Frequently Asked Questions
TOPIC: Land Use
How do I know if I have to come before the Conservation Commission?
Activities located within 100 ft. of a coastal or inland wetland, within 200 ft. of a perennial river and/or stream, within 250 ft. of a Vernal Pool or within an area subject to flooding requires an application for review and approval by the Conservation Commission. If the wetlands are not obvious, you can start by consulting with the Conservation Agent, who may be able to help you determine whether your project falls under the Commission's jurisdiction and/or whether your project will require a filing. Additional assistance may be necessary from a wetlands biologist to determine if your project is located in or within 100 feet of wetlands
What are your next few Conservation hearing dates and when do I have to have the filing submitted?
The meetings are generally held every two weeks at 6:15 p.m., and usually at the Town Hall, 600 Chief Justice Cushing Hwy; unless otherwise noted. Submissions are scheduled on a first-come-first-serve basis and should be submitted at least seven (7) business days prior to the date of the hearing.
Where can I get a copy of the Conservation applications I need?
Applications can be downloaded from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Website at http://mass.gov/dep/water/approvals/wwforms.htm. Also you can find filing guidelines, Rules and Regulations, and links to the DEP forms and much more at the Town of Scituate Website at www.town.scituate.ma.us under Conservation Commission.
What happens after the Notice of Intent is filled out?
You need to send the following:
- Department of Environmental Protection Southeast Regional Office - One copy of the Notice of Intent and Plans, a copy of the fee transmittal form and the wetlands filing fee calculation worksheet, and copy of the check. (Address: DEP/SERO – Wetlands Division, 20 Riverside Drive, Lakeville, MA 02347).
- Department of Environmental Protection - Boston Post Office Box address - One copy of the Notice of Intent Wetlands Fee calculation worksheet, Notice of Intent fee transmittal form and the check. (Address: Department of Environmental protection, Box 4062, Boston, MA 02211.
- Town of Scituate Conservation Commission, 600 Chief Justice Cushing Hwy, Scituate, MA 02066 – 1 original signed copy of the Notice of Intent and plans plus 8 copies.
- An ad will be placed in the Patriot Ledger for both a Request for Determination of Applicability and a Notice of Intent, stating when and where the meeting will be held. The ad shall be placed at least 5 days prior to the meeting, which is paid for by the applicant.
- Attend a Conservation meeting, bring proof of notification to abutters or the Commission will not hear the project. In order to be placed on the next agenda, applicants must submit a complete filing. New applications are placed on the agenda in the order they are received. A checklist for each application form outlining the basic information is available on www.town.scituate.ma.us under Conservation.
The Commission's goal is to protect resource areas from adverse impacts. Projects are reviewed on a case-by-case basis due to differences in resource areas and construction processes. All wetlands, including small seasonal wetlands which may be dry most of the year are very important filter areas which help clean and purify storm water, surface water and drainage areas, prior to surface water reentering critical resource areas such as rivers, streams, and drinking water sources. In addition, some small seasonal wetlands are Vernal Pools and are home to many salamanders, wood frogs, insects, fairy shrimp and other species that cannot exist without these vernal pools. More information on the state regulations can be found on the web at: http://www.mass.gov/dep/water/resources/wetlands.htm
What will happen at the Conservation Commission meeting?
The applicant will outline the project to the Commission and answer any questions the members or abutters might have. All meetings are always open to the public.
If you have filed a Determination of Applicability, the Commission will either issue a negative or positive determination. A negative determination means that the Wetlands Protection Act or the Scituate Bylaw does not apply and you can proceed with your plans. A positive determination means that the Wetland Protection and/or the Scituate Bylaw apply and you will need to file a Notice of Intent.
If you filed a Notice of Intent the Commission will either:
- Approve and issue an Order of Conditions, which is good for three years from the date of issuance. At the end of three years and before the Order runs out, a request in writing for an extension may be requested for up to three years for three times;
- Deny the project, OR;
- Advise the applicant of needed changes or that further information is required to make a decision.
My project was approved at the Conservation Commission's public hearing last night, when can I start work?
If you filed a Request for Determination, you must wait until you receive your Determination of Applicability in the mail and a ten (10)-business day appeal period has lapsed before you can begin work.
If you filed a Notice of Intent, four things must happen before you can begin work:
- You must wait until you receive your Order of Conditions either by certified mail or hand delivery. Staff needs copies of all final requested and approved documentation as well as a DEP file number issued by the State before release of the Order.
- Your ten (10)-business day appeal period must have lapsed without an appeal (10 business days from the date of issuance of the Order of Conditions).
- The Order of Conditions must be recorded at the Registry of Deeds with proof of recording submitted to the Conservation Office.
- A pre-construction meeting must be scheduled.
If you have any questions about starting work, please call the Conservation Office at 781-545-8721.
How do I add an Accessory Dwelling (In-law) to my house?
An Accessory Dwelling is sometimes also called an in-law apartment, but it can be rented to people who are not related to you, and does not have to be an apartment. An Accessory Dwelling can be up to 750 sq. ft., or 40% of the living space of the main part of the house, whichever is larger. It can be attached to your house, or in a separate building. If it's in a separate building, that building must comply with required setbacks for a single family home.
You will need to prepare a site plan and floor plans, and have them approved by the Planning Board before you can get a building permit for adding an Accessory Dwelling. The entire process usually takes about two months because of notice and other legal requirements. Information about this process is available in Section 530 of the Scituate Zoning Bylaw, which can be found on the town's web site. You should be aware the Town charges a $6500 hook up fee for new water service for a new separate unit like an Accessory Dwelling.
What do I do about flooding on my property?
If flooding already exists, it's usually not something that can be addressed by the Town. If neighbors are building or paving their property, a Stormwater Permit may be required if more than 15,000 sq. ft. of land is altered. The purpose of the Stormwater Permit is to try to prevent flooding and protect water quality, which can be affected by runoff. Information about this process is found in the Stormwater Bylaw and Stormwater Regulations, which can be found in the Planning Board section of the town's website.
Where do I get a copy of the plan showing my property?
Some plans show the dimensions of individual lots, including measurements taken by survey. If your property is part of a subdivision, or was created by a Form A Plan, the Planning Board should have a copy of the plan in its files. If not, you will need to consult a surveyor if you need a plan, or specific measurement information. You can generally get a copy of a sheet from a subdivision plan from the DPW for $3.
There seem to be surveyor's flags and people coming and going near my property. How do I find out what's happening?
The first steps in developing property are often flagging wetlands, and/or seeing if the ground will perk for a septic system. If you see people with survey instruments or other equipment that can also indicate a development is underway. This could be the owner, or the owner could allow a developer to submit a plan on the property. Information is often available from the Conservation Commission or Board of Health.
How can I influence plans for development near my property?
Development near your property can often provoke strong emotions. However, every property owner has the right to develop his land to the extent permitted by local, state and federal laws. If a public hearing is required, you will be notified, and have the right to express your opinion. It is most effective if you first state your name and address for the record, present your points succinctly, and explain the facts they are based on. Abutters are encouraged to work with developers if at all possible, because in some cases minor adjustments can be made to mitigate or reduce the impact of a development on adjacent owners.
Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA)
What do I need to submit in order to have a public hearing with the Zoning Board of Appeals?
The Zoning Board of Appeals is empowered to act on zoning appeals, special permits, findings, variances and comprehensive permits in accordance with applicable sections of Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 40A, 40B, and the Scituate Zoning Bylaws. You may file your application in the Building Department during regular business hours. Your application must include the following information:
- Two checks both made payable to the Town of Scituate. One check for $35.00, the cost for an abutter's list and one check for the filing fee.
- Eight copies of the site plan/plot plan stamped by a certified engineer showing building locations and setbacks both existing and proposed.
- Photographs of the site.
- One Copy of the current deed or certificate and record plan referred to in said deed (if applicable) or Purchase and Sale Agreement.
- One copy of letter of authorization if the applicant is not the owner of the property.
- One Copy of the assessor's card showing age of the building.
You will be contacted directly by either the Scituate Mariner or Patriot Ledger for payment of the legal advertisement for your application.
What are the filings fees for a public hearing with the Zoning Board of Appeals?
- Appeals are $300.00.
- Special Permit/Findings or Variance for One and Two-Family Dwellings are $200.00.
- Special Permit/Findings or Variance for Multi-Residential are $100.00 for each residential unit.
- Commercial: $300.00 first 3,000 square feet of commercial space and $100.00 for each additional 1,000 square feet of commercial space.
How often does the Zoning Board meet?
The Zoning Board meetings are held every third Thursday of the month in the Selectman's Hearing Room located at Town Hall, except when noted on the posted agenda.