City of Gardner, MA
Worcester County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
A. 
Purpose. The purpose of an open space residential development is to:
(1) 
Encourage the preservation of common land for conservation, agriculture, common open space and recreational use;
(2) 
Preserve historical or archaeological resources;
(3) 
Protect existing or potential municipal water supplies;
(4) 
Protect the value of real property by promoting more sensitive siting of buildings and better overall site planning;
(5) 
Promote creative design and better utilization of land in harmony with its natural features and with the greater intent of this chapter through a greater flexibility in design; and
(6) 
Allow more efficient provision of municipal services.
B. 
Procedures. The Planning Board may grant a special permit for an open space residential development subject to the following:
(1) 
Preapplication conference. The applicant shall request a preapplication review at a regular business meeting of the Planning Board. If one is requested, the Planning Board shall invite the Development Review Committee and relevant agencies. The purpose of a preapplication review is to minimize the applicant's costs of engineering and other technical experts and to commence negotiations with the Planning Board at the earliest possible stage in the development. At the preapplication review, the applicant may outline the proposed OSRD, seek preliminary feedback from the Planning Board and/or its technical experts, and set a timetable for submittal of a formal application.
(2) 
Preapplication submittal. To facilitate review of the OSRD at the preapplication stage, applicants are strongly encouraged to submit the following information:
(a) 
Site context map. This map illustrates the parcel in connection to its surrounding neighborhood. Based upon existing data sources and field inspections, it should show various kinds of major natural resource areas or features that cross parcel lines or that are located on adjoining lands. This map enables the Planning Board to understand the site in relation to what is occurring on adjacent properties.
(b) 
Existing conditions/site analysis map. This map familiarizes officials with existing conditions on the property. Based upon existing data sources and field inspections, this base map locates and describes noteworthy resources that should be left protected through sensitive subdivision layouts. These resources include wetlands, riverfront areas, floodplains and steep slopes, but may also include mature undegraded woodlands, hedgerows, farmland, unique or special wildlife habitats, historic or cultural features (such as old structures or stone walls), unusual geologic formations and scenic views into and out from the property. By overlaying this plan onto a development plan, the parties involved can clearly see where conservation priorities and desired development overlap/conflict.
(3) 
Preapplication site visit. Applicants are encouraged to request a site visit by the Planning Board and/or its agents to facilitate preapplication review of the OSRD. If one is requested, the Planning Board shall invite the Development Review Committee and relevant agencies.
(4) 
Preapplication discussion of design criteria. The design process and criteria set forth below should be discussed by the parties at the preapplication conference and site visit.
(5) 
Filing of special permit application.
(a) 
Each application for a special permit for an open space residential development shall be filed with the Planning Board, with a copy filed forthwith with the City Clerk, and shall be accompanied by 10 copies of a preliminary plan of the entire parcel under consideration, prepared by a professional architect, engineer and landscape architect.
(b) 
Contents of application. Said application and plan shall be prepared in accordance with requirements for a preliminary subdivision plan in the rules and regulations of the Planning Board governing subdivision of land, whether or not the development constitutes a subdivision, and shall include proposed location, bulk, and height of all proposed buildings. In addition, the applicant shall provide the following information:
[1] 
The number of dwellings which could be constructed under this chapter by means of a conventional development plan, considering the whole parcel, exclusive of water bodies, floodplain, and land prohibited from development by legally enforceable restrictions, easements, or covenants.
[2] 
Applicants are required to demonstrate to the Planning Board that the following design process was performed by a registered landscape architect and considered in determining the layout of proposed streets, house lots, and common open space.
[a] 
Step one: identifying conservation areas. Identify preservation land by two steps. First, primary conservation areas (such as wetlands, riverfront areas, and floodplains regulated by state or federal law) and secondary conservation areas (including unprotected elements of the natural landscape such as steep slopes, mature woodlands, prime farmland, meadows, wildlife habitats and cultural features such as historic and archaeological sites and scenic views) shall be identified and delineated. Second, the potentially developable area will be identified and delineated. To the maximum extent feasible, the potentially developable area shall consist of land outside identified primary and secondary conservation areas.
[b] 
Step two: locating house sites. Locate the approximate sites of individual houses within the potentially developable area and include the delineation of private yards and shared amenities, to reflect an integrated community, with emphasis on consistency with the City's historical development patterns. The number of homes enjoying the amenities of the development should be maximized.
[c] 
Step three: aligning the streets and trails. Align streets to access the house lots. Additionally, new streets and trails should be laid out to create internal and external connections to existing and/or potential future streets, sidewalks, and trails.
[d] 
Step four: lot lines. Draw in the lot lines.
(6) 
Review of other boards. Before acting upon the application, the Board shall submit the application and plan to the following boards, which may review it jointly or separately: the Board of Health, the City Engineer, the Conservation Commission, and the Fire Department. Any such board or agency to which petitions are referred for review shall submit such recommendation as it deems appropriate to the Planning Board and the applicant. Failure to make recommendations within 35 days of receipt shall be deemed lack of opposition.
(7) 
Public hearing. After the opportunity for review by other boards has taken place, the Planning Board shall hold a hearing under this section, in conformity with the provisions of MGL c. 40A, § 9, and of this chapter and regulations of the Planning Board. The hearing shall be held within 65 days after filing of the application with the Board and the Clerk. Notice shall be given by publication and posted by first-class mailings to parties in interest as defined in MGL c. 40A, § 11. The decision of the Board, and any extension, modification, or renewal thereof, shall be filed with the Board and Clerk within 90 days following the closing of the public hearing. Failure of the Board to act within 90 days shall be deemed a grant of the permit for which applied.
(8) 
Relation to subdivision control act. Planning Board approval of a special permit hereunder shall not substitute for compliance with the Subdivision Control Act, nor oblige the Planning Board to approve any related definitive plan for subdivision, nor reduce any time periods for Board consideration under that law. However, to facilitate processing, the Planning Board shall, insofar as practicable under existing law, adopt regulations establishing procedures for submission of a combined plan and application which shall satisfy this section and the Planning Board's regulations under the Subdivision Control Act.
C. 
Findings of the Board. The Board may grant a special permit under this section only if it finds that the applicant has demonstrated the following: that the open space residential development plan will be in harmony with the general purpose of this chapter and the requirements of MGL c. 40A and the long-range plan of the City; that it will not have a detrimental impact on the neighborhood; that it will be designed with due consideration for health and safety; and that it is superior to a conventional plan in preserving common open space, minimizing environmental disruption, allowing for more efficient provision of services, or allowing for greater variety in prices or types of housing.
D. 
Permitted locations. Open space residential development shall be allowed by special permit in the RR2.
E. 
Minimum dimensional requirements for lots and buildings. Where the requirements of the OSRD differ from or conflict with the requirements of Article VI of this chapter, the requirements established for OSRDs shall prevail. The following requirements shall be observed in all OSRDs. Where appropriate, the Planning Board may impose additional requirements upon the tract of land or on any parts thereof as a condition to the granting of a special permit.
(1) 
Minimum tract area: not less than five acres.
(2) 
Maximum density: one dwelling unit per 40,000 square feet.
(3) 
Minimum lot area: not less than 8,000 square feet.
(4) 
Minimum frontage: not less than 50 feet.
(5) 
Minimum lot width: not less than 50 feet.
(6) 
Minimum front yard. No buildings or structures shall be located within 45 feet of a preexisting street or within 15 feet of a new street.
(7) 
Minimum side and rear yards: not less than 10 feet.
(8) 
No buildings or structures shall be located within 30 feet of the boundary line of the tract or the common open space.
(9) 
Where a residential building measures more than 3,000 square feet of gross floor area per dwelling unit, including any attached garages, the minimum setback from a new street or way within the OSRD shall be 30 feet, and the minimum setback to the next residential building shall be 40 feet.
(10) 
Attached and detached garages are highly encouraged to be located at the side or rear of the residential building or have the garage door not facing the street, so as not to appear part of the front facade.
(11) 
The Planning Board may impose other conditions on the locations of buildings and structures as it deems appropriate to enhance the purpose and intent of the OSRD.
(12) 
A shared driveway is allowed for two adjoining lots.
(13) 
Except as specified in a special permit granted under this section, all requirements of this chapter shall continue to apply.
(14) 
The requirements related to the ownership, upkeep, liability, and maintenance of the open land shall be in perpetuity and as such become the responsibility of the owners' heirs and assigns.
F. 
Required open land.
(1) 
At least 50% of the parcel, exclusive of floodplains, wetlands or land set aside for buildings, roads and parking, shall be open land.
(2) 
The minimum common open space shall be laid out as one or more large, contiguous parcels that are distinct from parcels dedicated for other purposes and uses. Each common open space parcel shall contain at least one access corridor to a street or way that shall be not less than 40 feet wide.
(3) 
If the tract of land of the OSRD abuts adjacent preserved open space, the common open space shall be laid out to abut the adjacent open space lots.
G. 
Use of the common open space. The common open space shall be dedicated and used for conservation, historic preservation and education, outdoor education, recreation, park purposes, agriculture, horticulture, forestry, or for a combination of those uses. No other uses shall be allowed in the common open space, except as provided for herein:
(1) 
The proposed use of the common open space shall be specified on a land use plan, and appropriate dedications and restrictions shall be part of the deed to the common open space. The Planning Board shall have the authority to approve or disapprove particular uses proposed for the common open space to enhance the specific purposes of OSRD.
(2) 
The common open space shall remain unbuilt upon, provided that an overall maximum of 5% of such land may be subject to pavement and structures accessory to the dedicated use or uses of the common open space, and provided that the common open space may be subject to temporary easements for the construction, maintenance, and repair of roads, utilities, and sewer or drainage facilities serving the open space residential development or adjacent land.
(3) 
In addition, a portion of the common open space may also be used for the construction of leaching areas, if associated with septic disposal systems serving the OSRD, and if such use, in the opinion of the Planning Board, enhances the specific purpose of the OSRD to promote better overall site planning. Septic disposal easements shall be no larger than reasonably necessary. If any portion of the common open space is used for leaching areas, the Planning Board shall require adequate assurances and covenants that such facilities shall be maintained by the lot owners within the OSRD.
(4) 
In addition, a portion of the common open space may also be used for ways serving as pedestrian walks, bicycle paths, and access or egress to the OSRD or adjacent land, if such a use, in the opinion of the Planning Board, enhances the general purpose of this chapter and enhances better site and community planning, and if the Planning Board finds that adequate assurances and covenants exist to ensure proper maintenance of such facilities by the owner of the common open space.
(5) 
Portions of the common open space that are more than the minimum common open space total area may be used for stormwater detention and retention facilities serving the lots, streets, and ways in the OSRD, including infrastructure such as pipes, swales, catch basins, and manholes, and parcels and easements associated with such facilities.
H. 
Ownership of the common open space.
(1) 
The open land, and such other facilities as may be held in common, shall be conveyed to one of the following, as determined by the Planning Board, subject to the following guidelines:
(a) 
The common open space shall be conveyed in whole or in part to:
[1] 
The City of Gardner and accepted by it; or
[2] 
To a nonprofit organization, the principal purpose of which is the conservation of common open space and/or any of the purposes and uses to which the common open space may be dedicated.
(b) 
The common open space may also be conveyed to a corporation or trust owned or to be owned by the owners of lots within the open space residential development. The developer shall be responsible for the maintenance of the common open space and any other facilities to be held in common until the home association legally assumes said responsibility.
(2) 
If the common open space or any portion thereof is not conveyed to the City of Gardner, a perpetual restriction, approved by the Planning Board and enforceable by the City of Gardner, shall be imposed on the use of such land, providing in substance that the land be kept in its open or natural state and that the land shall not be built upon or developed or used except in accordance with the provisions of open space residential development as set forth herein and, if applicable, further specified in the decision of the Planning Board governing the individual open space residential development. The proposed ownership of all common open space shall be shown on the land use plan for the open space residential development. At the time of its conveyance, the common open space shall be free of all encumbrances, mortgages or other claims, except as to easements, restrictions and encumbrances required by this chapter.
(3) 
Subject to the above, the common open space may be used for recreational purposes, including golf courses, riding trails, tennis courts, gardens, and swimming pools. The Board may permit open land owned by a home association to be used for individual septic systems or for common septic systems if it, and the Board of Health, is convinced that proper legal safeguards exist for management of a communally owned system.
I. 
Further requirements.
(1) 
No use other than residential or recreational shall be permitted.
(2) 
No lot shown on a plan for which a permit is granted under this section may be further subdivided, and a notation to this effect shall be shown upon the plan.
(3) 
No certificate of occupancy shall be issued by the Building Commissioner until he has certified to the Planning Board that the premises have been built in accordance with the plan approved by the Board hereunder.
(4) 
The Board may impose other conditions, safeguards, or limitations on time and uses, pursuant to its regulations.
(5) 
The Board may grant a special permit hereunder for open space residential development even if the proposed development is not subject to the Subdivision Control Law.
(6) 
Subsequent to granting of the permit, the Planning Board may permit relocation of lot lines within the open space residential development. However, any change in overall density, street layout, or open space layout will require further hearings.
(7) 
Whether or not the open space residential development is a subdivision, all streets and ways, whether public or private, wastewater disposal, drainage facilities, and utilities shall be designed and constructed in compliance with the City of Gardner's Subdivision Rules and Regulations. Special exception(s) to the Subdivision Rules and Regulations may be authorized by the Planning Board in granting a special permit hereunder, provided the Board determines that such exception(s) is in the public interest and is not inconsistent with the purpose of § 675-1170.
It is the intent to provide for the use of a group of rooms in a single-family residence as a so-called "in-law apartment" with its own kitchen and bathroom facilities, for the use of a limited number of persons such as in-laws, elderly persons, grown children, or nanny subject to special precautions with respect to privacy, safety, number of occupants, and adequacy of water supply and sewage disposal, where the owner of the apartment is a resident of the premises and where the use of such a group of rooms as an apartment is clearly accessory to the principal use of the premises as a single-family residence. All in-law apartments must comply with the criteria below.
A. 
The intent of permitting in-law apartments is to:
(1) 
Provide homeowners with a means of obtaining rental income, companionship, security and services, and thereby to enable them to stay more comfortably in homes and neighborhoods they might otherwise be forced to leave;
(2) 
Add moderately priced rental units to the housing stock to meet the needs of smaller households and make housing units available to moderate-income households who might otherwise have difficulty finding housing;
(3) 
Develop housing units in single-family neighborhoods that are appropriate for households at a variety of stages in their life cycle;
(4) 
Provide housing units for persons with disabilities.
B. 
The Building Commissioner may issue a building permit authorizing the installation and use of an in-law apartment within an existing or new owner-occupied single-family dwelling, and the Zoning Board of Appeals may issue a special permit authorizing the installation and use of an in-law apartment in a detached structure on a single-family home lot only when the following conditions are met:
(1) 
The apartment will be a complete, separate housekeeping unit containing both kitchen and bath.
(2) 
Only one in-law apartment may be created within a single-family house or house lot.
(3) 
The owner(s) of the residence in which the accessory unit is created must continue to occupy at least one of the dwelling units as his/her or their primary residence. The building permit or special permit for the accessory apartment automatically lapses if the owner no longer occupies one of the dwelling units.
(4) 
Any new outside entrance to serve an in-law apartment shall be located on the side or in the rear of the building.
(5) 
The gross floor area of an in-law apartment (including any additions) shall not be greater than 900 square feet.
(6) 
An in-law apartment may not be occupied by more than three people.
(7) 
Three off-street parking spaces must be available for use by the owner-occupant(s) and tenants.
(8) 
The design and room sizes of the apartment must conform to all applicable standards in the health, building, and other codes.
(9) 
Building or special permits issued under this section shall specify that the owner must occupy one of the dwelling units. Permits and the notarized letters required in Subsection B(11) and (12) below must be recorded in the Worcester County Registry of Deeds or Land Court, as appropriate, in the chain of title to the property, with documentation of the recording provided to the Building Commissioner, prior to the occupancy of the in-law apartment.
(10) 
Prior to issuance of a building or special permit, the owner(s) must send a notarized letter stating that the owner will occupy one of the dwelling units on the premises as the owner's permanent/primary residence, except for bona fide temporary absences.
(11) 
When a structure which has received a building or special permit for an in-law apartment is sold, the new owners, if they wish to continue to exercise the permit, must, within 30 days of the sale, submit a notarized letter to the Building Commissioner stating that they will occupy one of the dwelling units on the premises as their primary residence. This statement shall be listed as a condition on any building and special permits which are issued under this section.
(12) 
Prior to issuance of a building permit, a floor plan of 1/4 inch to the foot must be submitted showing the building, including proposed interior and exterior changes to the building.
A home occupation as defined herein may be established in all residential districts and the Commercial 1 District subject to the following requirements:
A. 
Such use shall be clearly secondary to the use of the premises for residential purposes and shall not occupy more than 15% of the total habitable floor area.
B. 
Not more than one person other than the residents of the premises shall be engaged in the conduct of the home occupation, whether an employee or otherwise.
C. 
No offensive noise, vibration, dust, heat, odors, glare, or unsightliness shall be produced.
D. 
There shall be no public display or on-site retail sales of goods or wares.
E. 
There shall be no signs except as permitted in Article IX of this chapter.
F. 
There shall be no exterior storage of material or equipment nor other indication of such use or variation from the residential character of the premises.
G. 
There shall be adequate off-street parking spaces for visitors in connection with the home occupation which do not substantially alter the appearance of the premises as a residence.
H. 
Such use does not require the parking of more than three vehicles used by clients, customers, or visitors on a regular basis.
I. 
Traffic generated by such use is not inconsistent with traffic usually associated with a single-family residence.
A. 
Purposes. The purpose of this article is to provide for a variety of housing types, settings, and residential services to meet the needs of people as they age.
B. 
Applicability.
(1) 
The Planning Board may grant a special permit for a senior residential development in accordance with this Article VIII on any tract of land meeting the following requirements:
(a) 
Two or more acres of land;
(b) 
Minimum of 100 feet of frontage on a public way; and
(c) 
Public water and sewer available at the street frontage, or the ability of the developer to extend services to the site as part of project approval.
(2) 
A senior residential development is intended for people age 55 or over. As such, buildings and site improvements in a senior residential development shall provide for visibility and universal design in accordance with the provisions of this article.
C. 
Uses.
(1) 
A senior residential development in the Commercial 2 and Industrial 2 Districts shall include one or more of the following uses:
(a) 
Detached single-family dwellings.
(b) 
Two-family dwellings.
(c) 
Townhouse dwellings.
(d) 
Independent living units.
(e) 
Assisted living residence, with or without memory care units.
(f) 
Continuing care retirement community, which shall include an assisted living residence and one or more of the other uses listed above, and may include a skilled nursing facility or physical rehabilitation facility with not more than 100 beds.
(2) 
A senior residential development in the General Residence 3, Commercial 1, Commercial 2, and Industrial 2 Districts shall include one or any combination of the following uses:
(a) 
Independent living units.
(b) 
Assisted living residence, with or without memory care units.
(c) 
Skilled nursing facility or physical rehabilitation facility with not more than 100 beds.
(3) 
An assisted living residence or continuing care retirement community may include the following nonresidential uses, provided that aggregate floor area for the nonresidential uses shall not exceed 10% of the total gross floor area of the buildings in the development.
(a) 
Retail, up to a maximum of 2,500 square feet.
(b) 
Personal services.
(c) 
Medical office or clinic.
(d) 
Community center or senior center.
(4) 
A senior residential development may also include the following uses:
(a) 
Adult day-care center.
(b) 
Accessory uses for residents, employees, and guests, such as central or common dining facilities or laundry facilities, or indoor or outdoor recreation facilities:
(c) 
Conservation or agricultural uses.
D. 
Basic requirements.
(1) 
A senior residential development shall comply with the following density regulations:
Use
Maximum Density
Maximum Building Height
(Feet)
Detached single-family dwellings or two-family dwellings
4 units/acre
32
Townhouse dwellings
8 units/acre
32
Independent living units
20 units/acre
55
Assisted living residence
16 units/acre
40
(2) 
Maximum building coverage shall not exceed 35% of the lot area for new construction or expansion of existing structures.
(3) 
For detached single-family dwellings, two-family dwellings, and townhouses, the minimum setback shall be 30 feet from all property lines in the General Residence District, and 15 feet in the Commercial 1, Commercial 2, and Industrial 2 Districts, unless the Planning Board determines that a reduced setback is necessary to achieve the purposes of this section and will not have a detrimental impact on the neighborhood. The minimum setback for an assisted living residence, independent living units, or any buildings in a continuing care retirement community shall be 50 feet in all districts.
(4) 
The minimum common open space in the development shall be 30% of the lot area, and not more than 15% of the required minimum common open space shall consist of wetlands.
(5) 
Minimum off-street parking requirements shall be as follows:
(a) 
Detached single-family dwellings, two-family dwellings, or townhouses: two spaces per unit.
(b) 
Independent living units: one space per unit.
(c) 
Assisted living residence: one space per two units.
(d) 
Skilled nursing facility or physical rehabilitation center, if included in a continuing care retirement community: one space per two beds.
(e) 
Guest parking: one space per three units or three beds, as applicable.
E. 
Age-appropriate design.
(1) 
A senior residential development shall be designed to provide senior housing services in a setting that encourages and supports aging in community; they must be visitable and age appropriate by design. At minimum, these terms mean that a senior residential development shall have the following features:
(2) 
Single-family, two-family, and townhouse units shall provide for:
(a) 
At least one zero-step entrance,
(b) 
Doorways with a thirty-six-inch clear passage space,
(c) 
Master bedroom and an accessible bathroom located on the same floor as the kitchen, living room, and dining room, all being on the same floor as the zero-step entrance, and
(d) 
Indoor or structured parking.
(3) 
Independent living units and assisted living facilities shall comply with the accessibility requirements of the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board.
(4) 
Outdoor facilities, such as walkways, gardens, and recreation areas, shall be designed for universal access.
F. 
Development standards. As part of the Planning Board's special permit review process, the Board shall evaluate the proposed senior residential development for conformance to the following minimum design standards.
(1) 
Architectural planning and design shall incorporate energy efficient design techniques, such as natural heating and cooling systems, use of sun and wind energy generation systems, and so forth.
(2) 
Structures located near the project property lines shall be designed and located in a manner that reflects consistency and compatibility with neighboring areas, and shall include appropriate use of building density, heights and design to minimize any intrusion on neighbors.
(3) 
Outdoor recreation or gathering areas, particularly those that may generate significant noise and/or light and glare, shall be located to minimize intrusion on neighboring properties.
(4) 
Structures shall be clustered to reduce site disturbance and protect open spaces, natural and environmentally sensitive areas.
(5) 
Building design shall avoid use of long, unbroken facades, and shall include use of balconies, offset walls, trellises and other design features.
(6) 
Building design, colors, and materials shall generally correspond to the natural setting of the project site, and to any prevalent design styles that may occur in neighborhoods within the general project area.
(7) 
The development shall be served by public water and sewer.
G. 
Procedures.
(1) 
The special permit application, public hearing, and decision procedures shall be in accordance with this article, the Planning Board's rules and regulations, and § 675-1170 (Special permits) and § 675-1010 (Site plan review) of this Zoning Code.
(2) 
The applicant shall submit a senior residential development special permit and site plan review application together with the size, form, number, and contents of the required plans and any supplemental information as required in this Code and the Planning Board's Rules and Regulations.
H. 
Decision.
(1) 
The Planning Board may grant a senior residential development special permit and a site plan review decision with any conditions, safeguards, and limitations it deems necessary to mitigate the project's impact on the surrounding area and to ensure compliance with this article, only upon finding that:
(a) 
The senior residential development meets the purposes, requirements, and development standards of this § 675-840 and satisfies the requirements of § 675-1010, Site plan review.
(b) 
The senior residential development is consistent with the goals of the Community Development or Master Plan.