Northfield Zoning Bylaw Revision:
Tools for Shaping Northfield’s Future
Proposing a Blueprint for Northfield. The Northfield Zoning Revision Committee, along with their Consultant Team of RKG Associates and Community Circle, have been hard at work creating a Framework and Set of Tools to help guide Northfield’s future in ways that are desirable. During 2013, the Town of Northfield invited residents, business owners, Town officials, staff, and volunteers to participate in developing a master plan to guide the Town’s future. The public process identified a vision and set of goals for Northfield’s future. The existing zoning bylaw did not support achieving these goals, and in some instances was an obstacle to doing so. The first order of business was to make zoning changes that would support implementation of the master planning goals.
Master Plan Goals
- To promote preservation of open space and natural features
- To promote opportunities for recreation and community gathering
- To promote economic development
- To preserve and revitalize Main Street
- To maintain public facilities, improve public services and enhance communication
- To expand housing opportunities and support neighborhoods
- To enhance transportation and circulation systems
- To promote Northfield’s history and culture
The zoning bylaw rewrite preserves some of the old bylaw’s features but also proposes several new elements. For example, two new zoning districts are proposed: 1) Village Center to promote a mix of uses in limited areas on Main Street and 2) Recreational Tourism to help support an increase in such activity in Northfield. While new districts have been included, none of the currently allowed uses have been eliminated.
A table of uses is included which, for each district, lists the uses that are allowed By Right (without having to obtain a Special Permit), which uses require a Special Permit, and which are prohibited. Additionally, where uses are allowed By Right, their impacts are limited by controlling their size. For example, Retail is allowed By Right in the Village Center district, but only up to 1,500 square feet. If a retail establishment larger than this would like to open on Main Street, then it would require a Special Permit. Agricultural and related uses are allowed By Right (without needing any special permission) in all zoning districts.
The underutilized campus is and has been on the minds of the residents of Northfield for some time now. The new Zoning Bylaw includes options to reuse the campus that can help both the Town and potential developers to work together to achieve mutually beneficial goals. Also, participants in the public process identified Northfield’s rural character as one of the most treasured aspects of the Town. The new bylaw responds to this by providing guidance as to how to protect and enhance Northfield’s rural features.
In addition to being clearer, easier to use, and consistent with state law and best practice, the new bylaw has more teeth. For example, it proposes some changes to promote more effective zoning enforcement..