Town seeks public’s input on changes to Westhampton’s zoning bylaws

  • Westhampton Town Hall FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/23/2022 7:42:10 PM
Modified: 11/23/2022 7:41:59 PM

WESTHAMPTON — After spending hundreds of hours researching, discussing and rewriting Westhampton’s zoning bylaws, an ad hoc committee is seeking public input on the proposed land-use regulations.

The Westhampton Zoning Bylaw Review Committee is hosting its second of two public information sessions on Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

Zoning bylaws regulate by-right, conditionally allowed, and prohibited land uses in town.

The six-member committee was appointed in 2016 to see if the existing bylaws, which are 27 years old, were in compliance with state regulations. Other than a few amendments in 2003, 2018 and 2019, the last major revision to the town’s zoning regulations was in 1995, according to John Shaw, chairperson of the committee.

“A lot of time and work went into this,” he said, commending the efforts of the committee. “I’ve been on a lot of committees over the years, but this is easily one of the best I’ve ever worked with. These volunteers missed suppers, joined from Zoom during their vacations and kids’ soccer games — they’ve been very dedicated.”

Over the past six years, committee members researched neighboring towns’ bylaws and took note of things they liked and discussed areas they didn’t like in crafting the new bylaws.

“We eliminated things that aren’t good for us — what might work in Northampton or Hadley does not necessarily work for Westhampton. Then we had to look at the wording and see if it received approval from the attorney general,” Shaw said. “In some cases, we needed to create, rewrite or eliminate language that we found was out of date with Chapter 40A and Chapter 40B of Mass General Laws. … And oftentimes, one change on one page can affect an entire section. It’s been a process.”

One of the challenges with the way the existing set of regulations is written is that the permitting process isn’t clear, but with the committee’s proposed changes, Shaw says the process has been streamlined. Trying to obtain a building permit under the town’s current zoning regulations could take up to eight months.

“If you buy a piece of land in Westhampton, chances are you want to build something within a month or two, but with how the bylaw is currently written, that won’t happen,” he said. “Our revision has streamlined that process, so that residents get approved much faster.”

Similar to the first forum held on Nov. 16, attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and comment on the proposed new regulations.

Following this information session, the committee will reconvene in December to consider residents’ feedback.

The committee is hopeful that residents will be in favor of proposals and adopt the new regulations in their entirety.

“Zoning bylaws need to be continually reviewed and updated, and we need to ensure that we don’t get behind current regulations and legislation,” Shaw said. “I think we as a committee have done our best for Westhampton.”

A paper copy of the more than 80-page proposed zoning bylaw is available for review at the Town Hall or at the Westhampton Public Library. It is also available online at https://bit.ly/3V3QpIW. The forum will also be held via Zoom.

To join the meeting on Nov. 30, visit https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85470758985. Alternatively, call 312-626-6799 or 646-558-8656, and when prompted enter Meeting ID 837 0186 6224. In both cases, the passcode to enter the meeting is 266004.

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.
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