Comprehensive Review of Reading Zoning Bylaw

The Town of Reading is in the process of comprehensively revising and updating the Town’s Zoning Bylaw. The Town of Reading has created a Zoning Advisory Committee (ZAC) to provide oversight and guidance for this project, with the Community Services Director/Town Planner acting as the primary staff contact person. The Zoning Bylaw has been completely revised and the ZAC has met approximately forty times since the project started late in 2013 to review and finalize drafts of the new provisions.

Reading Twon Hall Sign

Several zoning articles will be considered at the Special Town Meeting on September 29, 2014. These include medical marijuana, Section 1 (Authority and Purpose) and Section 3 (Establishment of Zoning Districts) and the repeal of the Wetlands Protection and Mixed Use Overlay Zoning Districts. On September 15, 2014 the Community Development and Planning Commission (CPDC) will be conducting a hearing on these articles. The rest of the proposed revisions and updates to the Zoning Bylaw will be on the warrant for the November 10, 2014. A CPDC public hearing is scheduled for October 20, 2014 on those revisions.

The purpose of this effort is to simplify, clarify, correct internal inconsistencies, and update the bylaw to address current development trends and anticipate future housing and business needs. These changes would represent a significant step towards implementation of the 2006 Reading Master Plan, the 2012 Housing Production Plan, the Open Space and Recreation Plan, several downtown studies and design guidelines, and other related planning projects. This is the first time the Town has undertaken a comprehensive zoning revision since 1926.

The consultant team working with the Town on this project is led by Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB), with legal review by Edith Netter Esq.

What is Zoning?

Modern zoning began in the early 1900’s in response to the location of potentially incompatible and noxious land uses next to commercial and residential areas. The zoning bylaw has evolved over the years as a means to limit the types of land uses that could locate in a particular area of the municipality, resulting in a separation of uses. Ideally, the Master Plan is the blueprint for the Town and the zoning bylaw is the regulation that implements the plan. Typically, a zoning bylaw regulates land use by:

  1. Specifying and distinguishing different land use types;
  2. Creating development standards for the size and shape of lots and the buildings erected on those lots;
  3. Addressing lots, buildings and uses that pre-dated the adoption of the zoning bylaw (non-conformities);
  4. Establishing criteria for the evaluation of permit applications for new buildings;
  5. Establishing procedures for permitting uses not specifically allowed by right;
  6. Defining terms that have specific meanings under the bylaw; and,
  7. Creating a map that displays the geographic extent of each zoning district.

Learn more about the zoning review process and schedule »