Zoning Procedures

A printer-friendly download of the Zoning Procedures is available.
PART I: GENERAL INFORMATION AND OVERVIEW

INTRODUCTION

OVERVIEW OF THE PERMITTING AND
ZONING APPEALS PROCESSES

SPECIFICATIONS
Boundaries of Jamaica Hills
Regulations and Dimensional Requirements
Conditional Uses and Variance

PART II: PERMITTING AND ZONING APPEALS PROCESSES

APPLYING FOR A BUILDING PERMIT

APPEALS PROCESS AND COMMUNITY OUTREACH
Community Notification
Area of Notification
Preparing for the Presentation Before the JHA
Rights of Abutters and the Community At-Large
Institutions

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
City of Boston Resources
Contact the JHA Zoning Committee

PART I: GENERAL INFORMATION AND OVERVIEW

INTRODUCTION

The Jamaica Hills Association is a corporation formed, in part, to

  • promote, protect, maintain and encourage the residential character of the Jamaica Hills area
  • ensure that affected area residents are informed of all Jamaica Hills Board meetings about proposed projects in the neighborhood

The following procedures serve to

  • educate the Jamaica Hills community about zoning regulations and the neighborhood review process
  • inform residents about proposed developments in our neighborhood
  • balance the rights of homeowners to improve and invest in their properties with the rights and interests of neighbors and the community at-large

OVERVIEW OF THE PERMITTING AND ZONING APPEALS PROCESSES

We provide a brief overview of the steps involved in applying for a building permit or for relief from zoning code. Refer to the zoning procedures in Part II for more complete guidelines.

1. File the application for a Building Permit with the Inspectional Services Department: Contact ISD for forms, lists of fees, and complete instructions: www.cityofboston.gov/isd or 617-635-5300.

2. ISD will either grant or deny the request for a permit.

3. If ISD denies request for a permit because of zoning code violations, the applicant has 45 days to appeal for relief from zoning requirements. ISD requests that the Appeal Form and fee be submitted in person: 1010 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston.

4. ISD sends the completed Appeal Form to the Zoning Board of Appeal, which schedules a hearing and votes on whether or not to grant relief. Contact the ZBA for a complete guide to the Zoning Appeals Process: www.cityofboston.gov/isd/building/boa or 617-635-4775.

5. Prior to the ZBA hearing, Jamaica Hills residents must first present their case to the Jamaica Hills Board and then to the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Zoning Committee.

Because the ZBA can defer hearing a zoning case if the applicant has not adequately informed abutters and neighborhood groups, the following steps guide the applicant in scheduling these two presentations and informing abutters.

At the same time the Appeal Form is filed, the applicant contacts:

a. Polly Selkoe, Chair of the JHA Zoning Committee, to schedule the presentation before the JHA Board: zoning@jamaicahills.org
b. Abutters within the specified area
c. Kevin Leary, Chair of the JP Neighborhood Zoning Committee, to schedule the presentation before its zoning committee: 617-542-8905
d. Colleen Keller, JP Neighborhood Services Coordinator: Colleen.Keller@cityofboston.gov

6. Prior to the JHA meeting, the applicant addresses any questions or concerns abutters and neighbors may have.

7. (a) When the JHA meeting is scheduled, the JHA prepares meeting announcements that
the applicant delivers to abutters in the specified area. (b) When the JPNZC meeting is scheduled, the JPNZC prepares meeting announcements that the applicant delivers to abutters in the specified area.

8. Twenty days prior to the ZBA hearing, the ZBA notifies abutters within 300 yards of the proposed construction, as well as the general public through ads in local newspapers.

9. The ZBA may grant or deny relief.

10. Applicants or abutters who wish to appeal the ZBA’s decision can take their case to the Massachusetts Superior Court.

SPECIFICATIONS

This section provides a convenience reference to

a. the boundaries of Jamaica Hills
b. the requirements in the zoning code that ISD complies with when issuing a building permit
c. the conditions the ZBA considers when reviewing an applicant’s appeal for relief from the zoning code

Boundaries of Jamaica Hills

Jamaica Hills is bounded by the Brookline Town Line; Jamaica Pond; the Arborway, both sides, Centre Street to Allandale Road, both sides; and encompassing Brownson Terrace; and again by the Brookline Town Line; also including that part of South Street which abuts the Arnold Arboretum.

For maps of the Jamaica Plain zoning subdistrict, refer to Article 55 of the Boston Zoning Code: http://www.ci.boston.ma.us/bra/zoning/downloadZone.asp.

Regulations and Dimensional Requirements

Jamaica Hills is a one-family, residential area of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood district.
If your property is also part of the Conservation Subdistrict (Article 55, Section 10) or the Greenway Overlay (Article 55, Section 27), additional regulations may apply.

The regulations and dimensional requirements for Jamaica Hills are listed in Article 55,
Table E, of the Boston Zoning Code: http://www.ci.boston.ma.us/bra/pdf/ZoningCode/Article55.pdf.

The basic regulations for single-family use are:

  • Lot Size: As of 1996, lot sizes have been zoned for 9000 square feet.
  • Floor Area Ratio (FAR): The Floor Area Ratio is the property’s living area divided by its lot area. The maximum allowed FAR is 0.3.
  • Front-Yard Setback: The minimum setback is 25 feet.
  • Side-Yard Setback: The minimum setback is 12 feet.
  • Rear-Yard Setback: The minimum setback is 40 feet.
  • Lot Width: The minimum lot width is 70 feet.
  • Building Height: The maximum height is 35 feet.

Refer to the Boston Zoning Code for the complete regulations: http://www.ci.boston.ma.us/bra/pdf/ZoningCode/Article55.pdf

Conditional Uses and Variance

Relief can be granted for either conditional use or variance. The conditions required for variance are stricter than those for conditional uses. Refer to the Boston Zoning Code’s Article 6 (Conditional Uses) and Article 7 (Variance):

Article 6: http://www.cityofboston.gov/bra/pdf/ZoningCode/Article6.pdf

Article 7: http://www.cityofboston.gov/bra/pdf/ZoningCode/Article7.pdf

Pertinent sections, Section 6-3 and Section 7-3, are provided here for your reference.

PART II: PERMITTING AND ZONING APPEALS PROCESSES

APPLYING FOR A BUILDING PERMIT

Whether you are putting up a fence, having electrical or plumbing work done, adding dormers, or building a new house, you need to apply for a building permit. Boston’s Inspectional Services Department issues building permits to ensure that work is done in compliance with the Massachusetts Building Code and Boston’s Zoning Code. The issuance of a permit alerts building inspectors that work will occur at a particular site so they can then inspect construction as it progresses for code compliance.

If you are unsure whether or not you need a building permit, contact ISD: www.cityofboston.gov/isd or 617-635-5300. Applications, fees, and complete instructions are available online or by calling ISD.

APPEALS PROCESS AND COMMUNITY OUTREACH

Neighborhood Review Process

If the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) denied an application for a building permit because of zoning code violations, the applicant has 45 days to appeal to the Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) for relief.

The ZBA sets a hearing date and 20 days prior to the hearing notifies abutters within 300 yards of the proposed project, as well as the general public through ads in local newspapers.

However, prior to the hearing before the ZBA, the applicants (appellants) need to appear first before the Jamaica Hills Association and then before the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Zoning Committee to present their case.

Community Notification

Because the ZBA notification occurs only three weeks before a hearing, as soon as an appeal is filed, the applicant must notify:

1. The Chair of the JHA Zoning Committee: Polly Selkoe, zoning@jamaicahills.org

a. The Chair will schedule your presentation before the JHA Board.
b. The applicant should deliver the following materials to the Chair.

  • Lot size and setbacks
  • Plot plans
  • Existing living area
  • Existing building height
  • Proposed changes to existing dimensions
  • Full-sized project plans and elevations (submitted to ISD) with dimension labels, as well as reduced photocopies
  • Photographs of the existing site and in relation to surrounding properties
  • Refusal letter from ISD
  • Appeal application to the ZBA

2. Abutters within the specified area of the proposed project. See Area of Notification below.

In your letter, include the refusal letter and appeal application, sketches, dimensions, and details about the project, as well as the specific violations to the zoning code and the reasons for your appeal.

3. Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Zoning Committee (JPNZC): J. Kevin Leary, 617-542-8905

The Chair of the JPNZC will schedule your presentation before the JPNZC after you’ve met with the JHA Board. The JPNZC sends out additional requirements to the applicant.

4. Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Services Coordinator: Colleen Keller, Colleen.Keller@cityofboston.gov

Neighborhood Services is part of the Mayor’s Office. The Mayor’s Office, as well as the City Councilors, may make recommendations to the ZBA.

5. The JHA will prepare notices of the scheduled presentation that the applicant distributes to the community two weeks prior to the JHA meeting. See Area of Notification below. Zoning Notices are also featured on the JHA website. (Refer to the JPNZC packet for JPNZC meeting announcement instructions.)

IMPORTANT: Failure to properly notify and inform abutters can mean that the JHA, the JPNZC, and the ZBA might defer hearing your case, or otherwise, until you have done so.

Area of Notification

  • Any property that directly abuts the subject property,
  • Any property abutting an abutter of the subject property,
  • Any property within 100 feet of the subject property,
  • Any property directly across the subject property, as well as any property to the right and to the left of this abutter, and
  • Any property from which the project would be visible.
  • Every unit in a condominium should receive a leaflet.

Preparing for the Presentation Before the JHA

The Jamaica Hills Association strives to create a meeting format that is professional and fair to appellants, abutters, and the members of the community.

The purpose of this presentation is for the Board to consider the applicant’s case and the community’s support of or opposition to the project. The Board then votes to recommend to the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Zoning Committee and the Boston Zoning Board of Appeal:

a. not to oppose the appeal for relief, or
b. to oppose the appeal for relief

It is important to keep in mind that all parties involved must be prepared to state their cases before the JHA Board professionally and straightforwardly. It is assumed that prior to the zoning presentation facts about the proposed project have been discussed with interested parties.

The applicant’s presentation should include the following materials:

  • Lot size and setbacks
  • Plot plans
  • Existing living area
  • Existing building height
  • Proposed changes to existing dimensions
  • Full-sized project plans and elevations (submitted to ISD) with dimension labels, as well reduced photocopies to hand out
  • Photographs of the existing site and in relation to surrounding properties
  • Refusal letter from ISD
  • Appeal application to the ZBA
  • Signatures and addresses of direct abutters who support the project
  • Certificate of notification stating that the appellant has informed abutters within the specified area of a proposed project

JHA Board members are encouraged to visit the site of the proposed project before voting.

Rights of Abutters and the Community At-Large

Abutters and the community at-large may request information about an appellant’s proposed project to understand its impact on their properties and the neighborhood as a whole. We encourage residents to take seriously all zoning notices that affect their community.

Project plans, applications, and related correspondences are on file at the ZBA office and are accessible by the public.

Upon receiving information about a proposed project, neighbors may show support or opposition in writing or by attending the JHA meeting. Correspondence must be signed and dated and include the writer’s address to be considered.

We advise appellants to address neighbors’ concerns about their proposed projects. This exchange is a typical part of the zoning process and a necessary factor in fostering positive community relations.

Institutions

Although Jamaica Hills is a residential district, we are home to several important institutions. Institutions work closely with the JHA to schedule public meetings to inform the community about proposed developments and address neighborhood interests and concerns.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

City of Boston Resources

From the Ground Up: A Contractor’s Guide to Boston Inspectional Services: http://www.cityofboston.gov/isd/building/BOA/forward.asp

A Guide to the City of Boston’s Zoning Board of Appeal Process: http://www.cityofboston.gov/isd/building/BOA/

Also see Zoning Resources on the JHA website for links to zoning codes, regulations, and other helpful references.

Contact the JHA Zoning Committee

These procedures have been created to assist neighbors in understanding the permitting and zoning appeals processes. To request further assistance or to offer suggestions, contact zoning@jamaicahills.org.

Copyright © Jamaica Hills Association, Inc.