Piggeries and Peculiar Lost Zoning Particulars.

With all the recent activity generated by the controversial auction of lots in Richmond Shores, I became curious about some particulars of zoning dimensional requirements. Gloria Morse and Holly Stover were also asking questions about when certain changes in zoning occurred, as they work on the upcoming Richmond Pond book. But, no good, accessible resource for all of Richmond’s zoning chronology exists. Or, at least until I started putting one together…

I spoke briefly with the current zoning czar (aka Chairman of the Planning Board) John Hanson, and learned that even though he’s been on the planning board for 40 years, his knowledge of the early days of Richmond zoning was limited and that no single document exists that truly digs into all the nitty-gritty.

Our current zoning bylaws, right up at the top section, do give summary bullet points about which year an amendment had been made. But the tiny blurbs like, “Added Radioactive Wastes’, or “Agriculture”, or “Windmills” are simply cryptic and not all that helpful. And, the summary-blurbs start at 1978. No blurbs for earlier versions.

So, after learning from an old newspaper clipping that the whole shebang began with a 1954 “Protective Bylaw”, I was off to Town Hall to look through records and find a copy… one thing leads to another and three days later I have a draft timeline/chronology of the evolution of our zoning bylaws. Of course, fantastic details emerged, including reporting about an argument surrounding the inclusion of the word ‘piggery‘ in the 1978 bylaws. This happened during a three-hour debate at town meeting. Which reminds me that zoom meetings today completely resemble the in-person meetings of yesteryear!

Regarding Richmond Shores zoning, I learned that the 1/5 acre-sized lots drawn up in the 1947-48  subdivision plans for Richmond Shores were subsequently regulated four times — with minimum dimensions imposed. First, the size was upped to 1/4 acre, then to 1 1/2 acres, then to 2 1/2 acres before the unfathomable 2014 downsize back to 1/4 acre. I understand the support for this most recent change was driven by residents always needing a special permit because many now were ‘non-conforming’ lots, but wasn’t there a more elegant way to fix that issue without opening up the already too densely developed shores to even more density disaster?

We truly need to honor the mountain of hard work put in by our Planning Board volunteers. Seriously. It is difficult, important work. And we owe a debt of gratitude to all those who have given their time. But that doesn’t mean we all need to agree that every change made along the way was/is a good one.

In one recent example, I certainly believe we are already reaping negative fallout sown from the 2018 adoption of concerts, parties, weddings, etc. as “Farm Functions”.  And, I fear the contentious special permitting process and ongoing nuisance that Balderdash generates, with the wreckage of multiple residents’ enjoyment of their own properties, is just the beginning.

With last night’s select board meeting on the verge of granting another such special permit, and also hearing others are approaching selectmen with thoughts about applying for their own, I truly fear an oncoming flurry of farm-function-special-permitting will throw us all into a vicious, slippery slide towards a new, not-improved version of Richmond. A version of Richmond that fills every spring, summer, and fall weekend with multiple loud events and fills our roads with inebriated attendees departing in all directions after last call.

How many events per weekend can our small community absorb? How many per day?

Will our town succumb to a tyranny of  ‘wedding-party-farmers’? Or will we find a way to restore the “protective’ part of our zoning bylaws? Will our town remain peaceful and beautiful? Will it remain the tranquil Richmond that attracted me to move here?

To lessen congestion in the streets; to conserve health; to secure safety from fire, flood, panic and other dangers; to provide adequate light and air; to prevent overcrowding, of land, to avoid undue concentration of population; to encourage housing for persons of all income levels; to facilitate the adequate provision of transportation, water, water supply, drainage, sewerage, schools, parks, open space and other public requirements; to conserve the value of land and buildings, including the conservation of natural resources and the prevention of blight and pollution of the environment; to encourage the most appropriate use of land throughout the city or town — Objectives, Section 2A of the 1975 Mass. Acts, Ch. 808 aka ‘The Zoning Act’

Despite the remaining gaps in my zoning timeline research, which will require a bit more time digging through old files to fill, I feel that the draft is still valuable in its present form. So, I’m posting it on the Law, Regs, and Bylaws page along with some of the supporting materials. Enjoy and happy researching!

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