Zoning Redesign

Next Meeting:

October 22, 2018
City Council (Zoning & Planning Committee)

7:00 p.m.

Room 205

City Hall

Project Contact:
James Freas

Associate Director






The City of Newton is embarking on project to rewrite and redesign its Zoning Ordinance.  Newton’s current zoning was last changed in 1987 and needs to be redesigned to reflect current best practices and to better protect the characteristics of this city that make it a great place to live. The goal is to create an easily understood ordinance that preserves what is best about Newton and is, at the same time, forward thinking.

Summer 2018 Update

At the July 30th, 2018 ZAP meeting, staff presented the first draft of the zoning map, which builds upon the discussions at the May event from the Zoning Redesign Events Series. Presentation available here. 

Click here for a version of the Draft Map that can be zoomed in further. 

Check out the entire nine-part 2017-2018 Zoning Redesign series at www.courbanize.com/newtonzoning.

On October 22nd, 2018, the planning team will release the new draft Zoning Ordinance at the Zoning and Planning Committee (ZAP) of the City Council. An updated map will also be released. Opportunities for public comment and input will be available throughout the fall and winter. 

This fall Newton City Councilors will work with staff to organize ward-by-ward meetings where members of the community will be invited to review the first draft of the zoning map and provide comment.  Also during the fall the project team will be working with local architects and designers to "test" the proposed dimensional standards and architectural design criteria in the ordinance.

Pattern Book

Take a close look at the draft Pattern Book online or at Newton Free Library and discuss what you want to see in Newton's new zoning ordinance at the 2017-2018 Event Series.


The City Council’s Zoning Reform project began in 2011, a Zoning Reform Group was tasked by the Mayor and Board of Alderman to develop a plan for reforming Newton's zoning ordinance. Phase One of the zoning reform project was completed in 2015, which successfully reorganized the existing ordinance making it easier to understand, but it did not alter the content of the ordinance.

The Department of Planning & Development has been hearing from residents and land owners about a few things that we believe could be addressed with context-based zoning:

  • Tear Downs.  Concern from residents when property owners demolish homes that are usually smaller and older and replace them with much larger homes that may be out of context with the surrounding neighborhood, but are allowable under the current zoning.
  • Special Permits.  Some changes to homes require special permits, which can be a challenging process for the applicant and for the neighborhood. 
  • Enforcement.  Currently, the zoning ordinance is difficult to understand and makes compliance and enforcement less clear for residents.
  • Unpredictability.  Residents are surprised by what’s allowed and have commented to staff that there is little predictability.

Project Materials & Past Events

Zoning Redesign Event Series 2017 - 2018

The Zoning Redesign nine-part event series took place from September 2017 through May 2018.  Each event covered a different topic and was held at Newton Free Library, 300 Homer St. Go to the interactive website to learn more and RSVP for the events here.

Zoning Redesign Workshop, May 11, 2017

A workshop deep-dive into the draft Pattern Book. View a recording of the presentation and slides from the event. 

Zoning Updates to ZAP

As part of the overall Zoning Redesign Project, the Planning Department is writing regular updates to the Zoning and Planning Committee. Updates include general information on zoning and related topics. 

Presentation to ZAP, March 13, 2017

Go to the project website to see all the updates.

Pattern Book Open House, December 3 & 4, 2016

Thank you to all who made it out to the Pattern Book Open House. We had great interest and participation from over 100 Newton residents who stopped by.

Project Kickoff, October 5, 2016

View a recording of the presentation and the slides from the Zoning Redesign Kickoff Event October 5, 2016. 

Archive ~ Zoning Reform Phase One

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