Department of Planning and Land Management
To guide the development and use of private and public lands within the Town of Concord in a manner that preserves and celebrates the unique character that is Concord.
Organization and Staffing
The Department is comprised of fourteen full-time and five part-time individuals within four Divisions - Building and Inspections, Health, Natural Resources and Planning. The range and extent of authority exercised by these Divisions is found in State law and in the Town's bylaws. The past year has been challenging, with vacancies in Planning, Natural Resources and the Building and Inspections divisions.
These Divisions provide staff support to the Town's regulatory boards and committees: the Zoning Board of Appeals, Board of Health, Natural Resources Commission, Planning Board and Historic Districts Commission. dplm staff also provides support to the Historical Commission, Affordable Housing Committee and Community Preservation Committee, in addition to many other sub-committees and task forces that may be appointed to address specific issues from time to time, such as the Mill Brook Task Force, Conservation Restriction Stewardship Committee, Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Advisory Committee, Village Overlay Committees and others.
Planning & Land Management staff also work cooperatively with other Town departments to further the goals and objectives of the Town. Some of the projects in which we have been involved include: research and recommendations about permit-tracking software, improving upon the geographic information system, an integrated planning initiative for wastewater and potential development, and providing assistance with historic preservation issues and building renovation/maintenance projects.
Detailed reports on the regulatory activities of the various boards staffed by dplm are included in this Annual Report.
The Planning Division
Planning Division staff includes the Director Marcia Rasmussen, Staff Planner Karen Berchtold (who left Town employment in July to relocate to Arizona), Project Planner/Staff Planner Carol Kowalski, Administrative Assistant Gillian Carlson and Senior Department Clerk Paula Trebino (who started work in August). Some of the highlights for 2006 include:
Housing: Planning Division staff continues its involvement with various housing initiatives: working with the Concord Housing Trust in the design of its project at 129 Old Bedford Road, working with the surveyor to prepare the anr plan for the Ammendolia land for the eventual sale of a parcel to the Concord Housing Authority and meeting with developers to discuss potential affordable housing initiatives.
Transportation: Planning Division staff assisted in preparing the Request for Proposals for the 25% design of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail (with assistance from Natural Resources and cpw-Engineering), which will be located over the existing abandoned railroad right-of-way from Acton to Sudbury.
Community Planning: Planning Division staff, working with the Planning Board, prepared a "Smart Growth" grant application to the State, which was accepted for funding. This led to creation of the Village Overlay Committees. Planning Division staff also coordinated participation in the State's Historic Landscape Inventory Program, which was co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Freedom's Way Heritage Area.
Community Preservation: Planning Division staff provided support and guidance to many of the groups applying to the Community Preservation Committee for funding by meeting with groups to discuss their applications, assisting with research of similar projects, coordinating contact with State agencies when needed and reviewing preliminary information.
Special Projects: The Planning Division was called upon to work with the Town Manager and others interested in selling 14A Strawberry Hill Road to provide the funding for the Burke land acquisition, coordinating an engineering survey of the property, wetlands identification and delineation and percolation testing for on-site disposal system.
Toby R. Kramer, Chair
The Planning Board's authority is contained in mgl Ch. 41 "Improved Methods of Municipal Planning" and mgl Ch. 40A "The Zoning Act." Additional responsibilities are found in the Town Bylaws and the Town Charter.
The Board held twenty-one public meetings and seven public hearings. There was one hearing for a 2-lot Definitive Subdivision at 63B Cambridge Turnpike and one hearing for all zoning amendments to be considered by the 2006 Town Meeting. Four site plan hearings were held. The Board approved plans for the Next Generation Child Care Center at 130 Baker Avenue; Kerem Shalom at 659 Elm Street; and the Fenn School at 516 Monument Street. The public hearing is still open for "A Place to Grow" daycare center at 40 Strawberry Hill Road. The Board also held a public hearing and approved the construction of a 12-foot wide common driveway at 320 Lowell Road.
The Planning Board initiated a Village Overlay/Smart Growth zoning and planning study to create overlay zoning districts for the three commercial centers: Concord Center, Thoreau Street and West Concord. A public informational discussion with residents and Concord business owners was held to kick off the work of the committees appointed to oversee the study. The two year effort is intended to bring the proposed zoning overlay districts to the 2008 Town Meeting.
In addition to the two-lot definitive subdivision plan noted above, a total of twenty "Approval Not Required" (anr) plans were submitted to the Board. Fourteen of these plans approved changes of lot lines that did not create additional building lots. The remaining six plans created a total of seven additional building lots.
There were three affirmative recommendations to the Zoning Board of Appeals for special permits to allow an addition and/or reconstruction of residential dwelling units that were within the Flood Plain and/or the Wetlands Conservancy Districts. There was one positive recommendation to the Zoning Board of Appeals to move an additional dwelling unit outside the Flood Plain Conservancy District.
The Planning Board provided recommendations to the Zoning Board of Appeals on two small comprehensive permit projects. The first was for the three unit affordable housing development at 129 Old Bedford Road proposed by the Concord Housing Trust. The second was for an 8-unit project, of which 2 units will be affordable, at 1273 Elm Street proposed by a private developer. Both of these projects will be "for sale" developments.
Commercial, institutional and other development
Twenty-six site plans were filed with the Board; twenty-three required a recommendation to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Four are noted above under "residential development" and one was a special permit issued by the Planning Board for a common driveway.
Emerson Hospital filed four applications for special permits, including re-institution of the shuttle service from 57 ornac to the hospital campus to allow some employee parking off site; approval of a Positron Emission Tomology Scan Unit at 133 ornac and, relocation of the same unit to 196 Baker Avenue (because of parking concerns on the main Emerson Hospital campus); and expansion of the hospital cafeteria. The Board received plans for a new car wash near Crosby's Corner and will consider its recommendation to the Board of Appeals in the new year.
Concord saw three new applications to improve wireless coverage this year. Omnipoint contracted with Middlesex School to place antennas on the School's smoke stack, receiving approval in November, and has proposed installation of an 85-foot tower adjacent to the Concord Public Works building at the Town's Keyes Road facility. Going through the approval process during the first few months of 2007 will be an application by Verizon Wireless to construct a 120-foot lattice tower on the Town's land at Annursnac Hill.
The Planning Board supported in concept the Town's plan to construct three playing fields at the Concord Carlisle Regional High School. The Fenn School received approval of plans for a new access driveway and parking facilities to provide better circulation during student drop off and pick up, along with the conversion of two houses from residential to administrative use. Three private clubs: the Concord Country Club, Nashawtuc Country Club and Heritage Pool and Racquet Club, received approval to make improvements to their facilities during 2006.
The Town was able to assure that Our Lady's Help of Christians Catholic Church would remain a church and to save the building's historical characteristics when ownership was transferred to the Swedenbourg Church, which was accomplished through amendments to the special permit originally granted in 2005. Kerem Shalom Synagogue received approval in December to double the size of their building in order to provide permanent classroom space. The Heywood Meadow Stewardship Committee, a sub-committee of the Natural Resources Division, gained approval to remove a root cellar from Heywood Meadow in the Center of Town, in an effort to restore the area to its historical significance.
The Board considered three daycare proposals this year: two were from Next Generation Children's Center at 130 Baker Avenue Extension (the center is not yet in operation) and one was from "A Place to Grow" at 40 Strawberry Hill Road, which is presently going through the site plan approval process.
Zoning amendments and Town Meeting actions
The Planning Board sponsored articles to amend the Zoning Bylaw by adding a definition of affordable housing and requirements for the provision of affordable housing in combined Business/Residence use and in combined Industrial/Business/Residence use areas. The Board supported a petition article to rezone land between Old Stow Road and Pond Lane. These four articles were passed by the Annual Town Meeting.
The Board is not submitting any new zoning bylaw amendments for the 2007 Annual Town Meeting, but is preparing for the 2008 meeting through its work with the Village Overlay Committees.
The Board was also involved with the following:
Members of the Planning Board serve on the following regional committees: magic (Minuteman Advisory Group on Interlocal Coordination); hats (Hanscom Area Towns Study); dri (Developments of Regional Impact). There are also a number of Town committees on which Board members participate: the Village Overlay effort and the Community Preservation Committee. Additionally, Board members often attend monthly Zoning Board of Appeals public hearings.
Zoning Board of Appeals
Bouzha S. Cookman, Chairman
The Board of Appeals is authorized by Massachusetts General Laws Ch. 40A and is responsible for conducting public hearings and meetings for matters relating to the zoning bylaws of the Town. The Board conducted 12 public hearings and 12 public meetings in 2006, during which it considered 63 applications. One application was withdrawn without prejudice, and no decisions were appealed. Click here for a list of special permits granted.
Building Inspections and Zoning Enforcement
In 2006, the Building Inspection Division issued 799 building permits. This is a 7% increase in the number of building permits issued. This is the greatest yearly number of building permits issued in Concord's history. The overall value of 2006 construction was $94,762,778. Of this total, $48.6 million (51%) was residential construction with $46.1 million in commercial work accounting for the remaining 49%.
The value of residential construction this past year was the greatest amount in Concord's history as well. The value of residential construction in Concord was up 27% over last year. This residential construction value represents 35 new dwelling units in 2006. Of these, twenty-six were new single family residential dwellings and 9 were triplex dwelling units.
Of the twenty-six new detached residential dwellings, seventeen of these new homes were the result of "tear downs" (the demolition of an existing house to allow the construction of a new larger home) Last year there were sixteen homes torn down to build new homes. "Tear downs" consistently make up more than two-thirds of the new single family dwelling units built in Concord.
Over each of the past two years, over $19 million was spent building additions and alterations to existing single family residential homes.
There were a record number of plumbing and electrical permits issued and inspected this past year. The Building Department collected $1,056,554 in permit fees in 2006. This is an increase of $462,719 over last year, up by 78%. This is the largest amount in permit fees ever collected in Concord Building Division history.
The high level of building activity in Concord has placed demands on the Building Division staff. Yet, with that said, we are strongly committed to pursuing strong Zoning and Sign Bylaw enforcement. Our technical assistance to all the other Town departments, boards, committees and staff increases with each new year. As the level of construction activity and development increases each year, so does the requirement for Building Division staff time, for reviewing sub-division proposals, site plans, special permit applications, variance requests and appeals. New building code amendments as well as new Zoning Bylaw changes have made it increasingly necessary for the Concord Building Division to deal with a quickly changing and growing level of highly technical and complicated regulations.
Historic Districts Commission
The Historic Districts Commission was established by an act of the legislature in 1960 for "the preservation and protection of buildings, places and districts of historic or literary significance." This is to be accomplished "through the development and maintenance of appropriate settings" and "through the maintenance of said buildings, places and districts as sites and landmarks compatible with the literary and historical tradition of Concord." There are six Historic Districts in Concord - the American Mile, Barrett Farm, Main Street, Monument Square/North Bridge, Church Street and Hubbardville. Within these districts, exterior changes visible from the public way are subject to review by the Commission and require a Certificate of Appropriateness.
The Historic Districts Commission held 21 regular public hearings on 62 applications for Certificates of Appropriateness or demolition permits, and in several cases, decided separate phases of complex, multi-phased proposals. For example, a single application may involve demolition, new construction, painting, and landscaping. The Commission issued 65 certificates. Five requests were denied and three were withdrawn. Eight group site visits were held and several individual site visits were made in 2006. There were eight requests for extensions of Certificates, which were granted. No appeals were filed