III. PERMITTING PROCEDURES
- General Provisions
The Commission shall adopt in the Regulations, rules, and standards consistent with the By-Laws and the Act to ensure the orderly review, issuance, and enforcement of development permits for the construction upon or use of land within Devens.
- Event Permit
- The Commission may grant an event permit to authorize a short-term activity within Devens, for an event not to exceed fourteen (14) consecutive days in length, such as participatory sports, family entertainment, outdoor markets, concerts, and special events.
- The Commission shall establish in the Regulations requirements for the granting of an event permit. Any application for an event permit shall include information relating to the potential impact that such event will have on traffic, sensitive environmental resources, public health, and public safety issues within Devens and the Towns. Prior to the issuance of an event permit, the Commission shall consult with both the selectmen and the police chief of the Town in which the event is to be held.
- An event permit shall not be deemed necessary if a property owner or business intends to hold a one (1) day promotional event on its land within Devens.
- Development Permit
- The Commission shall develop a single development permit application form and procedure to provide for the issuance of a unified development permit, hereinafter a "Development Permit," which will include provisions for all the land use approvals required by an applicant to develop land at Devens. Upon approval of a unified Development Permit application, the applicant shall be issued a single Development Permit by the Commission. The application form and procedure for such permit shall incorporate all aspects of any permits or licenses required by an applicant to develop land at Devens, including the subdivision of land, the issuance of building and occupancy permits, zoning approval, site plan review, determination of applicability or an order of conditions under the Massachusetts Wetlands Act, design approval in designated historic districts, public health permits, and any other permits or licenses within the authority of the Commission. The Commission shall hold concurrent public hearings whenever feasible to consider the various aspects of a development application. Upon approval of such application, the applicant shall be issued a single Development Permit by the Commission.
- Levels of Review
- In order to administer the development permitting process in a manner that will ensure an appropriate level of evaluation and review consistent with the scope and complexity of each proposed project, there shall be at least two levels of application review, consisting of one level, hereinafter "Level One," for relatively simple submissions, as further described hereafter, and a second level, hereinafter "Level Two," for more complicated or higher impact submissions.
- An application for a Development Permit shall be deemed Level One in the following cases:
a. issuance of building or occupancy permit, wherein no other Commission action or site plan review is required;
b. issuance of a permit for alteration or creation of a lot for any of the following purposes: revision of lot lines, division of a lot containing two (2) buildings into two (2) lots with separate buildings, and division of a single lot unimproved by a building into two (2) or more smaller lots; provided, however, that in any event all resultant lots shall comply with the frontage requirements in Article VIII and said frontage shall be on a way which the Commission certifies is used and maintained as a public way;
c. approval of minor modifications to an already approved site plan consistent in scope with the following examples: a change to a more desirable variety of landscape material; a shift of less than eight (8) feet in building placement on the lot, for siting reasons; a shift in site utility connections, in order to provide improved hookup to the public system or to avoid a natural constraint; an adjustment of not more than three (3) feet in the width or location of a driveway entrance, in order to improve sight distance or to avoid a natural constraint; and similar adjustments required to facilitate a more functional site plan;
d. approval of minor architectural modifications of a structure within an historic district consistent in scope with the following examples:
movement of less than six (6) inches in an approved window or door opening; modifications of less than two (2) total inches on an approved shutter or removable facade feature; shifts of less than one (1) foot of a staircase or existing canopy; modifications to approved signs involving less than ten (10) percent of the sign area; or reasonable modifications to sign placement for practical reasons;
e. issuance of a certificate of compliance under an order of conditions.
- An application for a Development Permit shall be deemed Level Two in all other circumstances.
- In accordance with the guidelines provided in the foregoing paragraphs 2 and 2, the determination as to whether a particular application should be classified as a Level One or a Level Two application shall initially be made by the Land Use Administrator and any challenge to that determination shall be determined by the Commission pursuant to Article II F 4.
- Contents and Procedure Applicable to a Development Permit Application
- The Commission shall establish and adopt in the Regulations requirements for the submittal and review of Development Permits, which shall be consistent with the By-Laws and made available to the general public.
- A Level One Development Permit may be approved by the Land Use Administrator. Within seven (7) days after the submittal of a Level One Development Permit application, the Land Use Administrator shall determine whether the Level One Development Permit application package is complete. If the Land Use Administrator fails to make such determination within the seven (7) day review period, the application shall be deemed complete. If a Level One Development Permit application is deemed incomplete, the Land Use Administrator shall, in writing, inform the applicant of the deficiencies in the application. Within twenty-one (21) calendar days of the Land Use Administrator's determination that an application is complete, a Level One Development Permit shall be issued or denied unless the applicant requests and the Land Use Administrator approves an extension of the twenty-one (21) calendar day period. The Land Use Administrator may request the applicant to approve an extension of the twenty-one (21) day review period. The Land Use Administrator shall furnish the Commission with a written summary of Level One Development Permits issued each month.
- A Level Two Development Permit may be approved by the Commission, subject to the following procedures:
a. The applicant shall participate in a mandatory pre-permitting conference with the Land Use Administrator and staff for the purposes of discussing the scope of the application, determining specific submission requirements, and defining the precise types of submissions required. The purpose is to provide for a simple and uniform procedure for exchanging basic information between the applicant and the Land Use Administrator.
b. Within fourteen (14) days after the submittal of a Level Two Development Permit application, the Land Use Administrator shall determine whether the Level Two Development Permit application package is complete and in compliance with the By-Laws and Regulations. If deemed complete, the Level Two Development Permit application shall be approved as to form and the application package shall be forwarded to the Commission for full review and consideration at a public hearing. If the Land Use Administrator fails to make such determination within the fourteen (14) day review period, the application shall be deemed complete.
c. If a Level Two Development Permit application is deemed incomplete, the Land Use Administrator shall, in writing, inform the applicant of the deficiencies in the application. The Land Use Administrator may, however, permit an application to move forward to the Commission for the commencement of the public hearing process, notwithstanding missing elements in the application package, provided they are submitted by a stipulated date.
d. Whenever the Commission determines that a proposed project presents special environmental considerations that have not been adequately addressed in the standard submissions by an applicant, the Commission may require the submission of additional technical or scientific data addressing those special environmental considerations, particularly those related to the protection of water resources described in Article X. The Commission may also request such data in regard to the quantity and nature of site-generated vehicular traffic (associated with the proposed development), if it deems that data provided under normal submission requirements is insufficient. If additional data is requested under this provision, the Commission shall establish reasonable time limits for the submission and review of such data, so as not to unnecessarily delay the application review process.
e. In no case shall a Level Two Development Permit be approved by the Commission until the application is complete and all requirements met, provided that submission by the applicant of information required for the issuance of the building permit portion of a Development Permit shall not be required until such time as the applicant has completed site plan review and the project is ready to proceed into construction.
f. A Level Two Development Permit may, upon the request of the applicant, be approved by the Commission to authorize the planning and development of land on a phased basis.
- As provided in Article II A, the Commission's meetings and public hearings shall follow statutory requirements for public notice and open meetings. Mandatory time limits for the Commission's review and hearing process shall be established in the Regulations.
- The Commission shall include in the Regulations a schedule showing the period of time that approvals of various components of a Development Permit shall remain valid.
- Innovative Development Options for Level Two Development Proposals
- The Commission shall develop procedures in the Regulations that will be designed to encourage developers to propose projects that will utilize innovative development strategies, including, but not limited to, clustered development, condominium development, and planned unit development methods.
- The Commission may approve zero (0) lot line requirements, and other relief from the dimensional requirements of these By-Laws, as part of its review and approval of such innovative development strategies.
- In the Regulations, the Commission may establish special frontage, set back requirements, and other requirements that will apply to such innovative development proposals. Those requirements shall differentiate between developments that exceed twenty-five (25) acres in size ("Large Lot Developments") and developments that are less than twenty-five (25) acres in size ("Small Lot Developments").
- Submission Requirements
a. Applicants proposing both Large Lot Developments and Small Lot Developments shall be encouraged to employ innovative site design and clustering techniques.
b. Small Lot Developments should be designed in a manner that shows sensitivity to existing conditions and to the concerns of adjacent users. Proposers of small Lot Developments shall be required to submit information concerning the proximity of proposed buildings to adjacent lot lines; nature and extent of existing or proposed perimeter buffers on the lot and screening areas, as well as landscape plans; building elevation drawings; the location of loading areas and site access; and other representations involving visual impact on abutting users.
- The Commission may grant a Level Two Development Permit for projects that utilize innovative development approaches if it finds that the applicant has demonstrated the following:
a. the development plan provides for uses permitted within the zoning district
b. the development plan will be designed with due consideration for health and safety issues;
c. the development plan is superior to a conventional plan providing for the construction of one (1) building on one (1) lot, in the way it preserves open space, minimizes environmental disruption, and allows for more efficient provision of services to the businesses and residents of the development than would be available under a conventional approach; and
d. the development approach generally conforms to the density, height, and other dimensional requirements of the By-Laws and the Regulations, although necessary deviations from those requirements, not including height standards and requirements set forth in Article IX C or in Exhibit B, may be considered by the Commission.
- Reuse of Existing Buildings
- General Purpose and District Applicability
It is the intent of the Reuse Plan and By-Laws to encourage the reuse of many of the existing buildings for new occupants of various sizes, whether the business is established, an incubator, or a start-up venture. If the business involves full or partial use of a building as is, without any site modifications, then the occupancy is subject only to obtaining an occupancy permit and a building permit if there is interior reconstruction. This applies whether the building is leased or owned by the applicant. Expansion of a building or site modifications other than signage or the voluntary addition of landscaping will require a submission of a full Level Two Development Permit application.
- Permitted Development Options for Existing Buildings
In addition to reusing buildings, an applicant may employ any of the following development options in such locations, and/or any combinations thereof:
a. demolition of buildings;
b. construction of physical connections between buildings (provided that major vehicular or pedestrian access is not removed in doing so)
c. construction of new buildings;
d. expansion (vertically or horizontally) of existing buildings; and
e. construction of accessory structures for any necessary and reasonable accessory uses related to business operations.
Any action other than reuse of existing building space shall require submission of a Level Two Development Permit application.
- Minimum Frontage Requirements
When a proposed development consists of existing buildings, a minimum lot frontage of seventy-five (75) feet on a street within Devens shall be required.
- Site Plan Review
a. Site plan review, as a part of or as a sole component of a Level Two Development Permit application, shall be triggered by one or more of the following circumstances:
(i) construction of any new building, regardless of land use;
b. The Commission shall establish in the Regulations the standards and criteria that will apply to the completion of a site plan for a proposed project. When a subdivision of property is involved, the site plan shall be combined with the subdivision plans as part of a unified Development Permit application. The Commission's site plan review shall be conducted in accordance with the standards set forth below and in the Regulations. The Commission may employ professional consultants or experts, including, without limitation, technicians, engineers, and/or architects for purposes of reviewing and evaluating, on behalf of the Commission, the information shown on a site plan and any information submitted in connection with a site plan.
(ii) extension or increase in the area of a nonconforming use in an existing building;
(iii) construction or expansion of a parking lot, structure, or loading dock;
(iv) construction of an ancillary building on-site (denoting use for storage of equipment, maintenance supplies, and similar items, or housing building systems equipment), if the building contains more than eight hundred (800) square feet of gross floor area; and/or
(v) construction of a project that will result in changes to the existing grade of ten (10) percent or more of the lot size.
c. Landscaping Standard
All varieties of trees and shrubs planted for new development shall be specified in a planting plan submitted as part of site plans for any new construction of buildings, parking lots, or any similar improvement. Where feasible, plant species selected shall be drought resistant, in order to conserve water used for irrigation, and non-invasive. Maximum use of indigenous species for the region or climate zone shall be encouraged, although planting of non-native trees and shrubs is acceptable for ornamentation in appropriate site locations.
- Site Plan Requirements
The Regulations shall contain detailed requirements governing applications for site plan review, which shall include, but need not be limited to, the following:
a. the content of plans;
b. designation of proposed building locations;
c. location and design characteristics of proposed roads, driveways, and parking areas;
d. existing and proposed site grades;
e. identification of wetlands affected by or adjoining the proposed project;
f. utility service to the proposed project and drainage plans and calculations;
g. traffic studies relating to the proposed project; and
h. screening plans for the proposed project.
- Fees and Fines
The Commission shall establish in the Regulations a fee structure, including, but not limited to, fees for plan review, project review, and subdivision review, and may require applicants to provide bonds and other appropriate forms of security to ensure the successful completion of projects. The Commission shall also, in the Regulations, establish a system of fines to address cases of noncompliance with the subdivision and site plan provisions of the By-Laws and the Regulations.
- Visual Impact of Buildings in Viewsheds
- When a Development application proposes the construction of one (1) or more buildings within areas of Devens that will be located in areas that have high visibility from areas outside of Devens, as determined by the Commission, which areas shall include, without limitation, Prospect Hill in Harvard at the Sears Estate (Prospect Hill overlook) and the Fruitlands Museum parking lot. Eased on the viewshed analyses, the Commission may require that the exterior design of such buildings and related sitework meet the following standards:
a. use of building materials and colors on the building facade that are darker than natural concrete or shades of white or that are earth tone in color; and
b. use of mature tree plantings of four (4) to six (6) inch caliper or larger, depending upon the natural growth rate and crown massing of the species selected, to help screen and soften the visual impact of the height of buildings whose facade will be visible in a viewshed; and
c. tree removal (of trees larger than four  inch caliper) shall be minimized where such removal would have a materially adverse effect on the viewshed.
2. The Commission may also require applicants for a Development Permit to consider alternatives relating to the shape and massing of a building to further lessen the impact of the visibility of such building when located within a viewshed.
3. Any sign proposed to be placed within a viewshed area shall be situated in a location where it will be below existing or new tree canopies, in order to result in its minimum visibility in the viewshed area.
- Earth Removal Permit
- Level Two Development Permit
a. Except as provided in paragraph 4 of this section, no soil, loam, sand, gravel, or other earth materials shall be permanently removed from any lot within Devens, except in accordance with an approved Level Two Development Permit.
b. A Level Two Development Permit for removal of earth materials shall only be granted if the Commission finds that operations to be conducted under such permit will not:
(i) be injurious or dangerous to the public health or safety;
(ii) produce noise, dust, or other effects observable from adjacent property in amounts objectionable or detrimental to the normal use of adjacent property;
(iii) result in use of streets so as to cause congestion or hazardous conditions
(iv) result in the change in topography and cover which will be disadvantageous to the most appropriate use of the land on which the operation is conducted;
(v) have a material adverse effect on the water supply, health, or safety of persons or businesses in Devens or the Towns; or
(vi) have a material adverse effect on areas that have high visibility from areas outside of Devens, as determined by the Commission pursuant to Section J of this Article.
- Application for Earth Removal Permit
a. Each application for a Level Two Development permit for earth material removal shall be accompanied by a plan, submitted in triplicate, showing:
(i) the existing contours of the land;
(ii) the contours as proposed after completion of the operation;
(iii) the proposed lateral support to all adjacent property;
(iv) the proposed drainage, including calculations;
(v) other information necessary to indicate the complete physical characteristics of the proposed operation.
- Conditions of permit
a. In granting a Level Two Development Permit for earth removal, the Commission shall impose reasonable conditions specially designed to safeguard the persons, businesses, and land within Devens and the Towns, which may include conditions as to:
(i) method of removal;
b. No earth removal permit shall be issued for a period of more than three (3) years, although such a permit may be renewed for additional periods not to exceed three (3) additional years.
(ii) type and location of temporary structures;
(iii) hours of operation;
(iv) routes for transporting the material through Devens and the Towns;
(v) area and depth of excavation;
(vi) distance of excavation to street and lot lines;
(vii) steepness of slopes excavated;
(viii) re-establishment of ground levels and grades;
(ix) provisions for temporary and permanent drainage;
(x) disposition of boulders and tree stumps;
(xi) replacement of loam over the area of removal;
(xii) planting of the area to suitable cover, including shrubs and trees; and
(xiii) cleaning, repair, and/or resurfacing of streets used in removal activities which have been adversely affected by the removal activity.
c. The Commission shall require a performance guarantee in a form it deems appropriate to insure compliance with its conditions of authorization.
The removal of earth material in any of the following operations shall be exempt from the requirements of this section:
a. the removal of less than ten (10) cubic yards of material in the aggregate in any year from any one (1) lot;
b. the transfer of material from one (1) part of a lot to another part of the same lot;
c. the removal of material necessarily excavated in connection with the lawful construction of a building, structure, or street, or of a driveway, way, sidewalk, path, utilities, or other appurtenance incidental to any such building, structure or street; and
d. the removal of material necessarily excavated in connection with the environmental clean-up of a site and/or the remediation of such material, in accordance with applicable law.
- The Commission may include in the Regulations further restrictions and procedures relating to the issuance of an earth removal permit.