Vol. I No. 08 11/13/2020
Understanding How Our Bylaws Are Amended
by Christine Rasmussen and Bill Vogt
Editor's note: Bill and Christine are Chair and Vice Chair of the Planning Board but are not speaking on behalf of the PB. They are sharing their opinion and knowledge as citizens of Stockbridge.
As you know zoning issues can be very confusing so we thought that giving a brief overview of the process that any bylaw amendment goes through will be helpful information or a refresher.
Because we've received questions about the process of adoption of new zoning bylaws, or amending existing ones, we believe it may help to outline the requirements, so that everyone can feel confident that they will have an opportunity to participate in the process.
First, we want to assure everyone that each of the seven members on the Planning Board cares and values our town, its culture and its beauty. We are working hard to ensure that our bylaws protect our town's character, as evidenced by putting on hold, for now, provisions in a proposed bylaw that appear similar to one in Lenox that may not be appropriate for Stockbridge.
Stockbridge Zoning Bylaw Adoption Process
The "Home Rule Amendment" of the Massachusetts Constitution gives power to a municipality to adopt, amend, or repeal local bylaws as long as their enactment is "not inconsistent with the Constitution or laws enacted by the Legislature."
To meet this standard, the first step to adopt or change a bylaw begins with filing a proposal with the Board of Selectmen from (i) the Board of Selectmen, (ii) Planning or Zoning Board, (iii)Regional Planning Agency, or (iv) an individual who owns land which would be affected by the proposal, or (v) at least ten registered voters to call for an annual town meeting, or (vi) 100 registered voters or ten percent of the total number of voters, whichever is less, to call for a special town meeting.
Within 14 days of the receipt of the proposal the Select Board must transmit it to the Planning Board. Once received and following mandated procedures for notification, a public hearing is held to provide an opportunity for anyone interested in the issues a chance to express their views or ask questions.
The hearing may be continued to solicit more information or explanations on the proposal. Once the hearing is closed, the Planning Board may submit a report to Town Meeting.
After receiving the report, or after a 21-day period without a report, Town Meeting voters may adopt, amend and adopt, or reject the zoning proposal. For it to be enacted two-thirds of the residents present at the meeting must vote in the affirmative.
And finally, all town zoning bylaws must be sent to a division of the state Attorney General's office for review before they become official.