Town of Wendell, Massachusetts

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Planning Board Proposed ByLaws

How will Wendell look?

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Typical Development or Conservation Development?

For example:

A photo of an existing 14 acre lot with one house and 1009 feet of frontage.

An illustration of a typical roadside Development with 4 lots; one lot has the existing house.

An illustration of Conservation Development with the same 4 houses, a common driveway and 10.5 acres conserved. It could include a shared garden, greenhouse & gazebo.

Proposed Conservation Development Bylaw will be voted on at the December 15, 2010 Special Town Meeting. Please come!                       

Questions, call Nan Riebschaleger -2741, Michael Idoine -2623, Dede Cabral -3678, or Heather Reed – 7705.


Wendell Planning Board Hearing

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In accordance with the provisions of Chapter 40, Chapter 40A Section 5, Section 9 and Chapter 41 Section 81Q of M.G.L., the Wendell Planning Board will hold a public hearing on May 17, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. in the Town Offices at Morse Village Road to consider changes to the Wendell Zoning Bylaws and the Wendell Subdivision Regulations as described below.


Proposed Conservation Development Bylaw Revisions

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Historically in Wendell, existing lots along roads are subdivided to create building lots. If the resulting lots conform to zoning bylaws (3 acres and 200 feet of road frontage), the owners may obtain building permits with no additional approval by the planning board.  This results in sprawl along town roads.


The proposed bylaw revisions encourage a new form of development that maintains a working landscape, a viable wildlife corridor connecting the Quabbin Watershed through Wendell to the Connecticut River, and encourages ecologically responsible residential development.


Wendell undertook this planning project because the Town’s Community Development Plan (2004) and Open Space Plans both stated that Wendell’s pattern of residential growth could be redesigned to better fit Wendell’s forested landscape. Also, it was noted that the existing Conservation Development bylaw hasn’t been used, and could be replaced with a more appealing and up-to-date approach to housing development. Shutesbury provided an example in 2008 by enacting its Open Space Design bylaw, a version of a technique called Natural Resource Protection Zoning (NRPZ).


Wendell and Pelham were awarded a grant from the Commonwealth (Smart Growth Technical Assistance Grant) to explore changes to zoning and town regulations that might encourage forest conservation. Wendell Town Meeting voted $3,000 in matching funds in June 2006.




Two bylaw revisions work together: One regulates how often building permits can be allowed for lots subdivided from a larger lot. The rate at which permits could be issued would be once every 7 years for such lots, thus slowing the roadside suburban sprawl typical of development in Wendell for the last 40 years. Landowners who want to develop lots more frequently can use the second bylaw, Conservation Development, with lots that don’t require 3 acres or 200 feet of frontage, but does require a percentage of the project land to be permanently protected by a conservation easment. Both development options would be considered “by right” in the revised zoning bylaws.  




Under the proposed bylaw a project area considered for development would be divided into two sections: 75% of the land, including areas determined to have the most significance for forest and timber management, biodiversity, wildlife habitat and corridors, historical importance, agriculture, visual assets, or recreational use, would be set aside with a permanent Conservation Restriction. The protected land may include land with development constraints (water bodies, wetlands, 100-year FEMA defined flood plains, or slopes over 25%) up to the same percentage of constrained land found in the whole parcel. The remaining 25% of the land may be developed with greater flexibility, streamlined reviews, without dimensional requirements, and allow creative building layout design consistent with the rural character of Wendell.  The Conservation Development’s project area includes the protected and developed land which can be located on one lot, multiple lots or a portion of one or more lots.  Therefore the Conservation Development Applicant may be one or more property owners.




 The Applicant defines the area to be protected after a Conservation Analysis and the Conservation Finding are produced.  First, an Applicant meets with the Planning Board and prepares a Conservation Analysis of a project area. The Conservation Analysis identifies areas of significant value in the project area, such as areas for pasture, farming, tree-cutting, trails, wildlife, etc. The Planning Board reviews the Conservation Analysis (assisted by other Boards and with public input), visits the site, and then prepares a Conservation Finding Report.  If 85% of the project area is protected, then a full Conservation Analysis is not required.  If the Applicant has land previously protected (with an existing restriction), that acreage is not included in the project area, but the Applicant can designate some of that land to reach the 85% threshold and forgo the full Conservation Analysis.


Then, the Applicant delineates the whole area(s) to be separated from a “development envelope” and drafts a Conservation Restriction to ensure that the delineated land is permanently protected from development. The Applicant defines this area, consistent with the Conservation Finding. 


The Conservation Restriction may allow activities consistent with a working landscape, such as, agriculture, tree cutting, gardening, hunting, fishing, gathering, and trails, or it could limit one or more of those activities, at the option of the Applicant. If necessary, the protected land could contain a septic system or play area, subject to Planning Board approval. 




The draft Conservation Development proposal allows the Applicant to develop this area with greater flexibility and a streamlined permitting process. Most significantly, the limits on lot size and frontage are removed to foster flexibility and creativity in design.


The proposed bylaw would allow the Applicant to use common driveways of any length to access the dwelling units in the development. This saves the Applicant the legal, financial and environmental costs of a standard subdivision road.


The proposed bylaw removes certain limits on secondary dwellings so that they can be among the dwelling units incorporated in the development envelope from the outset (not just for primary dwellings that are 10 years old).



The Conservation Development uses a formula for determining a maximum number of dwelling units, since frontage and acreage requirements don’t apply. It requires the Applicant to identify total acreage and acreage having development constraints (water bodies, wetlands, 100-year FEMA defined flood plains, or slopes over 25%). Half the acreage with development restraints is subtracted from the total lot acreage; the remaining acreage is then divided by 5 to calculate the maximum number of dwelling units.


Credit – to allow more dwelling units – is given for affordable housing as defined by MGL chapter 40B or for work the developer does to enhance public access to the protected land. Bonus density is also allowed in the developed area if 85% of the original project area is preserved.



This proposed bylaw is included in the Town Warrant for the Special Town Meeting to be held on December 15, 2010 at 7pm. Pleas attend the Special Town Meeting; this is a substantial change to Wendell's Zoning Bylaws.


For more information contact:

Nancy Riebschaleger             544-2741           
Deirdre Cabral                      544-3678            
Heather Reed                       544-7705            

write: Wendell Planning Board, PO Box 41, Wendell, MA  01379. call:  Town Office 544-3395 x 203



 Submitted December 07, 2010


FAQ's for Conservation Development Bylaw

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 FAQ's for Conservation Development Bylaw



Q: What is the goal of this Conservation Development Bylaw?

A: This by-law will steer the pattern of development in a new direction that is consistent with Wendell's recent Community Development and Open Space Plans. Specifically, it will allow patterns of development that maintain working landscapes(e.g. timber management, agricultural activities, gathering, hunting, and fishing), areas for recreational purposes, and preserve wildlife corridors and important ecological aspects of Wendell's natural areas. This bylaw will also allow for more creative, efficient, and flexible residential design.  


Q: Why do we want to change the way we currently develop land? 

A: The current pattern of roadfront development encourages sprawl and inflexible residential design. It also diminishes opportunities for land protection.


Q: Can relatives or friends combine land for a Conservation Development  project?

A: Yes, lots from various locations in Wendell can be combined to create a project area. 


Q: Is it safe to put a house, a well and a septic field on a lot less than 3 acres?

A: There are many factors that need to be considered in positioning the above items when planning site development. The soil(s) of the project area will determine the location of the septic field(s).  It is possible to adjoin septic fields or create a larger common septic field to accommodate more than one residence. 


Q: What is “constrained land”?

A: “Constrained land” is part of a project area that cannot be built on for various reasons such as wetlands, slopes greater than 25% or 100 year FEMA floodplains.


Q: What is a Conservation Restriction (CR)?

A: “A CR is a voluntary agreement in which a landowner limits specified uses (e.g. development) of his or her property while retaining private ownership of the land” (Robert A. Levite, Umass extension). The landowner plays a large role, collaborating with the CR holder, in determining the uses of the land that will be protected.  This means that land under a CR is open to any uses other than development (e.g. farming, gardening, timber management, etc.). A CR is recorded and future owners of the land are bound by the terms of the Restriction. A CR guarantees that the land will be protected and preserved forever; also there are often federal and state tax benefits.


Q: Can the Planning Board create Conservation Restrictions?

A: No, Conservation Restrictions are not within the authority of the Planning Board but the Board will give applicants recommendations on how to proceed.


Q: How difficult or costly is the Conservation Restriction (CR) process?

A: Every property is different so the costs will vary.  In any subdivision process there will be a survey. A CR involves additional legal fees.  Some organizations that agree to hold the CR charge a fee for their services.



Q: Can I use land that is already under a Conservation Restriction (CR) to determine the number of dwelling units?

A: Land that is already subject to a CR cannot be considered for determining the number of dwelling units, however, this land can be used to increase the percentage of protected land in the project area from 75% to a minimum of 85%, which gives certain benefits to the applicant(s).






Conservation Development Bylaw

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Town of Wendell Zoning Bylaw

Proposed Conservation Development Amendments

ADD to ARTICLE II Definitions

Project Area: Project area refers to the area within any combination of lots and/or portions of lots, whether contiguous or not, which are included within a Conservation Development Site Plan pursuant to Article X.


Net project area: The project area less any land area subject to easements or restrictions prohibiting development.

Applicant: A person or persons requesting approval for a Site Plan or Special Permit. Such person or persons may own multiple lots or propose a Conservation Development on multiple lots.




Article X and all existing references to Conservation Development in current Wendell Zoning Bylaw.




Article VI. Special Permits, Use Regulations and Site Plan Review

{Amend Section F to add new “Site PB” permit category, add additional language to the Residential Uses table heading, and add a new “Conservation Development” entry at the end of the residential section of the table, as shown. No other changes.}


{Add to list of kind of permits available}

Site PB = By right with site plan review from the Planning Board


  1. Residential Uses

{insert following entry in table heading}

  1. Except for Conservation Developments under Article X, new primary dwellings are allowed, subject to all other provisions of these Wendell Zoning Bylaws, at the rate of no greater than one new primary dwelling in any 7 year period on either: 1) a lot in existence on [insert date of first Town Meeting Warrant notice or adoption]; or 2) a new lot divided from a lot in existence on [insert date of first Town Meeting Warrant notice or adoption].

Conservation Development

(in accordance with Article X)

Site PB

Proposals deviating from Article X.

Special Permit PB


Article X. Conservation Development.


Section A. Purpose


1) The purpose of this article is to establish Conservation Development as the Town of Wendell’s preferred residential development methodology which protects the natural and cultural resources of the Town to a greater degree than either conventional subdivision or the “approval not required” (ANR) processes by integrating land conservation into every residential development project. Accordingly, the goal is to replace conventional subdivision with Conservation Development and to encourage an alternative to the creation of typical road-front lots through the ANR process.


Section B. General Description


1) Conservation Development allows residential development of a project area where a greater portion of the project area is preserved by a conservation restriction that limits the allowable uses on that part of the land, while the lesser remainder of the project area (development envelope) is used for residential development. Conservation Development is the preferred residential development pattern.


2) A Conservation Development may be proposed anywhere in Wendell. There are no minimum project sizes or minimum number of dwelling units required. An applicant may submit a project application for a site plan review for one lot, multiple lots whether contiguous or not, or a portion of one or more lots.


3) The land which is most valuable for ecological protection, biodiversity, wildlife habitat and habitat connectivity, forest conservation and uses, agriculture, aesthetics, historical significance, carbon sequestration, or recreation as determined by the Planning Board's conservation finding is permanently protected by a restriction under M.G.L. c. 184, § 31.


4) Residential development is confined within the development envelope and subject to site plan review. The applicant is given greater design flexibility within the development envelope and streamlined permitting.


Section C. Required Site Plan Review


1) A Conservation Development requires site plan review from the Planning Board.


2) A Conservation Development shall comply with the provisions of this Article X unless the Planning Board allows a design that deviates from the requirements of Article X by special permit. Such special permit may only be approved if the applicant demonstrates that the proposed alternative provides adequate protection of the project area’s environmental resources and fulfills the purposes of this Article X as well as or better than a development meeting all the requirements of this Article X.


3) A conservation analysis by the applicant and conservation finding by the Planning Board, as herein described, are required components of the site plan review. No special permit is required, and the uses, density, and development rules are applied by right. The Planning Board’s role is not to exercise discretion relative to whether a project is allowed, but to ensure zoning is complied with in the design of the project and to create site plan review conditions addressing how the project is laid out. After completing the site plan review, the applicant may submit a plan for approval under section 5.00 of the Subdivision Regulations or, if the project is not a subdivision, a plan or plans under section 3.00 of the Subdivision Regulations.


4) Provided all of the requirements of Section G. of this Article are met within two years, a site plan review for a Conservation Development shall remain in force thereafter. However, failure to comply with the requirements of Section G. within two years or at a later time shall cause the site plan review to lapse. Notwithstanding any other provision of Wendell’s zoning, dimensional and density standards of Article V, secondary dwelling requirements of Article VI, large development review, and back lot development requirements do not apply to Conservation Development projects. Other sections of zoning do apply, except as otherwise noted in this article.


Section D. Calculations


1) The maximum number of dwelling units in a Conservation Development is calculated using the table below. Any combination of lots and/or portions of lots, whether contiguous or not, may be considered a project in the calculations below.


Allowed Dwelling Units

Base Data











TOTAL FRONTAGE of net project area on existing public roads =






Acreage with building constraints WITHIN NET PROJECT AREA (Acreage of water bodies, wetlands subject to the jurisdiction of the Wendell Conservation Commission*, 100-year FEMA floodplains*, and slopes over 25%) =





DWELLING UNITS BASED ON BUILDING CONSTRAINTS (#1 – (0.5 x #3)) ÷ 5 acres/unit =







DWELLING UNITS BASED ON MINIMUM LOT AREA OR FRONTAGE (Lesser of (#1 ÷ 3 acres/unit) or (#2 ÷ 200 ft/unit) =







BASE ALLOWED DWELLING UNITS (Greater of #4 or #5) =



As-of-Right Bonus Density


If 10% or more of the base allowed dwelling units in #6 are affordable for rent or purchase for households earning 80% of Area Median Household Income, as calculated by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development for the area that includes Wendell, with adjustments for family size; and the Planning Board finds that:

  1. Deed covenants and institutional controls will ensure that units will remain affordable in perpetuity; and

  2. The applicant has structured the project, provided all paperwork, fee, affirmative marketing and tenant selection, in accordance with the MGL c. 40B; and

  3. Prior to obtaining a building permit for any of the units, the applicant obtains final state approval to count the units on the Subsidized Housing Inventory.

  4. The required affordable units are to be built prior to the market-rate units or according to a schedule contained in the conditions of the site plan review.

Bonus dwelling units is #6 x 0.20 =

















If there is significant public access to and linking through the project area and the Planning Board finds that such public access provides a significant recreational benefit (such as access to an existing trail network) consistent with specific objectives in the most recently adopted Open Space and Recreation Plan

Bonus dwelling units is #6 x 0.15 =








If 85% or more of Net Project Area (#1) is newly permanently protected land.

Bonus dwelling units is #6 x 0.15 =






MAXIMUM ALLOWED DWELLING UNITS (The sum of #6 + #7 + #8 + #9 rounded down to nearest whole number) =


(Note: Dwelling unit is defined in Article III of the Wendell Zoning Bylaws.)







*Wetlands and floodplain field-flagged boundaries must be approved by the Conservation Commission before completing this analysis, unless:

  1. MassGIS wetlands data is used without field mapping with a safety factor that triples the amount of wetlands as shown by MassGIS. MassGIS/FEMA floodplain data may be used without field mapping with a safety factor that doubles the floodplain shown by MassGIS/FEMA; OR

  2. MassGIS wetlands and floodplain data are used with whatever greater margin of safety the Wendell Conservation Commission determines is adequate based on a site visit it conducts.


Required Permanently Protected Land





Note: Acreage with building constraints identified in #3, above, may account for no greater a percentage of the minimum required permanently protected land area than the percentage these areas represent of the Net Project Area (#1). Additional permanently protected land dedicated in excess of the minimum 75% required may contain any percentage of constrained areas identified in #3.




Additional permanently PROTECTED LAND








Maximum Development Envelope







Section E. Conservation Analysis and Finding


1) A project proposed in accordance with this article must include a conservation analysis submitted to the Planning Board as a required component of its site plan review. Three copies of the conservation analysis shall be filed with the Planning Board. A conservation analysis examines factors to identify what portions of the project area should be preserved, what portions are most suitable for development, and which conservation and/or recreation features should be optimized in designing a project. The Planning Board shall, in the course of its site plan review, study the conservation analysis and shall make a conservation finding which shall be incorporated into its actions on the site plan review.


2) The conservation analysis shall include the most recent color orthographic photo of the project area and land within 300 feet of the project area, and a plan prepared and stamped by a registered professional engineer, landscape architect or professional land surveyor at the scale of 1” = 100’ or of greater detail. The plan shall document the presence (if at all) of the following features:


a. FEMA 100-year floodplains, topographic contour lines with intervals as required for site plan review, slopes of 15% to 25% and greater than 25%, water bodies, public and community water supply watersheds and aquifers, and all wetlands, as defined in the Massachusetts and Wendell wetland regulations/bylaws. Generalized wetland identification based on MassGIS data may be provided for the conservation analysis.


b. Land in agricultural use, mapped soils especially suitable for agriculture or forestry, ridgetops, trails, adjacent protected lands, known historic and pre-Columbian features, Natural Heritage and Endangered Species (NHES) features and contiguous tracts of forests.


c. Potential for foot, bicycle, horse, ski, snowmobile or wildlife connections to adjacent or nearby undeveloped lands, if any.


d. Analysis of undeveloped buffers necessary to screen development from public roadways.


e. Stone walls, cellar holes, or other significant stone features anywhere in the project area.


The current MassGIS datalayers describing these features may be used, in addition to other sources of information for the conservation analysis.


3) The Planning Board may waive all or portions of the required submittal for a conservation analysis when the Planning Board first consults with the Conservation Commission and Open Space Committee, considers their recommendations, and either:


a. determines that the waived portion of the conservation analysis is not relevant and useful to decisions about a particular project area and would impose an undue hardship on the applicant and serve no benefit to the town; or


b. determines a full conservation analysis is not necessary when the applicant is providing 85% or more of the project area as permanently protected land. For the purpose of this waiver request the applicant may include additional protected land over and above the required 75% that is already subject to easements or restrictions prohibiting development.


4) In making its conservation finding, the Planning Board shall:


a. notify the applicant forthwith if the information provided is incomplete or appears to be in error;


b. provide a copy of the conservation analysis to the Conservation Commission and Open Space Committee within 14 days of receipt;


c. consult with the Conservation Commission, the Open Space Committee, the most recently adopted master plan, and the most recently adopted open space and recreation plan;


d. generally assume that land farther away from the town road, open fields, land in agricultural use, adjoining or near existing protected land and land identified as Priority Open Space in the Wendell Open Space and Recreation Plan should have priority for protection from development; and


e. identify which areas are most important to protect from development and which conservation values should be optimized in project design. The priority shall be to identify opportunities for protection of ecologically sensitive areas, contiguous un-fragmented forest land, timber and forest management, wildlife habitat and habitat connectivity, hunting, fishing, gathering, agricultural activities, farmland, water supply areas, vistas, historic and pre-Columbian features, rural character features, trail links, and other unique attributes.


Section F. Conservation Development Site Plan Requirements


1) The site plan review shall incorporate the Planning Board’s conservation finding in all three design phases, as follows:

a. Permanently Protected Land: The protected land must be laid out to optimize the features identified as being important for protection from development and to minimize any intrusions into habitat areas. For example, agricultural fields generally should not be bisected or intruded upon by any development, although in some circumstances after a wildlife assessment a driveway or road crossing may be appropriate if mitigation is utilized.


b. Development Envelope: The development envelope is laid out within the non-protected portion of the project area, identified as appropriate for residential use. This is where all roads, driveways and shared driveways, allowable dwelling units, most residential accessory uses, and development activity will be located.


c. Development Layout: The layout of development within the development envelope will include a design that:


i. maximizes preservation of important natural and historic features in the project area and minimizes earth movement necessary for construction of driveways and roads; and


ii. creates roadway layouts and common driveways to minimize curb cuts and visual intrusions on public ways by providing access to new homes and structures from internal ways and common drives and not from existing public roads to the extent practical. In a Conservation Development the Planning Board is authorized to waive zoning limits on the length of a common driveway and the number of homes using a common driveway if it finds that a longer common driveway is consistent with its conservation finding and the common driveway is built to additional design standards and has institutional controls to accommodate the extra length and/or traffic.


Section G. Permanently Protected Land Requirements


1) The permanently protected land may remain in private ownership (original owner or new owner), or may be transferred to any of the following: a homeowner’s association comprised of all of the residential lot owners in the Conservation Development; the Wendell Conservation Commission with town approval; or a state, federal, or non-profit agency or organization that will, in the opinion of the Planning Board, assure permanent protection.


2) Regardless of ownership, a perpetual conservation restriction under M.G.L. c. 184, § 31 (Restriction) shall be placed upon the permanently protected land. Such restriction shall be held by the Town of Wendell through its Conservation Commission, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, or by a qualified non-profit conservation organization, such as a land trust.


3) The site plan review application must show all permanently protected land with full metes and bounds descriptions on a recordable survey and the proposed deed(s) to the permanently protected land including its Restriction. After site plan review and prior to any development in the project area: the Restriction preserving the protected land shall be accepted by and transferred to the designated holder; the Restriction shall be approved by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; the survey, deed, and Restriction must be recorded at the Registry of Deeds or Land Court; and all property pins delineating the boundaries of the permanently protected land must be placed.


4) Prior to the issuance of any valid building permit, the deed and Restriction for the permanently protected land must be transferred and recorded in accordance with the above paragraph, free of any liens or encumbrances which would interfere with the implementation of the Restriction. All mortgages will be subordinate to the Restriction.


5) The Restriction that must be submitted to the Planning Board shall:


a. be permanent;


b. be eligible for approval by the Commonwealth (demonstrated by obtaining its prior review/preliminary approval or by using the most recent model approved by the Commonwealth’s Division of Conservation Services);


c. be sufficiently restrictive of uses or activities that are incompatible with the conservation objectives of Conservation Development (although, at the discretion of the Planning Board, specific identified uses may be reserved within the area subject to the conservation restriction, such as a small parking area, picnic or camping area, or building envelope for possible future accessory structure);


d. unless reserved prior to the Restriction, be sufficiently limiting to disallow any further development activities or uses that would be contrary to the interests Conservation Development seeks to protect (At a minimum the following must be prohibited: any new principal structures or uses, including new residential dwellings; new residential roadways, new common driveways, or new private driveways; and any new subdivision of the land);


e. be written to allow and encourage forestry and agricultural uses and structures as defined in M.G.L. c. 128, § 1A so long as not inconsistent with the primary purposes of the Restriction;


f. contain a covenant that a Restriction holder, if other than the Commonwealth, will not accept fee title to the property(ies) without first transferring the restriction to another qualified entity; and


g. contain a mechanism, approved by the ultimate holder of the Restriction, for funding future administration of the Conservation Restriction and enforcement of its provisions.


Section H. Dimensional and Use Requirements within the Development Envelope


1) There are no minimum lot size, frontage, or setback requirements within the development envelope. Within the development envelope, roadway alignments, common driveways, road frontage, lot areas, and setback requirements, if any, shall be established by the applicant and shown on the proposed site plan in a general manner. However, all setbacks to existing roads and to lots that are not part of the Conservation Development shall not be less than those that normally apply for a residential use that is not in a Conservation Development.


2) Subsequent to site plan review under this section and any other necessary approvals (such as a special permit for a deviation from the requirements of this section), an applicant for a Conservation Development may submit either a subdivision plan or a non-subdivision (ANR) plan under section 5.00 or 3.00, respectively, of the Wendell Subdivision Control Regulations. In either case the aforementioned subdivision or non-subdivision plan shall substantially reflect the design approved and conditioned under site plan review for a Conservation Development.


3) All uses allowed in the zoning district in which the development envelope is located are allowed in a Conservation Development under the same permitting terms as specified in the Wendell Zoning Bylaws.



 As of January 1, 2010 ZBA does residential special permits such as secondary dwellings and guest cabins.

Proposed ByLaws for Download

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