• Ruth Bass

The story on permits

What about permits in Richmond? The three town meeting articles about open-space use in town have created confusion about permits. Here’s the story:

Town bylaws (which are not the same as zoning bylaws) require an event permit for any event that is large enough to impact traffic, available parking, town resources, etc. Like when the Josh Billings race came to town. Like the Richmond Land Trust pie social. Like the former bobolink event at Hollow Fields. Like a giant wedding. The event permit requirement has been a town bylaw for years.

Anyone needing such a permit applies to the Select Board and usually gets a yes or no within a couple of weeks. All three of the proposed amendments require an event permit.

But, the zoning amendment proposed by Perry’s Peak Road residents and the one proposed by petition of 25 residents requires that permit to be issued by the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the need for a permit is defined as any event that is advertised or promoted. That definition in the citizen proposals is vague on exactly what might be considered promotion.

With these amendments, the Zoning Board of Appeals is the granting authority, and it might take a couple of months or more to get a permit. This permit requires abutter notices and public hearings that are advertised. The ZBA can also limit the terms of use. For example, they could limit hours of use to after 9 a.m. and before 5 p.m. — not for one event but for every day. They could prohibit hunting; they could prohibit groups of more than a defined number from walking together; they could prohibit dogs; they could require a locked gate, and so on. The Select Board can also attach conditions to its permits.

Requiring a ZBA permit for events would affect all preserved spaces owned in Richmond by the Land Trust, Berkshire Natural Resources Council and Massachusetts Audubon. The cost to the landowner can be substantial. The Planning Board proposal protects every landowner in Richmond; the other two proposals may infringe on the freedom to hike or walk on public land, activities that have proved beneficial to humans for centuries.


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