Frequently Asked Questions

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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 $18.60 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 on, but not over, the property line.


Is a permit required for a shed?
The placement of a shed, of any size, on your land does require a permit to establish compliance with zoning.  Under Massachusetts State Building Code any shed over 200 square feet will require a building permit and possibly building plans and a survey showing the placement of the shed and the other requirement’s it yields.  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 Inspectional Services 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.

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.

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.