Decisions of the ZBA may affect the value of property and may impose recorded restrictions on the use of that property. Accordingly, state law has imposed safeguards for both the applicant and for the public interest. These safeguards take time. To meet statutory deadlines if the public must be notified, an ad must be to the local newspaper once in each of two successive weeks, the first not less than 14 days before the day of the hearing. If the law requires the ZBA to hold a public hearing, the minimum time required for all processes (this includes the statutory twenty-day appeal period after the decision of the ZBA has been filed with the Town Clerk during which persons aggrieved may appeal to the Trial Court) is about seven weeks; it usually takes longer. While the ZBA will attempt to act expeditiously, the ZBA reserves the right to take the full time permitted by statute.
Hearings before the ZBA are conducted with the expectation that the applicant, the applicant's agents or representatives, and others offering testimony and documentary evidence before the ZBA will voluntarily present all relevant facts and represent all matters accurately and truthfully to the best of their knowledge and belief.
The ZBA Chairman or his/her designee presides and determines the format of the hearing, the order in which persons speak, and who is recognized to speak and may order a person to stop speaking.
The evidentiary portion of a hearing is over when in the judgment of the ZBA all evidence has been received, heard and discussed.
Deliberations of the Board shall take place without interference or participation from applicants or the public. However, the Board may ask the applicant for clarification of evidence. Deliberations may take place in part during the presentation of evidence. The Chairman may ask Counsel to assist during deliberations.
All questions and comments are to be addressed to the Chairman. Courtroom style cross-examination by advocates is not permitted.
Associate members present shall participate as ZBA members in the hearing and in the deliberation leading to the vote to grant or deny a petition. However, an associate member shall not participate in the final vote to grant or deny a petition unless designated to do so by the Chairman.
Decisions of the ZBA will be based on information received before and at hearings and on the general experience and knowledge of Board members.
The standard for granting a permit or variance or for overturning a zoning-based decision of a Town official is information which, combined with the general experience and knowledge of Board members, clearly and convincingly supports the granting or the reversal.
A decision to grant or to overturn shall state all of the reasons in sufficient detail to satisfy the requirements of, state law, the Bylaw and of related court decisions. A decision not to grant or not to overturn need contain only general reasons (for example, insufficiency of evidence or conflict with intent and purpose of the Bylaw) sufficient to show that the decision was not capricious or arbitrary.
If all of the findings of a decision, including conditions and limitations, have been agreed upon at a hearing or public meeting of the ZBA and all that remains is to reduce them to writing, then the acts of drafting, signing, and filing the written decision are ministerial acts which need not take place at a meeting.
The intent is that a notice of decision be filed within 14 days of the day it was reached, dated as of the day of the vote thereon. However, the binding date for final action by the ZBA is that specified in the Zoning Act, M.G.L. Chapter 40A for the particular class of permit or relief being sought. Except by written agreement between the applicant and ZBA filed with the Town Clerk, these times are as follows:
An application may be filed while a Bylaw amendment is pending. If the ZBA deems such change to affect either the form or the substance of the relief sought, the ZBA at any time may:
Require the applicant to apply or reapply in a manner which conforms to the change and to pay the fees involved; or
On its own motion and without the assessment of additional fees, broaden the scope of the application so as to conform to the Bylaw change. (Notice of the hearing or its continuation must include the broadened scope.)