The New Bedford Planning Board has prepared this guide to explain what you, as an abutter to a proposed development project, can expect during the process of subdivision or site plan review of this project. It is not intended to be a legal guide, but to help you understand how to participate in hearings, get information and best communicate any concerns you may have. To reach the Planning Board office you may call 508-979-1488. We are located on the 3rd floor of the City Hall in Room 303.
Why am I Receiving a Certified Mail Notice?
You are receiving this hearing notice because you are an abutter (*as defined by Massachusetts General Law) to a proposed development that will be reviewed by the New Bedford Planning Board. The notice is required by statute to let you know that a public hearing is being held on the project.
What is the Planning Board?
The Planning Board has five appointed members. The Board has the responsibility to review proposed development projects and makes decisions on them in accordance with statute and local bylaws. The board generally holds its hearings at 6:00 P. M. in the evenings. Board members have a variety of backgrounds and volunteer to serve on the board. They are assisted by a professional staff that works in the Planning Department office during the day.
How can I Find Out More About What is Proposed?
An application, plans and supporting materials will be on file at the Planning Board office. You are welcome to review this information and may pay for copies of any information you would like to keep. Copies cost 20 cents/page, map reproduction costs are based on size. The office is generally open on weekdays from 8:00-4:00. It is best to call and make an appointment to ensure that staff will be available.
What Should I Expect At the Public Hearing?
The notice you received in the mail tells you when the public hearing is scheduled. It is also published in the legal notices in the New Bedford Standard Times. At the hearing, the applicant will present plans and explain what is proposed for the Board and the audience. The Board will ask questions where clarification is needed. There will be an opportunity for those in the audience to ask questions or offer opinions. Comments may also be submitted in writing.
Since the Board often hears several projects in an evening, hearings last a specified period of time. At the end of this time, the hearing may be either closed or continued.
Occasionally, for simple projects, hearings can be completed in one night and are closed, meaning that no further testimony is taken. In some cases hearings will be continued with direction, given by the Board to the applicant, on revisions to the plans or information that is needed. Continued hearings may be several weeks or months in the future depending on how long it takes the applicant to gather the required information and the Board’s workload.
Occasionally the hearing process is delayed due to weather, the absence of a Board member or at the applicant’s request. To verify that a hearing is being held on a scheduled date, you can call the Planning Board office up until meeting time. This verification number is  979 1578
How can I Make My Concerns Known if I Cannot Attend?
Comments can be submitted in writing prior to the close of the Public hearing. Copies will be provided to the Board members. As with all testimony, it is most helpful to raise concerns early in the process.
What happens after the Hearing?
After the hearing and the public record are closed, no new information can be submitted. The Board deliberates and renders a decision at a Board meeting. The Board may either approve a plan, approve it with conditions or disapprove it, by stating the reasons for such disapproval, if it does not meet City standards. Interested individuals are welcome to attend and listen, but may not make further comments. The Board makes its finding on subdivision waiver requests at this time. The decision is voted on and filed with the City Clerk.
What Issues Are Considered By The Board?
The Scope of issues that the Board can consider in reviewing projects is defined by state law and City bylaws and subdivision regulations. In presenting testimony (oral or written) it is most helpful to focus on these issues. Will I Be Notified of the Decision? Copies of subdivision decisions, street improvement decisions and site plan review decisions are not sent to abutters. You may request a copy of any decision from the Planning Board office by requesting it in writing, and arranging to pay the reproduction costs.
How Can I Appeal?
Appeals may be made to Superior Court (and in some cases Land Court). For subdivision decisions, there is a 20 day appeal period ( from the date the decision is filed with the City Clerk). You will not receive notice of any appeals filed by other parties.
10 Suggestions for Presenting Testimony at Public Hearings
- You should stand and state your name & address for the record when you speak;
- Feel free to use the proposed plan, if displayed, to point out concerns you may have and stand so the Board may see the area to which you are referring.
- Try to state all of your questions or concerns at once and then allow the next person to speak;
- Be polite and respectful of differing opinions;
- While you may have questions for the applicant, you should address them to the Board, through the Chairman. The Board may direct the applicant to keep a record of questions asked and answer them all at once;
- Avoid personal attacks, stick to issues relating to the project and within the scope of the Board’s review;
- Don’t ask to speak again until all have had an opportunity to be heard;
- It is fine to just say ” I agree with the other speaker about traffic” rather than restating the same concerns;
- Comments made at a hearing need not be repeated at subsequent ones unless they have not been addressed;
- Remember that you will not be notified by mail of continued hearings-if you are interested you should attend or call the Planning Office.
The Board acts on subdivisions based on the authority in the Mass. Subdivision Rules & Regulations (Adopted by the Board). Plans either must comply with these requirements or the applicant must request that waivers be granted. The Board has discretion in acting on waivers to consider those that are in the best interest of the design of the project and of the City. Subdivisions must also comply with the City’s zoning requirements. The Board will focus on issues relating to the subdivision roadway construction such as drainage, grading, erosion control, sidewalks, and curbing. The Board will also consider traffic safety and development of an overall interconnected roadway network.
An abutter is defined as a property owner who directly abuts the property being reviewed, a property owner who directly abuts the previously mentioned abutter (only within 300′, this is called “an abutter to the abutter”), and finally, an owner of property directly opposite the property being reviewed on the other side of the street.