Potential zoning bylaw changes for Rochester

Oct 9, 2018

ROCHESTER — The Rochester Planning Board will attempt several bylaw changes for the Special Town Meeting on Nov. 19. 

Planning Board Chairman Arnold Johnson presented potential zoning bylaw amendments to the board Tuesday night, and said the items needed to be evaluated for language before they are finalized. 

One bylaw amendment states that, in agricultural-residential districts, residents can file complaints against farmers if they feel as if their property has been devalued by certain agricultural practices. 

Johnson worried the change would infringe upon the right to farm. 

“The farmer has the right, as long as he is using good agricultural practices, to be a steward of his property,” said Johnson. 

Vice Chairman Gary Florindo said that it should be a balance between the duties of the farmer and residents. Board members eventually agreed that the amendment should be reworked before they agree to the changes. 

Another change is related to solar installations. The addition would designate an area for a ground-mounted solar installation on top of a landfill in town. A solar installation is not planned at this time, but the bylaw would open the door for developers in the future.

Florindo added that a short fence would hide the installation from view.  

The multi-family zoning bylaw is also getting an update. If approved, the amendment would reduce permit requirements for residents to build a multi-family dwelling. 

The Planning Board also looked at proposed changes to accessory building requirements. One change would add an “intermediate farm structure” classification to the bylaws, which falls between a “small” and “large” farm structure. This change allows farmers to build structures to better fit their needs. 

Other accessory building changes would reduce the number of small accessory structures residents are allowed “by right” to construct to only two. 

Another proposed amendment creates a definition for a temporary storage unit and regulates how they can be used in the front yard of a home. 

According to Johnson, there was also an effort to reorganize and renumber the existing bylaws in an understandable way, but the resulting document is almost unusable. He said that some elements of the document will be salvaged for town meeting, however, and used for classification of the bylaws. 

These amendments will be discussed at an upcoming Rochester Board of Selectmen meeting on Monday, Oct. 15.