Thank you for your interest in bringing your project to Amesbury! We want your experience to go as smoothly as possible. To help this along, we created this guidance page to help you prepare a successful application and plan. We strongly recommend you review all the information in this document.
If you are developing or building a project that has already been approved, please check our Projects page for documents pertaining to the project.
To find out what uses are allowed at a specific site, please refer to Section V (Use Regulations) of Amesbury Zoning Bylaw (AZB) (PDF). You can also check out the density and dimensional regulations in Section VI. Provisions for converting or using a non-conforming structure are listed under Section IX.
As you are working on a conceptual plan for your project, we suggest that you schedule a Pre-Development Meeting with the staff in the Office of Community and Economic Development (OCED). This is especially important if you have a large project and/or if this is your first time developing in Amesbury. Depending on the scale and scope of the project, OCED staff may invite other city officials to guide you on specific aspects of the project. Contact the OCED Permit Coordinator to schedule this meeting. The Pre-Development Meeting will be most productive if you are prepared to discuss basic information pertaining to the site, such as: zoning, allowed uses, wetlands/environmental resources, non-conformity, and historical use limitations.
Bring all of your ideas! You never know which one will be the most productive unless you have met with us and discussed all of the options to develop the site.
Before submitting a Site Plan application and in some cases, a Special Permit application, you are strongly encouraged to attend a Pre-Application Conference with the Planning Board. At the Pre-Application Conference, you have the opportunity to discuss your project in great detail before you have formalized all the engineering details and layout-including building design, access, parking and landscaping. You may be able to take the input from the Planning Board to revise your plans before submitting a formal application-saving you time and money!
Each project is unique - big or small - and can present both opportunities and challenges. Through our Pre-Development and Pre-Application phases, we offer the development community a chance to get a better understanding of both technical and non-technical issues so that the formal application can be prepared accordingly. These issues could be related to existing conditions such as environmental constraints, existing uses, historical significance, infrastructure and traffic offsite issues, and other public health and safety concerns. The proposed site plan may be affected by some of these issues-we may be able to offer some guidance.
Predictability and timeliness is key to a successful development. The more thought that has been put into design of the site, the more useful you will find these Pre-Development and Pre-Application phases. We hope that this will reduce some uncertainty about the development process in Amesbury.
Demonstrate consistency with Design Review Guidelines
Indicate if a project is within environmental jurisdiction and requires Conservation Commission Approval
The Planning Board will only move forward with a complete application, corresponding plans, and required materials for the Site Plan and any Special Permits. For a complete list of documents and materials to be included for a Site Plan, please refer to Section XI.C.5 and XI.C.6. For Special Permit requirements, please refer to the relevant section for specific application and submission materials.
You should familiarize yourself with the various zoning provisions that apply to your project. The sections listed below will likely be useful in designing your project to comply with the AZB provisions and to submit a completed application. Additional regulations of the AZB may apply. It is essential to thoroughly understand the requirements, such as site dimensional standards, parking standards, signage, or other details that may be required in your submittal:
Section V for Use Regulations
Section VI for Dimensional and Density Regulations
Section VII for Signs
Section VIII for Parking
Section XI.C for general procedures for Site Plan Review
Section XI.C.8 for Design and Performance Standards
Schedule Pre-Application Meetings and a Pre-Application Conference. We cannot emphasize enough the usefulness of these two preliminary steps. They have proven to be critical steps in the timely review and approval of a project.
Do Your Homework
Approvals from other agencies or other City Departments may be required for your project. Check the Registry of Deeds for prior permits and/or plans related to the site. Early identification of any requirements for the project (other than the Planning Board's approval) will keep things moving, saving you time and money.
Consult with the Conservation Agent
Amesbury is a community rich in natural resources. It is quite likely you may find sites that have natural resources that require permitting under State and Local environmental regulations. Please familiarize yourself with these resources and the limits they may place on the site under the applicable environmental regulations. We encourage you to discuss your project with the Conservation Agent/Conservation Commission to learn what provisions/regulations may apply.
Section XII (Wetlands and Floodplain Protection District) and Section XIV (Water Resource Protection District) of AZB
Review & Comply with Site Plan Design Standards
The most effective strategy to demonstrate compliance with Design Standards Criteria (Section XI.C.8) is to respond in writing to each criterion how the project meets them or if not, why not. If any waiver is requested, then they should be accompanied by a detailed explanation on why the project cannot meet the standard. Ensure that your project complies with the standards. Take the time to present the non-technical design elements such as-building design, landscape, lighting, screening-at the Planning Board hearings.
Invite Your Design Team to Planning Board Meetings
Have your designer, engineer, and landscape architect available at the Planning Board meetings to discuss technical aspects of the project and how your project complies with the requirements of the AZB. We advise you to have your design team present at Planning Board hearings until the Board has completed the engineering and design review discussions.
Understand Affordable Housing Requirements
For certain multi-family residential projects, some of the units are required to meet the affordable housing requirements of Section V.5 of the AZB. We can guide you on the specific requirements under this section and discuss it with you during the Pre-Development and Pre-Application steps.