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Where can I find the City of Newton Zoning Ordinances?

The City of Newton Zoning Ordinances can be found on the City's website at under Section 30.  Hard copies are also available at the City Clerk’s office for a fee.

Chapter 30

When is a fence permit needed and what is the fee?

According to the City’s Ordinance found in Section 5-30, Regulation of Perimeter Fences, all fences 4 to 6 feet (additional rules apply to back yard fences – see the ordinance) require a fence permit. If the fence is over 6 feet the applicant is required to submit a “denied” fence permit application to the Urban Design Committee for review.  If the Committee approves the application the applicant will then apply for a building permit. As of July 1, 2014 there will be charge of $20.00 per thousand dollars of the job to be completed for all fence permits. This includes labor and material.

How close can a fence or driveway be to a property line?

A fence can be placed up to the property line.

Is a permit required for a shed?
Yes, a permit is required for a shed.
1. Under Massachusetts State Building Code any shed over 200 square feet will require a building permit, building plans, and a survey showing the placement of the shed on the lot.
2. However, the placement of a shed of any size will also require a building permit to establish compliance with City of Newton Zoning.

Zoning Compliance: side and rear setbacks for all accessory buildings must be 5 feet.

When do smoke alarms need to be updated?

Per the Massachusetts State Building Code 780 CMR 314.3.1 (Building Code/BBRS), when one or more sleeping rooms are added or created in existing dwellings, the entire building shall be provided with smoke detectors designed and located as required for new dwellings.

For other alterations or repairs that would require a fire protection system in an existing building be upgraded, refer to 780 CMR sections 313 thru 315, as applicable.

When one or more than one smoke or heat detector is require, all required detectors shall be installed so that the activation of any detector shall cause the alarm in all required smoke detectors in that dwelling unit to sound.

Detector activation in a dwelling unit shall not activate signals in any other dwelling unit or common areas.

What are window requirements (size, location) for a bedroom?

Per the Massachusetts State Building Code 780 CMR sec. 1029 (Building Code/BBRS), for 1 and 2 family houses: Sleeping rooms shall have at least one openable window or exterior door approved for emergency egress or rescue in each such room.  The units shall be operable from the inside to a full clear opening without the use of a key or tool.  Emergency escape windows shall have a sill height of not more than 44 inches above the floor to the opening.

Per 780 CMR sec. 1029, all emergency escape windows from sleeping rooms shall have a net clear opening of 5.7 square feet.  The minimum net clear opening sizes shall be 20 inches in width and 24 inches in height.

How large can a garage be?

  • A detached garage can be a maximum of 3 cars and 700 square feet and a height of 22 feet  (18 feet for a flat roof) measured from the average grade to the highest point of a sloping roof.  Side and rear setbacks must be 5 feet.
  • An attached garage can be a maximum of 3 cars and 700 sqaure feet and a height of 30 feet measured from the average grade to the highest point of a sloping roof.  Setbacks must meet building setback requirements established in sec. 30-15. 

Where can I find information on the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA)?

All of the information for the ZBA can be found on the City’s website under the Planning & Development Department or by following this link Zoning Board of Appeals.

My single family home is located in a single residence zone (SR1-3). How many boarders may I take in?

You may take in up to three (3) boarders.

Asbestos Information & Resources
For more information visit the Commonwealth of MA Website.

How can I apply for a grant to preserve open space in Newton? What past projects has Newton funded?

Newton's Community Preservation Program provides grants to develop affordable housing, preserve historic resources or conservation land, and to create and improve City parks. A 9-member volunteer Community Preservation Committee evaluates proposals and recommends funding to the Board of Aldermen, which may then appropriate the requested funds.

To find out how to propose a project, or what past projects have been funded, explore our website at

For more information, contact program manager Alice Ingerson at 617.796.1144 or

Community Preservation Program, Planning & Development Dept.
Newton City Hall, 1000 Commonwealth Avenue
MA 02459

Phone: 617/796.1144

Click to View
Newton Community Preservation Program

How do I register to vote?
You may register to vote at the Election Commission Office in Room 106, Newton City Hall. The office is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm and Tuesday evenings until 8:00 pm. If it is more convenient, you may request a mail-in voter registration form. Forms are available at most public libraries in the State.

I want to report gangs in the park
Dial 911

If I am unable to reach my Alderman to discuss an issue, is there someone else that can help me?
Yes, Please contact the Board of Aldermen's Office and speak to a Committee Clerk.

My nieghbor’s house seems to have many people coming and going. What is the maximum number of inhabitants in a dwelling?

The maximum is approximated by counting the family in residence (members related by blood or adoption) plus up to three boarders.

What is your Payment Policy?
A $30.00 non refundable deposit per week is due with the registration form. A person signing up for 6 weeks of camp would need to submit a $180.00 non refundable deposit. There will be no refund of your deposit. We do understand, however, that sometimes plans change, so you will have until March 15th to make any changes to the weeks you have registered for. If you cancel out of weeks, the deposit that you have already paid will be applied to the remaining weeks of camp and lower your balance due. All camp balances are due by May 15th.

My home is located in a single residence (SR1-3) zone. May I rent my home to an association of persons living together (5 or more persons) as of right?

No, this use (association of persons) is subject to first obtaining a special permit from the Board of Aldermen.

May I rent my single family home to four (4) unrelated residents, such as students, or others? I will not be living in the house.

Yes, provided the total number of unrelated occupants does not exceed four (4).  The Zoning Ordinance requires that more than four lodgers requires a special permit from the Board of Aldermen for a lodging house, and it must be located in a Multi-Residence zone.

Does my voter registration follow me if I move from one community to another?
No. Your voter registration does not follow you. You must register to vote in Newton. The Election Office will notify your previous community of your changed voter registration. Your voter activity history will follow you through the State voter registry system.

How do I get to the Newton Health Department?
The Newton Health Department is in City Hall at 1000 Commonwealth Ave, Newton. Here are directions to City Hall.

How do you get to the Newton Senior Center?
To see driving directions, please visit our Directions page. We also provide transportation services to the Center for those who have no other way of getting here. Please visit our Transportation page for more information.

What is the difference between a docket, reports docket, and an agenda?
The term "Docket" refers to the document which lists all incoming “New Business” for referral to appropriate Committees.

The term “Reports Docket” refers to the document which lists all business that has been discussed in Committee and is now ready to be acted upon by the full Board of Aldermen.

The term “Agenda” refers to the document which lists all business that is appropriately before any given Committee of the Board.  Items remain on the Committee agenda until such time as the Committee has made final recommendation for action by the Full Board.

Are meetings of the Board and its Committees open to the public?
Yes, the Board of Aldermen operates within the requirements of the Open Meeting Law by posting all of its meetings and inviting the public to observe – these are public meetings. Some Committee and/or Full Board meetings consist of public hearings during which time members of the public are welcome to offer comment and ask questions regarding specific issues – for public hearings, notice is published in the local newspaper.

What are the Center's operating hours?
We are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Please keep your eye on the calendar for special events held outside our normal operating hours.

When and where can I get vaccinated for influenza?
Visit the Newton Flu Information webpage.

Where do I vote in the City of Newton?
Your voting location is determined by your precinct. Click this link to see your Ward, Precinct and Voting location. It will also list your State Representative district.

What is the difference between Alderman and Alderman-at-Large?
The Ward Alderman lives in the Ward he/or she represents and is elected only by constituents who live in that Ward. The Alderman-at-Large for any given Ward lives in that Ward, but is elected by voters city-wide.

What is the last day to register to vote prior to an election?
The last day to register is twenty days prior to the election. The Election Commission is open on the last evening to register until 8:00 pm. For further information, call the Election Commission Office at (617) 796-1350.

What's for lunch?
Our lunch menu can be found on our Let's Eat page.

Who is at high risk for the flu?
Visit the CDC Influenza webpage for more information.

Do I have to change back to unenrolled status if I vote in a primary election?
No. Due to recent changes, you will not lose your unenrolled status if you vote in a primary election. For questions regarding your voter registration status, call the Election Commission at (617) 796-1350.

I have an issue that I would like to have discussed by a Committee of the Board, how can I bring it forward?
It is suggested that you first contact your Ward Alderman, who will assist you in determining the best approach to handle the issue at hand.

What are the requirements of the Mass. Dept. of Public Health housing regulations?
Please review the Massachusetts Housing Codes for more information.

What do I have to do to join the Newton Senior Center? Is there a membership?
All you have to do to "join" is drop in and sign in. See Our Programs for a listing of programs and specifics about fees and/or donations. Please contact Ilana Levine, Program Coordinator, at 617-796-1670 or for more information.

Do I have to be a Newton resident to participate at the Center?
No, you do not have to be a Newton resident. Non-Newton residents are welcome to participate, however for programs with limited space, Newton residents do get priority. Many of the volunteers at the center are from other towns. We encourage all to participate.

I have information regarding a pending item or an invitation or event announcement that I would like to distribute to the members of the Board. What is the best way to do that?
While some Aldermen prefer to receive e-mail (see Board contact list), the best way to reach all members of the Board is by sending your written comments to the Clerk’s office; each Alderman has a mailbox there and they receive a weekly delivery of all of their City mail (every Friday). Please be sure to get your information (25 copies – 1 for the Clerk’s record) to the Clerk’s office by 3 p.m. on Friday to have it included in the weekly mail distribution packet.

Top 10 questions asked about lead poisoning and the Massachusetts Lead Law
Visit the Massachusetts DPH website for more information.

What hours are the polls open?
For all elections in the City of Newton, polls are open from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm.

How do I request a parking or traffic change?
The City of Newton Traffic Council was formed in 1998 by the Board of Aldermen to evaluate proposed changes to existing traffic regulations (parking restrictions, signs, signals, etc.). Due to the volume of petitions received, there is approximately a 3 to 6 month waiting period before requests will be heard. Traffic council meetings are open to the general public; the public is offered an opportunity to speak at the discretion of the Traffic Council chair. Residents of a particular street are notified in writing approximately 1-2 weeks before the item is heard by Traffic Council. For more information, please see the Traffic Council webpage or review the Traffic Council Form.

Where can I find information regarding elections?
You may visit the City of Newton Election Commission web page for updated information. Also, the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s Election Division can answer questions regarding federal and state elections. The phone number is (617) 727-2828.

Where can I get NHD permits applications, instructions, and other forms?
Please visit the Newton Health Department for detailed information.

Will I fit in at the Center? What type of person participates?
People from all walks of life, ethnic backgrounds, income levels, educational backgrounds participate in a huge variety of general life experiences at the Center. We do require that those who attend the Center and its programs do so independently. Some people spend the whole day at the Center, some drop in for specific programs and others use it in whatever combination fits their schedule. If you need additional assistance, Center staff can guide you to other programs.

How can I get an absentee ballot?
Absentee ballot requests can be made at the Election Commission Office or by sending a letter of request with an original signature (no faxes or e-mails). Permanently disabled citizens can be put on a permanent list if a doctor’s note in forwarded to the Election Office. They will be sent an application every year thereafter. For further information, visit the Election Commission web page.

What immunizations does my child need to attend school?
Massachusett School Immunization Requirements (PDF)

What programs do you offer at the Center that may be of interest to me?
Take a look at Our Programs and we are pretty sure something there will catch your eye. We are always interested in expanding our programing; please contact Ilana Levine, Program Coordinator, 617-796-1670 or with any suggestions. 

Can you take my son or daughter off of the voting list?
Only if they inform us in writing that they do not wish to vote in Newton anymore by sending us a letter or e-mail.

What do I need to do if my child must take medications (OTC or prescription) while at school?
Visit the Health Department Forms webpage for more information.

Who funds the Newton Senior Center?
The Center is funded by an array of public funds and private contributions. We receive city, state, and federal funds, as well as contributions of all sizes from individuals, corporations and foundations. The Senior Citizen Fund of Newton is a private, not-for-profit organization which generously raises and distributes private funds to support the Newton Senior Center and transportation for seniors. If you would like more information please contact Jayne Colino, Director, at 617-796-1671 or

Are Election Commission records public information?
Records of residents over 17 years of age are public information. Resident lists or disks can be purchased for $25.00. The updated Residents List is available in July, whereas census disks are updated throughout the year.

FAQs Title 5 Septic Systems
Visit the Mass Dept of Environmental Protection webpage for more information.

How can I find information on housing options for Newton Seniors?
See Resources and Links for a listing of the various housing options available in Newton or contact one of our Case Managers, Emily Kuhl at 617-796-1672, or Sandy Lopes 617-796-1663

Can I submit my census data by telephone?
No. Please return your original census form. This information must be returned for our permanent records.

FAQs about nuisance wildlife
Mass Audubon

Where can I find home-based services like homemakers and home health aides?
Home care services may be obtained from private agencies or through Springwell, the local Aging Services Access Point/ Home Care Corporation (617-926-4100). Springwell has income and "tasks of daily living" criteria which must be met. The Newton Dept. of Senior Services maintains a list of private agencies. If you are not sure, please call senior services (617-796-1660) and speak with a social worker who can help you access the best options.

What does the “U” represent in the political party column on the census form?
The “U” identifies the individual as an unenrolled or independent voter.

My parents are thinking about moving to Newton to be closer to us. What services and programs would be available to them?
You're looking at the best resource to find that information. Look around this web site, use its links, and explore the wonderful world of Newton's senior services and programs.

What does the Election Commission do when there is no election?
As soon as the last election is finished, the Election Commission starts compiling census data. The new year for census starts in January. The office receives census data on a daily basis from residents in the city which is entered into the state computer system. It is very important for residents to return their census forms in order for the Election Office to compile the census list and disks. This information is ready for the public by July 1st.

What transportation services are available to seniors?
Please visit our Transportation page for a listing of services that can get you around the city and beyond.