[HISTORY: Adopted by the Annual Town Meeting of the Town of Blackstone 5-31-2016 by Art. 24. Amendments noted where applicable.]
The Scenic Roads Act, MGL c. 40, § 15C, allows Town Meeting, upon recommendation or request of the Planning Board, Conservation Commission, or Historical Commission to designate any road within the Town, other than a numbered route or state highway, as a scenic road.
After a road has been designated as a scenic road, any repair, maintenance, reconstruction, or paving work done with respect thereto shall not involve or include the cutting or removal of trees, or the tearing down or destruction of stone walls, or portions thereof, except with prior written consent of the Planning Board after a public hearing duly advertised twice in a newspaper of general circulation in the area, as to time, date, place and purpose, the last publication to occur at least seven days prior to such hearing; provided, however, that when a public hearing must be held under the provisions of this section and under MGL c. 87, § 3, prior to the cutting or removal of a tree, such hearings shall be consolidated into a single public hearing before the Tree Warden and the Planning Board, and notice of such consolidated public hearing shall be given by the Tree Warden or his deputy as provided in said MGL c. 87, § 3.
The purposes of these regulations are the following:
To maintain the natural beauty that currently exists along scenic roads in Blackstone.
To maintain and enhance the rural character of the Town and encourage compatibility with existing roadside features.
To implement more fully the provisions of the Scenic Road Act, with acknowledgement that roads serve a transportation function for pedestrians, equestrians and nonmotorized as well as motorized vehicles.
The Planning Board, the Board of Selectmen, the Conservation Commission, the Historical Commission, or by petition of citizens of the Town (consistent with petition requirements to place an article on the warrant) may propose "scenic road" status for any road in Blackstone other than a numbered route or state highway as a scenic road. The Planning Board shall hold a public hearing on the petition, notifying the Selectmen, the Tree Warden, the DPW Director, the Conservation Commission, and the Historical Commission, and advertising twice in a newspaper of general circulation, the first advertisement at least 14 days prior to the date of the public hearing.
The Planning Board shall make a recommendation to the Town Meeting on the merits of designation of the proposed road as a scenic road.
A majority vote of Town Meeting is required for designation. Such designation shall be effective as of the date of Town Meeting action. Any work on any portion of the right-of-way of a scenic road which was not physically commenced at the time the road was designated as a scenic road shall conform to these regulations.
Criteria for designation as a scenic road. The Planning Board, Conservation Commission, or Historical Commission shall, in determining which roads or portions of roads should be recommended for designation as scenic roads, consider the following criteria:
Notification of designation as scenic road. Upon designation by Town Meeting of any road or portion thereof as a scenic road, the Planning Board shall take the following steps within 30 days of such designation:
Notify all municipal departments that may take action with respect to such road;
Notify the State Department of Public Works;
Notify the Commissioners of Worcester County;
Indicate such designation on maps currently in use by municipal departments, as appropriate; and
Notify all utility companies or other parties that may be working in or around such road.
In the absence of contrary meaning established through legislation or judicial action pursuant to MGL c. 40, § 15C, these terms contained in that statute shall be construed as follows:
- CUTTING OR REMOVAL OF TREES
- Shall not be construed to include clearing of nuisance growth, routine or emergency tree maintenance which removes only permanently diseased or damaged limbs, trunks or roots and dead whole trees, or thinning out of overcrowded trees as determined by the Tree Warden, but shall mean removal of one or more trees, cutting of major branches or cutting of roots, including such cutting or removal done in contemplation of, or following, repair, maintenance, reconstruction or paving work for a road.
- REPAIR, MAINTENANCE, RECONSTRUCTION, OR PAVING-WORK
- Any such work done within the right-of-way by any person or agency, public or private. Construction of new driveways, bicycle paths, roadside paths/sidewalks or alterations of existing ones, is also included to the extent such work takes place within the right-of-way. Except as allowed in the preceding paragraph, roadside cutting for clearance for vehicles or for improvement of line-of-sight shall also be included within this definition.
- A vehicular traveled way plus its necessary appurtenances within the entire right-of-way, not just the paved surface, including bridge structures, drainage systems, retaining walls, traffic control devices, pedestrian facilities, and the air space above them, but not intersecting streets or driveways.
- STONE WALLS
- Shall not be construed to include assemblages of stone involving less than one cubic foot of wall material per linear foot nor totaling less than five feet in length. All stone walls within the entire right-of-way of a scenic road or on the boundaries thereof shall be subject to these regulations; if, for whatever reason, it is uncertain whether the stone wall is within such right-of-way of the scenic road, it shall be taken to be within the coverage of these rules and regulations until the contrary is shown.
- TEARING DOWN OR DESTRUCTION OF STONE WALLS
- Shall not be construed to include temporary removal and replacement within a reasonable period of time, not to exceed 60 days, at the same location with the same materials and consistent with the original character of the wall.
- Any trees (not bushes) having a trunk diameter of four inches or larger at one foot above the ground. All trees within the right-of-way of a scenic road or on the boundaries thereof shall be subject to these regulations; if, for whatever reason, it is uncertain whether the tree is within the right-of-way of the scenic road, it shall be taken to be within the coverage of these rules and regulations until the contrary is shown.
Any person or organization seeking consent of the Planning Board under MGL c. 40, § 15C (the Scenic Road Act), regarding the cutting or removal of trees or the tearing down or destruction of stone walls, or portions thereof, in connection with the repair, maintenance, reconstruction or paving-work (as defined in § 190-4) on scenic roads, shall submit a request to the Planning Board together with the following:
A plan showing the location and the nature of the proposed action and a description of the proposed changes to trees and stone walls;
A statement of the purpose(s) for the change;
A statement of the feasible alternatives to the proposed action, together with an indication of the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative;
A list of owners of property fronting in whole or in part on both sides of the scenic road within 500 feet of the proposed action;
Except in the case of Town agencies, a filing fee in an amount established by the Planning Board shall be paid; and
Any further explanatory material useful to adequately inform the Planning Board of the nature and extent of the proposed action prior to the public hearing.
Notice of submittal shall be filed with the Town Clerk and a copy of the submittal transmitted to the Tree Warden after it is accepted and signed for by the Planning Board or its staff.
Planning Board hearings shall be held in conjunction with those held by the Tree Warden acting under MGL Ch. 87. Consent to an action by the Planning Board shall not be construed as inferring consent by the Tree Warden or the reverse, nor shall execution of these rules and regulations in any way limit or restrict the Tree Warden's powers and duties under MGL Ch. 87.
The Planning Board shall, as required by statute, give notice of its public hearing by advertising twice in a newspaper of general circulation in the area. This notice shall contain a statement as to the time, date, place, and purpose of the hearing with a reasonable description of the action proposed by the applicant. Copies of this notice shall also be sent the Selectmen, the Conservation Commission, the Historical Commission, the DPW Director, the Tree Warden, and the assessed owners of property within 500 feet of the proposed action.
The first publication of the notice shall be as soon as feasible after the Planning Board receives the request from the applicant, and shall in all cases be at least 14 days before the hearing. The last publication shall occur, as required by statute, at least seven days prior to the hearing.
The Planning Board shall hold a public hearing within 30 days after the Planning Board meeting at which receipt of a properly filed request is acknowledged.
The Planning Board shall make a decision on the request within 21 days after the public hearing. If the Planning Board fails to mail or deliver to the applicant a copy of its decision within this time period the requested approval shall be deemed granted.
In acting in regard to a scenic road request, the Planning Board shall consider the following:
Scenic and aesthetic characteristics;
Accident history within 500 feet of tree(s) and stone walls at issue;
Location and setback of utility poles in relation to the pavement, trees and stone walls;
Traffic volume, congestion and posted speed limit;
Preservation of natural resources;
Environmental and historical values;
Recreational uses of road, taking into account the nature and extent;
Relationship of the road design to the standards of the Planning Board's Subdivision Rules and Regulations, but recognizing that a variance from standard should be allowed when a road has been designated scenic by the Townspeople;
Compensatory actions proposed, such as replacement of trees or walls;
Existence or absence of reasonable alternatives (including a no-build alternative);
Consistency with articulated Town policies;
Financial and other consequences of design revision to avoid or reduce damage to trees or stone walls;
Evidence contributed by abutters, Town agencies, and other interested parties; and
Other sound planning principles.
Whenever both the Scenic Road Act and the Public Shade Tree Act (MGL Ch. 87) apply, notice shall be given and the Planning Board hearing shall be held in conjunction with the hearing held by the Tree Warden acting under the Public Shade Tree Act. The consent of the Planning Board to a proposed action shall not be regarded as implying consent by the Tree Warden, or vice versa. The Planning Board decision shall contain a condition that no work may be done until all applicable provisions of MGL Ch. 87 have been complied with.
Approval of curb cuts by Selectmen. The consent of the Planning Board to work involving a proposed curb cut shall not be deemed to indicate or imply consent or approval by the Selectmen to such curb cut, or vice versa.
Emergency work. In the event that the Selectmen determine that emergency conditions require that work otherwise requiring Planning Board approval must proceed before such approval can be obtained, the Selectmen may authorize the work to proceed before Planning Board approval is obtained to the extent to which the Selectmen deem it necessary to protect public health and safety.