A History of Zoning in East Longmeadow
In 1913 the Massachusetts Legislature passed an act authorizing and directing cities and towns with a population of more than ten thousand to create a Planning Board. The duty of the Planning Board was to “make careful studies of the resources, possibilities and needs of the city or town, particularly with respect to conditions which may be injurious to the public health or otherwise injurious in and about rented dwellings, and to make plans for the development of the municipality with special reference to the proper housing of its people.” It also authorized the cities and towns to make suitable by-laws or ordinances for carrying out the purposes of the act and to appropriate money for doing so.
The following year, the Legislature amended this act to permit, but not require, cities and towns with a population of less than 10,000 people to establish Planning Boards as well.
In 1916 the Massachusetts Legislature passed an act authorizing cities and towns to establish Boards of Survey to review and approve all plans for new public ways but not for buildings. This was Chapter 190 of the Acts of 1916. The Boards of Survey thus had a more limited function but greater authority than the Planning Boards. East Longmeadow never did establish a Board of Survey.
The city of Cambridge pushed to enact local zoning ordinances beginning with a statewide effort to draft and adopt Amendment LX to the Massachusetts Constitution. On the path to its adoption, proponents of Amendment LX outlined their vision for the promise of zoning and addressed critics who warned of the potential consequences—intentional or not—that policies aimed at separating people might create. Notwithstanding some of those concerns, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly adopted the constitutional amendment on November 5, 1918, and granted to legislature, known as the General Court, for the first time the “power to limit buildings according to their use or construction to specified districts of cities or towns.” In the century since its adoption, this twenty-two word amendment has formed the legal and constitutional basis for zoning across the Commonwealth.
Article LX reads:
The General Court shall have power to limit buildings according to their use or construction to specified districts of cities and towns.
It took almost two years before the legislature acted to implement the new amendment. The enabling legislation for this amendment was passed on June 4, 1920 as Chapter 601 of the laws of 1920. Although it allowed the regulation of uses, it emphasized the regulation of construction. It was corrected in numerous ways in 1921 and again in 1925. This act became Chapter 40 of the general laws.
East Longmeadow passed its first bylaw “Regulating the Inspection, Construction and Use of Buildings and Other Structures” at Town Meeting on February 21, 1921. This was the first Town Meeting after the legislation was enacted. However, this was more of a building code than a zoning ordinance and it only applied to the northwest quadrant of the town. There was no map, but rather a description of the bounds of the “building district”.
The Building District was bordered on east by Elm Street from the Springfield line to Mapleshade Avenue. It then followed Mapleshade to “Wilbraham Road” now Parker Street. It went north on Parker to Kibbe, then down Kibbe to Hampden Road (Somers Road), then down New Road (Lee Street) to Pease Road. It went along Pease Road to the Longmeadow boundary, then north back to the Springfield line. It thus included the center and western half of town. This must have been the most built up part of the town.
At this time there was no Planning Board. Administration and enforcement of the Zoning By-Law was the responsibility of the Inspector of Buildings.
Town Meeting on February 14, 1927 voted to establish the Town’s first Planning Board with five members elected for staggered five year terms. It also appropriated $200 and appointed a committee of five to develop a set of Zoning By-laws and a Zoning Map.
The first Planning Board consisted of Hermon W. King, Chair; Charles H. Knox, Secretary; Henry S. Ashley; Frank A. Champlin; Dwight S. Bartlett; and Albert J. Busha. A hearing on the new map and by-law was held on March 20, 1928. The by-law was actually adopted at a Special Town Meeting of April 25,1928 along with a zoning map developed by Joseph T, Woodruff, a civil engineer from Springfield.
The town was divided into 4 districts:
Residence A – single family houses
Residence B – one and two family houses
The Industrial District was on either side of the railroad line.
North Main Street from the center north to the Springfield line; Shaker Road from the center south to south of Chestnut street; and South Main Street (Somers Road) from the center to the top of the hill were from Residence B Districts.
Small “village” clusters of Business and Residence B were created at the center and the following intersections.: Mapleshade and North Main; Elm and Mapleshade; Somers and Hampden; Parker and Hampden; Parker Shaker; and Porter and Parker. Two similar clusters were on Elm near the Springfield Line and halfway up Kibbe. There was also a business zone on North Main Street from Lombard Avenue south to around the present Heritage Plaza. The remainder of the town, including the vast majority of the land, was zoned Residence A. Quarrying was an allowed use in the Residence A zone.
During the 1930’s the business zone on the north end of North Main Street was extended incrementally to the north a business activity grew.
A new zoning map was published in 1943 and revised in November 1946. This extended the Industrial District to include the Pratt & Whitney aircraft plant that was built early in World War II. It did not alter the other zones, except for increasing the size of the business zones on North Main.
A completely new zoning by-law and map that divided Residence zones into A, B, and C in decreasing lot size as currently defined was developed in 1950 but tabled at the 1951 Town Meeting. It was finally adopted at the 1952 Town Meeting on February 20.
Chapter 40A was enacted by Chapters 368 and 551 of the Acts of 1954 and became effective on August 1, 1954, replacing the previous zoning enabling legislation, Section 25 to 30B, inclusive of the Chapter 40, General Laws.
The East Longmeadow Zoning Map was revised in 1956, 1962, 1970, 1988, 1990, 2004 and 2007.
The 1962 revision added Residence AA and Industrial Garden Park. The development of the Industrial Garden Park was spearheaded by Joseph Dilk, the owner of the Connecticut Valley Artesian Well Company.
In 1974 the off street parking regulations were amended.
On December 22, 1975 the Governor signed Chapter 808 of the Acts of 1975, the Zoning Act, which created a new Chapter 40A of the Massachusetts General Laws.
In 1975 a Planned Recreational District was created, however this district was never implemented. At the same time, the regulations for in-ground pools were amended to include above ground pools.
In 1977 a sign ordinance was adopted and an amendment regarding used car lots and car service facilities was adopted.
In 1978 major revisions were made to the zoning by-law establishing the use of special permits as allowed by the amendments to Chapter 40A in 1975.
The 1978 revision added Elderly Residential for Brownstone Gardens and Golf Recreational for Elmcrest Country Club.
The current East Longmeadow Zoning Bylaw was adopted prior to 1992 and has been amended many times, starting in September 1992.
On February 22, 2016, the Home Rule Charter Commission issued its final report recommending, among other significant changes, that the Planning Board by changed from an elected body to a body appointed by the new position of Town Manager. The purpose of this change was to put the Planning Board under a unified Town Government rather than continue it as an independent body. The Town Charter was adopted at the annual town election and went into effect on June 1, 2016.
In the early 2020’s, a proposal to redevelop 330 Chestnut Street as a mixed use development led to the creation of a mixed use village zone. Unfortunately, the project did not go forward.
In 2022, the zoning by-law was incorporated into the general by-laws and completely renumbered.