There is a neighbor notification provision within the Form Based Code. The Form Based Code requires notification to be given to owners of property abutting the proposed location of a development project. All abutting property owners will be notified of the proposed project and invited to come in and speak to the Development Department about the project. The notification must include a project description, the project’s location on the subject lot, and elevations. The intent is for the Development Department to engage with the abutting property owners and serve as a conduit through which project changes may be discussed with the applicant to effectuate reasonable modifications to the project to address neighbor concerns. Members of the public who are not abutting property owners may also submit comment to the Development Department for consideration.
Under today’s existing Town Code, projects which are subject to a building permit or other purely administrative review are not subject to public comment. If notification occurs as a result of the permit process, there is no formal means by which public comment is considered in the review of the permit application. For example, unless a property is located within a conservation subdivision or is subject to some other restriction, a residential property may be improved with a swimming pool without opportunity for neighbors – near or far – to comment on that permit application. When the scope of the development triggers a requirement for site plan, special permit, subdivision, wetland permit, steep slopes, or variance approvals from the Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals, there is a formal public hearing process by which members of the public may submit written or verbal comment to the appropriate land use board for consideration. These comments inform the board’s review of the application but, by law, the board’s decision cannot rely solely on generalized community support or opposition to a project. Instead, the board must review the information, studies, comments and professional reports submitted in favor of and in opposition to the project and apply that information to the standard of review set forth in the Town Code. The Form Based Code maintains opportunity for public comment and maintains the purpose for which public comment is used in the application review process, but it changes the forum for providing comment. The project review and approval process is one of the areas under review, and is subject to change