TEWKSBURY – After a defeat at the annual municipal meeting by two votes, the zoning by-law review committee met last week to assess the viability of bringing the updated zoning by-law article back to voters for consideration .
The problem is the need to revise and modernize Tewksbury’s zoning bylaws to reflect state regulations, remove outdated wording, and create a more navigable document for residents, developers and city staff to use for guide future development in the community.
Debate at the city’s annual meeting focused on several amendments proposed by residents, relating to billboards, building heights and multi-family zoning in office and research quarters.
The defeat of the article still allows a return to the annual municipal meeting in the spring of 2022, according to an official opinion shared by municipal lawyer Kevin Feeley, as long as the planning council recommends the adoption of the amendment or of rewriting.
Committee chair Todd Johnson discussed the future of the committee and interviewed members to determine their interest in continuing. The committee has worked on revisions over the past five years, incorporating over 100 amendments and removing outdated verbiage.
A reorganization of the document was also undertaken, ensuring that one section of the code did not contradict another.
“A change in one section can have ripple effects for other sections,” said Erin Wortman, member.
Unprecedented outreach was undertaken by the city, including listening sessions and videos produced to explain some of the more complex sections of the code in preparation for the city meeting.
Committee member Stephen Johnson, the current chairman of the planning council, questioned why for this article a return to town hall meeting was appropriate.
“If you are convinced that Town Meeting is a good form of government, then why not leave (Town Meeting’s decision to reject the article)? “
Johnson, along with the rest of the committee, voted in favor of passage, as the updated bylaws would improve processes on many fronts.
“I didn’t like everything about it,” Johnson said, but said overall the revised document was an improvement.
However, the new member, Building Commissioner Mark Bertonassi, said: “For most people (the town hall) is the first time they see this information. Has the benefit been communicated to residents?
Johnson added that “the complexity and breadth of this article are much to be absorbed” and proposed for consideration a process similar to a first and second reading of articles of the legislature before a final vote.
Wortman, a city planner in another community, wondered if taking the article section by section would have made it easier to understand.
“We decided as a committee to offer this as a whole,” Wortman said, but acknowledged that it was a lot for the layman to get involved in.
Member Richard Cuoco, who initially questioned the continuation of the process, said: “At a minimum, the regulations need to be corrected. It’s broken.”
The committee voted to continue its work.
Following the decision to go ahead, the committee moved to the discussion of fees in lieu of a provision in the regulations. Deputy Managing Director Steve Sadwick presented a summary of the current policy which requires 15% affordable units in multi-family developments.
The committee agreed to maintain the fee instead of the policy as it appears in the current draft zoning bylaw for residential open space development, but discussed calculating the cost of the fee in advance to be presented. to the granting authority before exemptions are decided. .
A schedule of meeting dates and topics was discussed, with a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, November 2, 2021 at City Hall. Residents wishing to participate in the discussion are invited to attend at 6 p.m. and the committee requests that “in order for the committee to assess the concerns of the proposed zoning by-law, it would be beneficial to have specific references to the proposed zoning by-law that present problems. . Specific references will add to a more meaningful dialogue in this effort to correct the problems that exist in the current zoning by-law.