Zoning and Somerville’s Land Use Committee

Zoning is the process of planning how a city will be used. Zoning sets guidelines that direct urban growth and development. A zoning code will designate permitted or prohibited uses for different parts of a city. Naturally, a city’s zoning code is a contentious document, placing requirements on new development, with impacts on many stakeholders.

The City of Somerville has been trying to revamp its zoning code for quite some time now. For good reason: the current code is a century old in origin, with pages and pages of cobbled together revisions. It’s difficult to interpret, even for the city’s own Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development (OSPCD). And it’s virtually impossible to navigate for a mere homeowner, as I can attest to, without the help of either a lawyer or someone in the planning department. Or both.

Today, I attended a meeting of Somerville’s Land Use Committee, in which the Director of the OSPCD gave a rundown of a proposed zoning revision to the City’s Aldermen. I have to say, I’m impressed by the thinking that’s gone into this so far. We’ll digging into to some of the details in our next Climate Coalition of Somerville meeting, so I’ll reserve my full judgment, however.

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