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The Planning Board has the responsibility to review certain proposed development projects in Town and make decisions on them in accordance with state and local bylaws. The Planning Board has five regular members who are elected. Planning Board members have a variety of backgrounds and volunteer to serve on the board. They are assisted by a professional staff that work in the Planning Division at the Town Offices during the day.
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If you received a notice in the mail from the Planning Board, it means that you are an abutter (as defined by law) to a proposed development that will be reviewed by the Board at an upcoming meeting. The notice is required by state law to let you know that a public hearing is being held on the project. If you have questions about the notice that you received, please call the Community Development Office at 978-640-4370.
Copies of the application, plans, and supporting materials are on file at the Community Development office located in the lower level of Town Hall. You are welcome to review this information and may pay for copies of any information you would like to keep. The Community Development Office normal office hours are Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM, Tuesday from 7:30 AM to 6:00 PM, and Friday 7:30 AM to 12:30 PM.
The Planning Board regularly meets on two Mondays each month, except for July, August, and December where typically only one meeting is held.
The notice you received in the mail tells you when and where the public hearing is scheduled. It is also published in the legal notice section of the Tewksbury edition of the Town Crier.
At the first hearing, the applicant will present plans and explain the proposal to the Planning Board. The Board will ask questions, generally where clarification is needed. There will be an opportunity for those in the audience to ask questions or offer opinions. Comments may also be submitted in writing to the Planning Board prior to the hearing. Any correspondence should be emailed to email@example.com or mailed to the attention of the Planning Board at the Town Offices.
Since the Board often hears several projects in an evening, hearings last a specified period of time. At the end of this time, the hearing may be either closed or continued to a future meeting.
Occasionally, for simple projects, hearings can be completed in one night and are closed; meaning that no further testimony is taken. More often, hearings will be continued with direction given by the Board to the applicant on revisions to the plans or information that is needed. Continued hearings may be several weeks or months in the future depending on how long it takes the applicant to gather the required information and the Board's workload.
Occasionally the hearing process is delayed due to weather, the absence of a Board member or at the applicant's request. To verify that a hearing is being held on a scheduled date, you can call the Community Development Office on the day of the hearing at 978-640-4370.
Comments can be submitted in writing to the Planning Board prior to the close of the public hearing by email or mailed to the attention of the Planning Board at the Town Hall. Copies will be provided to the Planning Board members, staff, and placed in the public file. As with all testimony, it is most helpful to raise concerns early in the process.
The Planning Board is subject to the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law (M.G.L. c. 30A, §§ 18-25). If members of the Planning Board respond to a communication outside of the public hearing, it could be a violation of the Open Meeting Law. All communications will be discussed and responded to during the public hearings.
After the public hearing is closed by the Planning Board, no new information can be submitted. The Board deliberates and makes a decision at a Board meeting. The Board generally either approves a plan with conditions or denies it if it does not meet Town standards. Interested individuals are welcome to attend and listen, but may not make further comments. The Board will also make its decisions on any waiver requests at this time. The decision is voted on and filed with the Town Clerk by the decision deadline.
If you are a legal abutter to a development project who was notified of the public hearing, you will be notified by the Planning Board when their decision is filed with the Town Clerk. Any appeals may be filed during the 20-day appeal period as set forth in the decision notice.