Town of Williamstown, MA
Berkshire County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Planning Board of the Town of Williamstown November 1985. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Streets and sidewalks — See Ch. 60.
Road construction standards — See Ch. 113.
Streets and sidewalks — See Ch. 121.

§ 169-1 History of the Scenic Roads Act. [1]

A. 
In 1973 the Great and General Court of Massachusetts passed the Scenic Roads Act (Appendix A) which was designed to protect the aesthetic, environmental and historical values of Massachusetts rural roads by preserving bordering trees and stone walls. This Act complements the century-old Public Shade Tree Law (Appendix B).[2]
[2]
Editor's Note: Appendices A and B are on file in the office of the Town Clerk.
B. 
At Town Meeting in 1976, Williamstown voters first used the Scenic Roads Act to designate Bee Hill Road as scenic. In 1984, Northwest Hill Road was the second road so named, and others have subsequently been designated. See appendix D for copies of Town Meeting votes to date designating the Scenic Roads in Williamstown.[3]
[3]
Editor's Note: Appendix D is on file in the office of the Town Clerk.
[1]
Editor's Note: A caveat appearing at the beginning of these rules and regulations read as follows: The Scenic Roads Act and the Shade Tree Act seem similar; however, compliance with the provisions of one act does not necessarily mean compliance with the provisions of the other. The Williamstown Planning Board has jurisdiction over the Scenic Roads Act; the Williamstown Tree Warden has jurisdiction over the Shade Tree Act. Any person wishing to do work on a Scenic Road should consult with both the Planning Board and the Tree Warden to ensure compliance.

§ 169-2 Purpose.

By adopting the rules and regulations contained herein, the Planning Board, the Conservation Commission and Historical Commission intend to ensure the following:
A. 
That the letter and spirit of the Scenic Roads Act[1] be followed;
[1]
Editor's Note: See MGL C. 40, § 15C.
B. 
That roads recommended for designation as scenic roads meet certain specified criteria;
C. 
That roads designated by Town Meeting as scenic roads not be altered in any way that requires the cutting or removal of trees or the tearing down or destruction of stone walls unless stated procedures are followed; and
D. 
That the provisions of the Scenic Roads Act and the rules and regulations contained herein be equitably enforced.

§ 169-3 Definitions.

As used in this article, the following terms have the meanings indicated:
CUTTING OR REMOVAL OF TREES
The cutting of major branches two inches or more in diameter as measured next to the trunk, the cutting of roots and/or the removal of one or more trees. The cutting or removal of dead trees or branches shall not be considered cutting or removal of trees.
REPAIR, MAINTENANCE, RECONSTRUCTION OR PAVING WORK
Any work done that involves the cutting or removal of trees or the tearing down or destruction of stone walls within the town right-or-way by any person or agency, public or private. Any work on any portion of the town right-of-way not physically commenced at the time of Town Meeting designation as a scenic road comes within this definition.
ROAD
The right-of-way of any way used and maintained as a public way, including the vehicular-traveled way plus necessary appurtenances within the right-of-way, such as bridge structures, drainage systems, retaining walls, traffic control devices and sidewalks. When the boundary of the right-of-way is in issue so that a dispute arises as to whether or not certain trees or stone walls or portions thereof are within or without the way, the trees or stone walls shall be presumed to be within the way until the contrary is shown.
TEARING DOWN OR DESTRUCTION OF STONE WALLS
The displacement or removal of more than five linear feet of wall material that exists 12 inches or more above the existing grade, but shall not be construed to include removal and rebuilding within a reasonable time and at the same location of such materials.
TREES
Any trees that have a truck diameter of 1 1/2 inches or more as measured one foot above the ground.

§ 169-4 Procedures for designating a scenic road.

A. 
Filing of petition.
(1) 
Any person or group of persons may petition the Planning Board, Conservation Commission and/or Historical Commission to request that the Board(s) consider recommending that a road or a portion thereof be designated a scenic road.
(2) 
In making the recommendation, the Board(s) shall use the criteria listed in § 169-5 herein and shall follow the steps enumerated directly below.
B. 
Site visit and ensuing actions. The Board(s), or a majority of the members thereof, shall visit the proposed scenic road. After the site visit, the Board(s) shall determine, by using the criteria stated in § 169-5, and at a regular meeting, whether to consider recommending to Town Meeting designation as a scenic road.
C. 
Hearing.
(1) 
Prior to making such recommendation, the Board(s) shall hold a public hearing duly advertised according to the established procedures of the Board.
(2) 
In the event that more than one Board will be holding a hearing, such hearing will be consolidated.
(3) 
The Board(s) shall incorporate reasons for the decisions to recommend or not recommend designation into the written record of the hearing.
D. 
Scenic layout plan.
(1) 
If the Board(s), by majority vote of the members, determine(s) that designation will be recommended, the Chairperson(s) shall cause to be prepared a scenic layout plan. Such plan shall be drawn using a current Assessor's Map and shall include the following information:
(a) 
Name of way being proposed as a scenic road.
(b) 
The limits of the proposed scenic road. The town shall make a good faith effort to determine the width of the road.
(c) 
Names of all abuttors as they appear on the most recent tax list.
(d) 
Location of any intersecting ways.
(e) 
Location of all scenic features, including but not necessarily limited to trees or stone walls and any other natural or man-made features of aesthetic, conservationist or historical value as determined by the Board(s) using the criteria established in § 169-5 herein.
(f) 
Optional: photographs and short written descriptions of the scenic features to provide clarifying information.
(g) 
Other information that would be of assistance to the Board(s) in their deliberations.
(2) 
Such plan shall be on public display in the office of the Building Inspector at least 10 working days prior to the Town Meeting at which the vote for designation is scheduled.
E. 
Timing of recommendation. If the Board(s), by majority vote of the members, determine(s) to recommend designation, the Chairperson(s) shall cause a request for scenic road designation to be placed on the warrant for the next Town Meeting, provided that such meeting is scheduled so as to ensure adequate time for the scenic layout plan to be prepared and viewed.
F. 
Role of Town Meeting. Only the voters at Town Meeting, by majority vote, have authority to designate that a road or any portion thereof be designated a scenic road.

§ 169-5 Criteria for recommending designation as a scenic road.

A. 
The Planning Board, the Conservation Commission and/or the Historical Commission shall consider the following criteria when determining whether to recommend designation:
(1) 
Single trees or stands of trees of exceptional quality in terms of type, age, specimen size or spread.
(2) 
Single trees or stands of trees or other unusual vegetation which has spring flowering or high fall color potential or otherwise constitutes an aesthetically pleasing near view.
(3) 
Single trees, stands of trees or other unusual examples of vegetation that create an attractive frame of reference for a distant vista.
(4) 
Overhanging branches which create a leaf tunnel effect.
(5) 
Attractive field/forest patterns.
(6) 
Bordering stone walls.
(7) 
Proximity to an historic district, building, local landmark and/or place of historic significance.
(8) 
Proximity to aesthetically pleasing natural topographic features, such as foothills, rivers, streams, ponds and meadows.
(9) 
Proximity to a Recreation/ Conservation District and/or land in preservation.
(10) 
Rural or woodland character, particularly when such setting is in contrast to more developed adjacent areas.
(11) 
Other qualities which, if altered, would lessen the aesthetic, conservationist or historical value of the way. Such qualities shall be stated when the Board(s) give(s) reasons for recommending or not recommending designation.
B. 
Note: A way need not meet all of the above criteria in order to be recommended.

§ 169-6 Notification of parties after designation.

A. 
When Town Meeting has designated any road or portion thereof as a scenic road, the Planning Board shall take the following steps within 30 days of such designation:
(1) 
Notify the abuttors.
(2) 
Notify in writing all municipal departments that may take action with respect to such road.
(3) 
Notify the State Department of Public Works.
(4) 
Submit to a newspaper of general circulation a public notice stating which road or roads have been designated as scenic roads.
(5) 
Direct the Inspector of Buildings to indicate such designation on the Zoning Maps housed in the office of the Inspector of Buildings, and direct the Assessor to indicate designation on the Assessor's Map.
(6) 
Notify by letter all utility companies or other such parties which may undertake work within or on the border of such road.
B. 
Note: The Planning Board shall make a good faith effort to notify the above-named parties; however, the provisions of these rules and regulations shall apply even though express notice has not been received.

§ 169-7 Procedures for doing work on a scenic road.

A. 
Filing of petition. Any person, organization, public agency or utility company proposing to perform any repair, maintenance, reconstruction or paving work which involves the cutting of trees or the tearing down or destruction of stone walls on a scenic road shall seek written consent of the Planning Board as provided for in the Scenic Roads Act. (See Appendix A.) Such request shall be in writing and shall contain the following information (See Appendix C, Scenic Roads Hearing Petition.)[1]:
(1) 
A copy of the scenic layout, as described in § 169-4, with proposed changes clearly specified.
(2) 
A statement of purpose for the proposed changes.
(3) 
A statement describing in reasonable detail the proposed changes.
(4) 
A statement describing in reasonable detail plans for restoration of the site.
(5) 
A list of all abuttors as they appear on the most current maps located in the Tax Assessor's office.
(6) 
Except in the case of town agencies, payment of a fee sufficient to cover the cost of advertising and notification of abuttors. Such fee shall be established by the Selectmen.
(7) 
Any additional explanatory material, such as photographs or diagrams which might be helpful to the Planning Board in its deliberations.
[1]
Editor's Note: Appendix A and Appendix C are on file in the office of the Town Clerk.
B. 
Site visit by Planning Board. Within 14 days prior to the duly advertised public hearing, Planning Board members shall visit the site of the proposed work.
C. 
Public hearing.
(1) 
The Planning Board shall hold a public hearing within 30 days after the Town Clerk acknowledges receipt of a properly filed petition. The date and time of the hearing shall be set outside of the normal weekday work hours (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday) so as to encourage maximum citizen participation.
(2) 
The Planning Board through the Inspector of Buildings shall notify abuttors, the Chairperson of the Conservation Commission and the Chairperson of the Historical Commission.
(3) 
Scenic Road Act hearing shall be held in conjunction with those hearings held by the Tree Warden acting under the Shade Tree Act. The consent of the Planning Board shall not be regarded as inferring consent by the Tree Warden, or vice versa. The Planning Board decision shall contain a condition that no work shall be done until there has been compliance with all applicable provisions of the Shade Tree Act.
[Amended 3-23-1998]
(4) 
Within 21 days of the hearing, the Planning Board shall issue its decision in a written reasons for decision in accordance with the criteria which follow.
(5) 
Basis for Planning Board decision. The Planning Board's decision on any application for proposed action affecting scenic roads shall be based on consideration of the following:
(a) 
The degree to which the proposed action would adversely affect the attributes upon which the scenic road designation was originally based. (See § 169-4.)
(b) 
The necessity for the proposed action in terms of public safety or welfare.
(c) 
The availability of reasonable alternatives to the proposed action, which alternatives could reduce or eliminate anticipated damage to trees or stone walls.
(d) 
The consistency of the proposed action with the Town Master Plan.
(e) 
The adequacy of compensatory actions proposed, such as replacement of trees and/or walls.
(f) 
Other sound planning considerations which the Board shall delineate in its written reasons for decision.
D. 
Performance guaranty. Before approving a plan to do work on a scenic road, the Planning Board may require that the proposed work to be done by an individual or group other than the town be secured by a bond sufficient in form and amount to ensure satisfactory performance of the proposed changes and restoration.
E. 
Exemption.
(1) 
Nothing in these rules and regulations shall be construed to diminish the authority of the Tree Warden and his/her deputies as set forth in the Shade Tree Act.
(2) 
Furthermore, nothing in these rules and regulations shall be construed to abrogate the responsibility of town officials in an emergency to remove trees or limbs which endanger person on the way. The procedures for such emergency removal will be governed by the provision of the Shade Tree Act, Subsection 5, and other applicable law.

§ 169-8 Enforcement; appeals.

A. 
The Inspector of Buildings is responsible for the enforcement of this article and shall take appropriate court action to enforce it.
[Amended 3-23-1998]
B. 
Any person aggrieved by the decision of the Inspector of Buildings may file a scenic roads hearing petition. (See Appendix C.[1])
[1]
Editor's Note: Appendix C is on file in the office of the Town Clerk.

§ 169-9 Discontinuance of a scenic road.

A. 
If it becomes necessary or desirable to rescind designation of a scenic road, or any portion thereof, 10 or more registered Williamstown voters may petition the town to discontinue designation by following town procedures for placing an article on the warrant for Town Meeting.
B. 
At the Town Meeting during which discontinuance is to be considered by the voters, a spokesperson from each of the three Boards, the Planning Board, the Conservation Commission and the Historical Commission, shall present the recommendation of his/her respective Board.
C. 
Scenic road designation of a way shall be removed only if the majority of townspeople present and voting at Town Meetings vote to rescind its scenic road designation.

§ 169-10 Severability.

If any section, subsection, clause or phrase of these rules and regulations is held invalid because of legislative or judicial action, the validity of remaining portions shall not be effected.