2023 Annual Town Meeting Proposed Zoning Bylaw Amendment - Commercial Recreation

***UPDATE: This bylaw amendment passed Town Meeting March 2023 and was approved by the Attorney General's Office in July 2023***

Expansion of Commercial Recreation Opportunities and Creation of a Commercial Recreation Overlay District Draft Amendments

Article 19: Amendments to Sections 2.1, 3.2.2, 8, and Appendix A of the Zoning Bylaw

The Planning Board has sponsored amendments to the Zoning Bylaw (Sections 2.1, 3.2.2, Appendix A and a new Section 8.9) for consideration at the March 25, 2023, Annual Town Meeting (to be held at 9:00am at Westford Academy). The following summarizes the proposed changes, which essentially cover two key topics – the creation of a Commercial Recreation Overlay District and an expansion of Indoor and Outdoor Commercial Recreation and Winter Commercial Recreation opportunities by Special Permit in commercial and industrial districts:

Proposed Amendments Description

Section 2.1: This simply identifies the name of the proposed overlay district – Commercial Recreation Overlay District (CROD).

Section 3.2.2: The intent of this change is that if a business use identified as an Indoor or Outdoor Commercial Recreation or Winter Commercial Recreation use is seeking to add an accessory commercial use (for example, retail sales of merchandise like t-shirts, hats, a snack shop, etc. to promote the business) that the Special Permit Granting Authority could authorize accessory uses during its review process.

Section 8.9: This section establishes the purpose, application standards, requirements, and proposed parcels of land to be included in the proposed overlay district. The current proposal entails the parcels of land associated with Nashoba Valley Ski Area and Kimball Farm. Although these are both existing commercial recreation and winter commercial recreation businesses, the overlay would allow both entities to make changes and add accessory commercial uses (such as new restaurant space) to their existing business through a more streamlined permitting process than the town’s Zoning Bylaw currently permits. These kinds of accessory use additions would still require a Special Permit, which is a public hearing process.

Appendix A: Presently, Indoor and Outdoor Commercial Recreation is only allowed via Special Permit in the Commercial Highway zoning district. Instead, the proposed changes would expand the possibility to allow this type of use by Special Permit in the Industrial Highway, Industrial A, Industrial B, and Industrial C zoning districts. Similarly, the opportunity to have a Winter Commercial Recreation business via a Special Permit would be expanded to the Commercial Highway, Industrial Highway, and Industrial C zoning districts.

The proposed changes for the CROD and Appendix A changes also seek to change the Special Permit Granting Authority from the Zoning Board of Appeals to the Planning Board in an effort to consolidate the permitting process for applicants as they are likely to need other approvals from the Planning Board (such as Site Plan Review or a Major Commercial Project Special Permit). Such a change would shorten the permitting process by several months, decrease administrative burdens and save applicants thousands of dollars in legal notices, mailings and application fees.

The proposed bylaw language can be viewed at this link.