Vol. I No. 01 8/6/2020
What is the Zoning Board of Appeals?by Bob Jones
Every town in the Commonwealth has a Zoning Board of Appeals, although the title might vary in di?erent jurisdictions. In general, these boards have the authority to hear appeals of decisions made by zoning administrators (permitting bodies, building inspector, etc.). They have the authority to interpret provisions that are unclear in the zoning ordinance. In essence, they rule on dimensional and use regulations that might vary from zoning regulations.
In Stockbridge, various boards are given the authority to make decisions regarding the implementation of the zoning bylaws. They are, essentially, zoning administrators. These include the Board of Selectmen, the Conservation Commission, the Planning Board, as well as the Building Inspector. If a property owner is unhappy with a decision made by any or all of these entities, they have the right to appeal the decision to the ZBA. The ZBA must determine the correctness of the zoning administration body's decision, based upon the purpose and intent of the bylaw. It is sometimes necessary for the ZBA to interpret unclear provisions of the bylaw that have ultimately led to a di?erence of opinion over the application of the regulations.
As zoning regulations cannot cover every conceivable situation that arises, the ZBA has the authority to allow minor exceptions (in unclear cases) to existing zoning rules. Under certain circumstances, these small changes might allow a landowner to do what would generally be forbidden by the ordinance. Variances are not easy to acquire. They must show practical di?culties or unnecessary hardship. This all depends on the type of variance being sought. The ZBA, while not strictly a judiciary, acts as a judicial panel, issuing rulings, along with ?ndings to clearly explain the justi?cation for those decisions. Stockbridge has an 85 page Zoning Bylaw.
Bob Jones served on the Great Barrington and Stockbridge Boards of Appeal
Editor's note: ZBA meets when necessary. It will meet again this year in response to an appeal by a resident of Building Inspector Ned Baldwin's decision.