Village Overlay District

          One of the goals of the 2006 Master Plan was to establish Design Review Guidelines and establish a committee to review commercial projects in town. Residential homes would not be subjected to the Design Review or the Guidelines. The Committee would review the building architecture, building materials, landscape treatments, lighting design, public amenities, building mass etc … The town adopted these guidelines and established a design advisory team (DAT) at the May 2011 Town Meeting.

       Another goal of the Master Plan was to strengthen the site plan review bylaw. This was done at the May 2011 Town Meeting. Now when the Board of Selectmen review a  commercial proposal they will consider the Design Review Criteria. In addition to a site plan review, a Development Impact Study is required which looks at environmental, fiscal impacts, community impacts, traffic, parking and transportation.

Another goal of the Master Plan is to update the Table of Uses. A more detailed Table of Uses would take the guess work out of deciding if a particular use is permitted or not and allow the town to manage future growth with more precision. The current bylaw needs more specific use definitions to anticipate and address common uses that are not yet present. For example Health Clubs and Shopping Malls are not listed. The Master Plan also suggests reviewing the “as of right” uses to insure that this designation remains appropriate. Another suggestion is limiting the size of “big box” stores. The Planning Board is currently working on the use table and will bring this to the May 2012 Town Meeting.

Another goal is to create a mixed use Village Overlay District (VOD) to create compatible retail and commercial space (not “strip malls”). A VOD would permit small to moderate economic development and residential uses designed in a village setting and scale. This district would have strong connections, consistent architecture, and small scale structures by limiting the size and bulk of these uses so be consistent with the character of the town. It would allow for top of shop housing at a higher density and the setbacks would be reduced to allow parking to be to the rear or side of the structures. Current zoning only permits one building per lot which forces the developer to construct one large building it also forces parking to be up front. By allowing multiple buildings it would create smaller scale structures which would be more consistent with the village character.

The Planning Board began working on this concept in 2008 with UMASS Amherst and most recently with a consultant through a grant obtained from the regional planning organization.  The Planning Board has an article on the May 2012 Town Meeting. To view this draft bylaw please visit

If you have any comments or feedback I would love to hear from you.

Jennifer Burney,

Bolton Town Planner


About Southborough Town Planner

I am the Town Planner for the Town of Southborough MA
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