Northborough Planning Board talks sober homes, other potential zoning bylaws

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NorthboroughBy Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter

NORTHBOROUGH – From sober homes, to the number of company vehicles residents can have at their homes, the Northborough Planning Board discussed topics to be addressed by several potential zoning bylaws during their meeting on Sept. 7

Planning Board member Millie Milton proposed zoning for sober homes.

She said one of the goals was to find the appropriate accommodation areas for these facilities. 

“Right now, there are none,” Milton said. “I think that’s something a town would want to have a better handle on. Any home can be one right now. They’re very loose.” 

She believes sober homes fall under the state’s definition of “protected housing.”

“I just think there are ways to manage it that we don’t have in place,” Milton said.

Milton said the board opted to table sober homes last year because the state was working on how to define them to help municipalities like Northborough determine how to appropriately zone for them. 

Milton said town staff were talking with other towns on how they were managing this type of housing. 

Ideally, the town wants a way to manage safety, she said.

“Right now, they can go anywhere. Your home could be opened up as a sober home, and you would not necessarily have to meet fire codes or the same building codes that you would have to meet, let’s say, in a rehab or a step-down care unit, which I think involves the safety of people,” Milton said.

Board members suggested reaching out to the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission and examining other towns that have implemented sober home zoning to learn more about their experience. 

 

Other suggestions address breweries, company cars

A number of other potential future zoning bylaws could address breweries and opportunities to allow for more uses of the town’s industrial zones. 

Vice Chair Amy Poretsky said she agreed with board member Anthony Ziton’s suggestion for more creative uses in industrial zones.  

“I think we can open up the industrial to more commercial uses,” Poretsky said. “Maybe have a commercial overlay like we do down in the Wegmans area. Put that on one of the industrial zones so there’s more of a list for applicants to choose from when they’re coming to town and deciding to build.”

The board also suggested reviewing definitions in the industrial zone and adding other definitions, like “product centers.” 

This topic was discussed as Chair Kerri Martinek has previously suggested a moratorium on warehouses.

Additionally, a developer has suggested an overlay district that would allow them to increase the size of a development on Ridge Road.

Town Planner Kathy Joubert said that some residents have additionally asked the building department how many company vehicles they can keep at their homes. 

Joubert said the only limit in town bylaws is for two company vehicles for home occupations. 

“There are other residences or residents that aren’t running a business out of their house, but they may have more than one company vehicle,” Joubert said.

Any action that adds, removes or otherwise changes a community’s zoning map must pass at town meeting and get approved by the Attorney General’s office, according to a “frequently asked questions” sheet on the state’s website.