak to your abutter, maybe they’ve been there longer and know where the pins are.

Okay, I found my property lines what next?
Stake out the outside corners of your proposed addition or accessory building.  Tie some string between the stakes to outline the proposed addition and then measure from the building to the property line.  Is the measurement more than 25’ from the side or rear or more than 35” from the front (roadside)? If so pick up a building permit application and you can get started if not you’ll need a Special Permit from the ZBA.

My project doesn’t meet the property line setback requirement how do I get a Special Permit?
Now you need a plan for the addition to your structure.  When you have a set of drawings that shows what the building will look like,( we call these drawings elevations), and a plot plan,( a drawing that shows the proposed location of your building or items that are important to the project, parking area, accessory buildings, your leach field, well for water etc),  then meet with the Building Inspector to get a determination regarding the correct section of the By-law to apply under and to make sure the documents needed are included in your application. Now you may submit your application.

How do I submit my application or where do I submit my application for a Special Permit?
The Town Clerk is the official who is responsible for receiving the Special Permit application.  She will accept your documents, time and date stamp them with her seal, and pass it on to the clerk of the Zoning Board of Appeals.  If you have met the deadline and document requirements for the next public hearing your application will be placed on the agenda. The application will advertised and notification of abutters will be sent as per Massachusetts General Law 40A sects. 9, 11, 15.

What happens at the meeting?
The meeting is a public hearing.  The chairman of the board will open the hearing with a reading of the application as submitted and will allow the applicant to inform the board and any public in attendance of the reason for the application.  The individual board members will have an opportunity to ask questions of the applicant during the process.  When the applicant has completed their presentation the Chairman will open the floor to any public questions. All questions should be directed to the chairman and she will redirect to the pertinent person.  At the close of public discussion the board will deliberate in front of the attendees and conclude with a set of conditions if granted or state a reason for denying the application.  On some occasions a continuance is granted to allow for more information to be presented at a later date and time.

I was granted a special permit for my porch now what?
Your Special Permit sits in abeyance for twenty days from the time the Town Clerk receives the granting documents from the clerk of the ZBA.  If no one appeals the decision of the granting authority within the twenty days you may pick up the document granting the special permit with any special conditions attached and you register the special permit at the registry of deeds in Pittsfield.  The special permit is attached to your property through your deed.  You will receive a copy of the receipt and that will be proof of the granting and registration of your Special Permit.  It’s time to apply for your Building Permit.  Bring the receipt, the plans and a completed application to the Building Inspector and submit them for approval.

I was denied a Special Permit, why?
Massachusetts General Law Chapter 40A Section 9  provides specific criteria for granting special permits.  It states in part:  only upon its written determination that the adverse effects of the proposed use will not outweigh its beneficial impacts to the town or the neighborhood, in view of the site, and of the proposal in relation to that site. In addition…the determination shall include consideration of each of the following:
1. Social, economic, or community needs which are served by the proposal;
2. Traffic flow and safety, including parking and loading;
3. Adequacy of utilities and other public services;
4. Neighborhood character and social structures;
5. Impacts on the natural environment; and
6. Potential fiscal impact, including impact on town services, tax base, and employment.
Mass Gen. L. ch 40A, sects 9 and 15 state: The Granting Authority shall cause to be made a detailed record of its proceedings, indicating the vote of each member upon each question, or if absent or failing to vote, indicating such fact, and setting forth clearly the reason for its decision and of its official actions.
Any person aggrieved by a decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals may appeal said decision to a court of competent jurisdiction within twenty (20) days from the date of the order or decision being appealed, in accordance with G.L. chapter 40A section 17.

ZBA Application

ZBA Application Instructions