Zoning Recodification and Updates

Special Fall 2022 Town Meeting

Monday, November 14, 2022
Place: Manchester Essex Regional High School
Time: 6:30 PM
Town Meeting Warrant

Existing Zoning Bylaws

October 12 Open House Presentation
Non-conforming Use Examples

Anticipated Planning Board Meeting Schedule

(*please confirm with Town Calendar when close to meeting date)
Monday, October 24 at 6:30 PM: Regular PB Meeting – Hybrid: Zoom and Room 5
Monday, November 7 at 6:30 PM: Regular PB Meeting – Hybrid: Zoom and Room 5
Monday, November 14: Special Fall Town Meeting

May 17 Public Hearing


Proposed Zoning Bylaw Changes for Special Town Meeting

Article 4Sections 1-4Replace Existing with Updated Sections 1) Authority and Purpose 2) Definitions 3) Establishment of Districts 4) Use Regulations 
Article 5Sections 8.5, 6.2.7, 6.15 Regulations to be moved to General Bylaws. 
Article 6 and 7
Sections 8.5, 6.2.7, 6.15 and 6.1, 7.0 
Deletions and Renumbering 
Article 8
Section 6
Update General Regulations 
Article 9Section 7 and 12Update and move Administration and Procedures Regulations 
Article 10Section 6.1 and 7Update Nonconforming Uses and Structures Regulations 
Article 11NewAdd new Adult Entertainment Establishment Regulations 
Article 12Section 9.1Replace existing with updated Residential Conservation Cluster Bylaw 
Article 13NewAdd new Senior Housing Regulations 
Article 14Section 9.1Update Accessory Dwelling Unit Regulations 
Article 15 and 16Section 9.1 and 4.2  
Modify ADU Bylaw and modify Use Table regarding ADU Bylaw


For more than two years, the Planning Board has been working to update the Zoning Bylaw in order to improve its ease of use and to make bylaw current. Several proposed changes advance issues identified in the Master Plan as well.  All changes will need to be approved at Town Meeting on April 25, 2022 (LCD changes only) and Fall Special Town Meeting  before they are effective.  

If you have comments, please send them to Gail Hunter at hunterg@manchester.ma.us for distribution to the board. Comments will be read, but the board does not respond over email. Comments will be acknowledged in the public meetings. 

Summary of Proposed Changes for Fall Special Town Meeting (Overview):

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Proposed Zoning Bylaw Changes 

The following is an overview of the substantive changes to the Zoning Bylaws that the Planning Board is recommending to the town for passage. They will be discussed at the public hearing in May, revised, and final wording brought to Town Meeting on June 11th for a final vote.

1. Authority 

    and Purpose

  • Old: Section 1 briefly addressed the authority & purpose of the bylaws.


  • New: The new Section 1 revises the old section and adds scope, applicability, procedures and other additional administrative matters. It is a brief section.


2.  Definitions


  • Old: Section 2 had only 11 definitions in it. Other definitions were in various parts of the bylaws and were therefore hard to find. Some definitions needed improvement.


  • New: In the new Section 2 we added about 80 definitions including, among others, affordable housing; dwelling types; day care; building size, height & lot dimensions; land uses such as hotels, junk yards, clinics, agricultural uses; and types of senior housing. The definition of lot width is now simpler and clearer. All definitions are now gathered into the same bylaw section.


  • Why: This improves the clarity of terms used in our laws making them easier to use and understand for homeowners as well as making them easier for the town to administer fairly, avoiding the need for legal or professional counsel to understand them.


3.  Districts 


  • Old: Section 3 defined the zoning districts & zoning map. 


  • New: No changes to the districts have been made. District D has been clarified as 2 districts. Lot lines and lots in multiple districts have been clarified.


4.  Use



  • Old: Section 4 was a lengthy narrative description of all land uses including single family, general, limited commercial, in-law apartments, flood control, flood plain, ground & surface water overlay, wireless facilities & helicopter uses.


  • New: The new Section 4 includes a comprehensive table, similar to that used in most towns throughout the state, which clearly defines all allowed land uses in all zoning districts. Minor changes were made to a few land uses including accessory uses. Swimming pools will be allowed as of right without the requirement of a special permit as long as specific criteria have been met. 


  • Why:     The easy-to-use table clearly & simply defines what uses are allowed by right or by special permit.      


5: Dimensional


  • Old: Section 5 covers rules for frontage, setbacks from lot lines and height restrictions.


  • New: No changes have been made but a table has been created for ease of use.


6: General 


  • Old: Section 6 was lengthy and covered a number of unrelated issues such as parking, signage, non-conforming uses, site plan & site clearing review.     Many of the provisions were overly complicated, redundant and inconsistent.


  • New: Some of the parts of Section 6 are being moved such as: curb cuts, junk cars and stormwater management to the General Bylaws. Non-conforming use is moving to Section 7. 


        Curb cuts will be referred to as driveway entrances and reviewed with specific criteria by the DPW. Junk car regulations will not change. Stormwater Management will have minor changes bringing it into compliance with current State standards.


        The required parking space size is being reduced to more standard dimensions, thus decreasing the amount of paved area in town, but other parking requirements remain the same. Signage regulations remain unchanged. 


Performance based development standards replace the existing prescriptive ones for use in site plan and special permit review. They will work in conjunction with the special permit review criteria found in the new Section 12. Topographic change will be referred to as site clearing with a clearer purpose statement but the regulations remain the same. 


  • Why:     A single set of design standards will provide guidance for developers and others needing site plan approval, and will provide specific direction to Town boards for their review. Most towns review curb cuts with their DPW, Highway or Traffic Departments only and no special scrutiny is necessary.

7.  Non-


     Uses and



  • Old: The current Section 7 is brief and covers administrative issues such as permits, code enforcement and the Board of Appeals (ZBA). It is being moved to the new Section 12. 


  • New: The new Section 7 concerns non-conforming uses only. Previously this was addressed in Section 6. A certain amount of changes will be allowed without obtaining a special permit for single and two-family structures as long those changes conform in all respects with the zoning bylaws. Reconstruction, demolition and abandonment of nonconforming structures is addressed. The new regulations will bring the Bylaw into compliance with case law and avoid the risk of lawsuits and appeals.


Why: About three quarters of the properties in town do not fully comply with current zoning and are considered non-conforming. Issues addressed are whether special permits should be  required for normal changes to non-conforming uses. Excessive changes will still require a special permit and the ZBA will have more flexibility in approving modifications of grandfathered properties that are non-conforming.


8.  Special



  • Old: This is a new bylaw section. 


  • New: We are obligated to allow Adult Entertainment but are allowed to regulate it which we do so here. Regulations are needed to require standards of operation for such establishments.  It will only be allowed in the Limited Commercial District by Special Permit


  • Why: Without regulations, the town is vulnerable to an unregulated adult entertainment establishment.  


9.  Special  



  • Old: This is a new bylaw section governing specific residential uses.  Residential Conservation Cluster (RCC) which was previously in Section 9, In-law Apartments (ADU’s) which were previously in Section 6, and Senior Housing which is a new allowed land use. The existing RCC is not easy to use, requires 5 acres of land and provides little benefit for the town. The existing ADU law requires special permits and other requirements which have severely discouraged their creation. 


  • New: The revised ADU law allows their creation ‘by right’ as long as they comply with specific regulations such as: limited size to 900 sq. ft.; owner occupancy requirement; a minimum 6 month lease; an annual cap of 20 new units per year; it eliminates the requirement of being an employee in order to reside in them; and it allows for ADU’s that do not comply if they receive a special permit from the ZBA. 


The revised RCC offers continues to allow for clustered housing with no increase in density.  The new provision also allows for less expensive housing, preserving more open space, and adding to town amenities by specifying density bonuses for providing affordable housing, open space, or town amenities.  


The new Senior Housing provision is intended to encourage the development of assisted living and long-term car for seniors and to create health care, housing and other supportive services for our senior population.  Any proposed senior facility will require a special permit.


  • Why:     These changes will promote greater diversity of housing opportunities as recommended by the Master Plan.  There are no current provisions for senior housing in the bylaw.


10.  Special  




  • Old: This is a new bylaw section created at the Nov. 2021 Town Meeting and includes the Flood Control District, Flood Plain District and Water Resource Overlay District regulations.


  • New: No new changes are proposed.


11.  Energy 



  • Old: This is a new bylaw section including the existing regulations for wind and solar systems. 


  • New: No new changes are proposed.


12. Administration and Procedures

  • Old: This is a new bylaw section that replaces Section 7 of the current bylaw which includes administrative and procedural requirements.  The current administrative section is somewhat confusing and neglects to describe the role of the Planning Board


  • New: The roles, powers and organizational framework of the Building Inspector, Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board will be clarified. The procedures and criteria for reviewing special permits and site plan review will be simplified and strengthened. 


The ZBA will be authorized to grant “special accommodation” for handicapped individuals, as required by State Law.


General Bylaw Modifications

  • Old: No changes are being proposed to the existing General Bylaws beyond adding zoning bylaws from Section 6 to them.


  • New: Curb cuts will be referred to as Driveway Entrances and reviewed based on specific criteria by the DPW. Most towns already review these by their DPW, Highway or Traffic Departments only. 


Junk car regulations are relocated here and will not change. 


Stormwater Management will have minor changes bringing it into compliance with current State standards.



Prepared for the Planning Board by Gary Gilbert & Chris Olney

Current Zoning Sections with Links to Proposed Changes

  1. Section 1. Authority and Purpose


1.1       Authority

            The Zoning By-Law of the Town of Manchester-by-the-Sea is adopted pursuant to and under the authority of Chapter 40A of the General Laws as amended by Chapter 808 of the Acts of 1975, The Zoning Act.


1.2       Purpose

            The purpose of this By-Law is the promotion and protection of the public health, safety, convenience, and general welfare of the inhabitants of the Town of Manchester-by-the-Sea and of the public generally by:

            -           encouraging the most appropriate use of land and water within the Town;


            -           preventing overcrowding of land;


            -           preventing undue concentration of population on the one hand, and preventing excessive scattering of population on the other;


            -           encouraging various lot sizes and housing types for persons of various age and income levels;


            -           minimizing traffic hazards and congestion;


            -           providing for adequate light, air, and sanitation;


            -           reducing hazards from fire, flood, panic, and other dangers;


            -           assisting in the economical provision, utilization and expansion for all services provided to the public, including streets, drainage, water supply, sewage disposal, schools, parks and open spaces;


            -           preventing blight and pollution of the environment;


            -           maintaining and enhancing the natural and historical amenities of Manchester-by-the-Sea; and


            -           conserving the value of land and buildings.


  1. Section 2. Definitions
  1. Section 3. Districts
  1. Section 4. Use Regulations
  1. Section 5. Dimensional Regulations
  1. Section 6. Special Provisions 
  1. Section 7. Administration
  1. Section 8. Special Regulations
  1. Section 9. Special Residential Districts
  1. Section 10. Special District
  1. Section 11. Energy Regulation
  1. Section 12. Administration and Procedures
  1. Move to General Bylaws

Approved at April 2022 Town Meeting:

Proposed Changes to Limited Commercial District

The Planning Board is proposing several changes to zoning at the April Town Meeting. These proposed changes will allow laboratory and scientific uses within additional areas in the LCD by Special Permit. This is not a approval of any specific projects. Special Permit review is comprehensive and provides for considerable oversight and conditions once a project is proposed.  

LCD Approved Article for Annual Town Meeting

Proposed LCD Changes

LCD Changes Presentation 3.28.22


Public Forums and Hearings

May 17 Public Hearing


April 29, 2021 Public Forum

Recording: https://youtu.be/RxDzhMT187k

February 2, 2021 Public Forum

Recording: https://youtu.be/njxZ4-wx_TE


Zoning Bylaw Recodification and Update  - What and Why?

April 2020 - The Town of Manchester’s Planning Board, members of the Board of Appeals, Zoning Enforcement Officer, Town Planner and others have been working with the Town’s legal consultant since June of 2019 to recodify and update the Town’s Zoning Bylaws.  The monthly meetings are open to the public and agendas and minutes are posted online.  But what is this initiative and why is it important?

Codify in its strict interpretation means to put into a code, systematize, and classify.  Re-codify then means to “re-code, re-systematize, re-classify” or more simply put “re-format and re-organize”.    Reformatting and reorganization is one focus of the Planning Board’s recodification project and includes such things as adding a Use Table that shows what land uses are allowed for each district and whether the use is by right, special permit, or variance, and whether it requires site plan review.   In the current Zoning Bylaw, the same information is found within paragraphs of text and is not consistent in order or language.  Other formatting and organizational changes include 1) adding and improving definitions, 2) rearranging sections of the bylaw into a logical order, 3) bringing references up-to-date, and 4) eliminating illegal, unnecessary or out-of-date bylaws.

In addition to reorganizing and reformatting, there are also updates, changes and additions to the existing Zoning Bylaws that are being considered as part of this current initiative.  The updates, changes and additions are intended to create regulations that are easier to understand, provide greater guidance to permitting Boards, reduce redundancy and help align Zoning regulations with the goals and objectives of the Town’s Master Plan. 

When the Planning Board has a full preliminary draft Bylaw to be considered, anticipated within the next few months, the Board, supported by its legal consultant will host community workshops to present and discuss all the changes being proposed for the Recodification and Update of the Bylaws.  Following these workshops, the Planning Board will make necessary changes based on community input and will then hold Planning Board hearings on the revised draft, before a Final Draft Bylaw is put forth for a vote at Fall Town Meeting.

To answer why the Planning Board is undertaking this initiative, consider that Manchester’s original Zoning Bylaw and map was adopted in 1945. In 1978, after 35 years of additions and revisions, the Bylaw was reorganized and updated to provide a more cohesive framework for the regulations. In the forty-two years since this reorganization, over 80 changes have been made ranging from adding and changing definitions, dimensional requirements, and uses, to adding entirely new sections to allow, prohibit or condition new development. Manchester’s Zoning Bylaw today includes regulations based on both past and present goals and best practices, in large part is organized by date of changes and has outdated, overlapping and some bylaws that may now be considered illegal.  This Zoning Recodification and Update initiative allows the Town an opportunity to make its Zoning regulations easier to understand, administer and enforce, and align Zoning regulations with current land use goals, best practices and municipal capacity.

In addition to the Bylaw Recodification and Update, the Planning Board is also considering some more substantive changes to the Zoning Bylaw that the Board will vet through other thorough community review processes.  Principal among these is a Smart Growth Overlay District: a strategy for guiding development in the Limited Commercial District consistent with the Town’s goals. Please look for an update on this in the near future. 

The Planning Board encourages town residents, land and business owners to take part in this and all Town planning initiatives to assure that we are all working together for a strong and resilient Manchester.   For any questions, please feel free to contact Sue Brown, Manchester’s Town Planner at browns@manchester.ma.us .