1. What is the current bylaw? The current subdivision bylaw allows a standard subdivision by right and an open space subdivision by special permit. A standard subdivision requires the developer to build a road to Planning Board standards to create frontage for new lots.  Because road construction is a substantial cost in subdivision development, the developer seeks to maximize the number of lots fronting on the road. An open space subdivision special permit allows the developer the same number of lots and permits reduced lot and frontage size (thereby creating a shorter road) in exchange for setting aside 35% of the property as open space.  The open space subdivision special permit has not been used in Ashby to date.
  2. How Does NRPZ differ from the current bylaw? NRPZ is substantially different than standard subdivision. Although it bears some resemblance to the open space special permit subdivision, NRPZ focuses on providing more open space and a predictable permitting process. NRPZ is allowed by right and replaces standard subdivision. Standard subdivision is allowed by special permit if NRPZ will not work on a property.
  3. What are some of the main differences?  NRPZ determines the number of houses allowed by a formula. NRPZ sets no minimum lot size. Lot size is determined by the requirements for a septic system and a well. NRPZ requires 80% of the land to be set aside as non-developable open space. The non-developable open space can be retained by the current owner who can continue to use it for forestry or agriculture. Ownership by a homeowners’ association, government agency, or conservation organization are permitted as well
  4. Why change?  The current bylaw requires developers to divide up the remaining available land into the maximum number of lots to recoup their investment. Over time, this will lead to the development of most privately owned forests and fields in town. NRPZ seeks to allow property owners to gain value from their property while protecting the majority of the property from development and retaining a rural quality to the town. It seeks to address issues that residents felt were important in the in the October 2020 Land Use Survey.
  5. Why change now? Development pressure continues to push westward from the Boston metro area. Ashby has avoided much of this pressure by being less accessible than towns along Route 2. Lack of easy access will not protect Ashby forever. The current subdivision law has been in place for 50 years. NRPZ will help protect the character of Ashby for the next 50 years of development.
  6. Does smaller lot size mean more density? No, this bylaw reduces density in a subdivision. The formula to calculate the number of houses allowed permits one house for each five acres of buildable land. Our current zoning permits one house for each two acres of land in the residential/agricultural district or one acre of land in the residential and residential/commercial districts.
  7. Does this bylaw create additional regulations? A new regulation will be needed to describe what must be included in the conservation analysis. Other regulations such as plan specifications, road construction, drainage, surety, etc. are already part of the Rules & Regulations Governing the Subdivision of Land.
  8. What is the impact on property values? There is no impact on property values. If anything, there may be a slight positive effect on property values over time as Ashby is better able to maintain its rural character.
  9. What is the impact on landowners? Landowners who wish to subdivide their property will have lower infrastructure cost (less or perhaps no road to build) but will have fewer building lots (essentially one lot for every five acres of land). This is the primary tradeoff; lower up-front costs but fewer lots than under the current subdivision bylaw. The expectation is that this will help Ashby landowners receive value for their property while allowing them to retain a large part of the property for forestry, agriculture or protected open space. The current subdivision bylaw favors developers who can raise the money for the larger upfront costs and recover their expense by creating more lots.
  10. What is the impact on the Town? Over the long term, NRPZ will create fewer roads for the Town to maintain, thereby reducing municipal costs. The property owner has the option to retain the undevelopable land in private ownership which leaves it on the tax rolls.
  11. Will this allow houses to be built behind my property? The Massachusetts subdivision control law provides for the development of back land (land without adequate frontage on a road). Ashby’s current bylaw allows the development of back land and NRPZ will not change that. What NRPZ will do is limit the developable area so the majority of the land in the subdivision will remain unchanged.
  12. Will NRPZ make it easier to develop in Ashby? Ashby will develop regardless of NRPZ.   The question is how it will develop.  Our current subdivision bylaw requires a high cost of development spread over many houses.  The NRPZ bylaw permits a moderate development cost spread over fewer houses. Either way the developer will make a profit.   One way creates a suburban look and the other creates a rural look.  Which do you want?
  13. Will the common driveway and reduced frontage options open up land that would not be developed under current law? No.  Small subdivision development has occurred under the current system. Here are four examples:
  • Daley Drive off Allen Rd. is a subdivision road that provides frontage for 3 lots.
  • Hillside Drive off Locke Road is a subdivision road that provides frontage for 3 lots.
  • Wilder Road off Erickson Road is a subdivision road that provides frontage for 4 lots.
  • An approved but not-yet-built subdivision off Old Northfield Road provides frontage for 4 lots.

In each case the original parcel was divided into two-acre or three-acre lots. Building short cul de sac roads to create frontage for new lots is a more common use of the subdivision control law in Ashby than building through roads.

  1. NRPZ will not stop such development, but it will reduce its impact. The long term benefit to Ashby is that development under the proposed bylaw will help maintain the current character of the town through the coming decades. It provides a means for landowners to get value from their property without developing all their land. A secondary benefit is it will reduce the number of new roads the town feels obligated to accept and maintain. 
  2. Some people have suggested that a parcel with an existing house could be developed under NRPZ that couldn’t happen now. This is not accurate because of the way the NRPZ formulas are written. 

    For example, in the case of a hypothetical 10-acre parcel with an existing house and constrained frontage, the owner (developer) under Ashby’s current bylaw could put in a road to provide frontage for 3 new houses.  There would need to be at least 2 acres per house and approximately an acre for the road. The parcel would then have 4 lots and a road, and it would have to be at least 9 acres in total area. 

    Under the proposed bylaw, presuming 9 acres total area, the existing house could be split off on a 2 acre lot. The remaining 7 acre parcel could use NRPZ to create 1 new lot of 1.4 acres and 5.6 acres of open space.

    To continue, if we presume the parcel with an existing house and constrained frontage is somewhat larger, for instance 18 acres, then our current subdivision zoning would allow up to eight 2 -acre lots (7 new houses and the existing house) and 1+ acre for the road.  

    Under the proposed bylaw 3 lots (houses) would be allowed (2 new houses and the existing house). Or, if the existing house were split off on its own 2 acre lot and the remaining 16 acres subdivided under NRPZ, 3 new lots could be created for a total of 4 lots.   

    The above examples are hypothetical and presume that there are no constraints on the parcel such as wetlands, steep slopes etc. In reality most parcels have some constraints so the actual number of new lots under NRPZ would likely be lower. Under the current bylaw constraints are only marginally taken into account and wetlands and steep slopes can be counted as part of the required 2 acre lot area thus they have less impact on the number of lots created.

    In exchange for that reduced density, the proposed NRPZ bylaw has reduced development cost by allowing reduced lot size, setbacks, frontage, and, by special permit, access over a common driveway.

Back To Top