Where We Are Today
After a pause in the spring 2019, the City is back at work on Zoning Redesign beginning in January 2020. Building from the first draft, released in October 2018, staff and the Zoning and Planning (ZAP) Committee Chair and Co-Chair have developed a process to efficiently work through the draft Zoning Ordinance to achieve the goal of full adoption by the end of this Council term (2021). The process focuses around ZAP and incorporates constant community engagement in various forms to both inform and guide the City along the way. The established process and proposed prioritization for tackling each Article consists of three parts:
Part I: Overview and Discussion Workshops
- Overview Meeting: The Planning Department will set the stage for the work ahead by presenting an overview for each Article of the draft Zoning Ordinance on the what, why, and how of the content. The overview discussion at ZAP will help determine the exact needs and timeline for each Article. At least one week before the overview meeting, staff will publicize the full text of the draft Article in an electronic and/or printed paper format, along with other supporting material to use throughout the process.
- Discussion Workshops: Following each Overview Meeting, the Planning Department will host a series of workshops at ZAP meetings. There will be approximately one workshop per topic or issue within each Article. Some Articles, like Residence Districts or Village Districts, may require multiple workshops; other more straight-forward Articles may only require one or two. The Discussion Workshops should confirm the direction, the methods, and the numbers (e.g. 5’ setback versus 8’ setback) in order to inform the content for the refined draft. Case studies will be presented to analyze outcomes in order to determine the results from the proposed Zoning Ordinance fully achieve Newton’s goals. Part II serves to address line-by-line text edits and other format considerations.
Part II: Summary and Editing Workshop
- Summary Meeting: To ensure a smooth transition from Part I into Part II, staff proposes the Committee review a summary of the outcomes developed in Part I: the direction, the methods, and the numbers. Staff will then present an outline of work for Part II, focusing on sections that need line-by-line review. Following the summary meeting, at least two weeks before the Editing Workshop, Councilors will receive a revised draft Article. Any Councilor may submit written proposals for line-by-line edits to the revised Article.
- Editing Workshop: ZAP should engage in a structured discussion to consider proposed format and wordsmithing edits methodically, building to a draft Article that effectively implements the direction and purpose developed in Part I.
Part III: Public Comment at ZAP and Straw Vote
- Public Comment at ZAP: Councilors should have the opportunity to hear from focus group participants, interested community groups, and residents from throughout the community. After receiving public comment, the Committee may deliberate and make changes to the draft Article as appropriate.
- Straw Vote: At the following meeting, after the public comment at ZAP, staff recommends the Committee hold a straw vote on the proposed Article to memorialize their support before moving on. This vote, and process generally, mimics the Charter Reform process undertaken by the Charter Commission between 2015 and 2017.
Staff provides any background documents and supporting materials to ZAP at least one week before each meeting to allow sufficient time to prepare. At the same time, staff posts the same materials on the project website for the public and in the Friday Packet for all other Councilors. While at ZAP, the Planning Department is running a parallel process of engagement, including meetings with the Planning & Development Board, other City departments and commissions, focus groups, and open office hours with community members. Committee of the Whole meetings will also be important to keep the entire Council up to date on the progress being made and to solicit feedback on each article.
Further Information on Process
The City Council’s Zoning Redesign project began in 2011. A Zoning Reform Group (ZRG) was tasked by the Mayor and Board of Alderman to develop a plan for reforming Newton's zoning ordinance to enhance its usability and bring the regulations into compliance with the City’s Comprehensive Plan. The ZRG recommended a three-phase process to achieve this:
- Phase I – Reorganize and reformat the current Zoning Ordinance to make it easier to use, resolve confusing or contradictory passages, incorporate illustrations and tables
- Phase II – Comprehensively rewrite the Zoning Ordinance and revise the Zoning Map to address the themes within the ZRG report and to better implement the Comprehensive Plan
- Phase III – Review the new Zoning Ordinance after one year to consider how well it has worked and make coordinated adjustments leading to an ongoing process of regularly scheduled zoning maintenance
To find additional information on any Zoning Redesign work done before 2020, please click on the Past Work tab on the Zoning Redesign website.