Hudson plans first zoning rewrite since 1957

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By Justin Roshak, Contributing Writer

Hudson town iconHUDSON – The Town of Hudson had its zoning bylaws revision ready to take place in May of 2020, but COVID-19 pushed it from the agenda in favor of only the most pressing items, mainly the budget.

Now, the Town is ready to take another crack at a rewrite to its core land use rules. 

Hudson adopted its first zoning bylaw in 1957 and has enacted more than 230 amendments since then according to Director of Planning and Community Development Kristina Johnson.

If successful, though, this update will be the first wholesale revision in more than 60 years. 

Zoning ensures that, “The vision of the community can be carried out efficiently,” Johnson told the Economic Development Commission at its Sept. 29 meeting.

Johnson added, “Without your zoning, you can’t carry out the goals in the Master Plan.”

Funding for the update was approved at Town Meeting in 2015. 

The main aim of the zoning update is to bring the zoning bylaws up to date with the last seven decades of social and economic development, according to Johnson. 

For example, it addresses local breweries and cannabis establishments.

The new bylaws will also incorporate solar power and drive-throughs, which were once rare, but which are now common even in non-food businesses like banks and pharmacies.

“The innovation economy, the way we work, has completely changed,” Johnson said. 

Outdated and unused terms, like undertaker and telephone exchange operator, are out of the new bylaws. New types of uses, such as assisted living facilities, are also included. 

The zoning update also includes some nuts and bolts additions, such as a table of contents, which the current bylaws lack, and a reformatted table of land uses. 

The way Hudson measures its business districts is also changing to a modern Geographic Information System (GIS), as opposed to the old methods of measuring property lines from known monuments and landmarks. 

“We’re still using meets and bounds to describe our districts, which is very antiquated,” explained Johnson, who told the Commission that many monuments listed as boundary markers on district maps no longer exist.

Modern GIS systems use a digital record of coordinates in conjunction with satellite navigation and mobile phone technology. 

The revised bylaws will go hand in hand with a fresh digitization of the Town’s Zoning Map  to better provide for ease of access. 

Hudson will also consolidate its many business districts to three, as part of a general streamlining of the last several generations of planning. 

And, critically, after the update, Hudson’s zoning bylaws will now be consistent with current state and federal rules, Johnson said. 

The zoning bylaws update will go before the citizens at Hudson’s upcoming Nov. 15 Town Meeting.