Project Overview

Our Task: To Code for Growth In Line with our Values

We need rules that ensure our future growth is as inspired as the goals we've set out.

That’s the simplest way to explain our ambitions to augment Fitchburg’s current zoning code to bring it in line with the City’s new Comprehensive Plan. That 2009 Plan is based on core principles of Smart Growth and on long-term sustainability on three levels – economic, environmental, and social. And the fact is, says Fitchburg Mayor Jay Allen, “our current zoning code does not adequately accommodate the values we want to shape our future.”

Old-style zoning, created in an era when the object was to protect neighborhoods from dangerous industrial practices, focused on segregating building uses – offices, retail and residences – to keep people safe from noxious industry. But with the rise of the automobile, this seemingly practical approach began to super-size, devouring land out of proportion to our rate of population growth and creating ever-greater separation between the things we do and need.

That’s taken its toll on our environment, our budget, our free time and our ability to be a real community. But now we have the chance to do something about it.

Over the coming months, we’ll be exploring a new approach to zoning – one that focuses more on how buildings are arranged and less on how they’re used – to broaden our existing code to better foster the kind of growth envisioned in our Comprehensive Plan. We’ll look at setbacks and building frontages, the widths of streets and sidewalks, the interplay between private space and public space and the appropriate mixes of use in selected spots – all with an eye towards neighborhoods where residents can, if they choose, accomplish many daily tasks on foot.

Through all of it, we’ll be customizing the code addition to the things we value. So the process will involve a lot of discussion about achieving the right look and feel in the right place.

That means the process is committed to the same sort of public involvement as the process that created the Comprehensive Plan. At the heart of this effort is a public “charrette,” a multi-day collaborative workshop in which everyone is invited to join with a team of expert consultants to establish key components of any new zoning designation.

That workshop will take place February 8-12. “All issues,” says the mayor, “are on the table, and anyone who wishes to participate in the process will have that opportunity. Together, we’ll look at ideas, ask questions, develop answers, come up with options, and choose the best direction. By the final night we will have a consensus on the first draft of this new addition to our code.”

It’s a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says the mayor, “to create the tools we need to handle new growth without over-extending City services.”

Check this site often to keep up with the process. Not only will you find an ongoing overview of where we are, you’ll also have opportunity to weigh in on the different issues being discussed.