Special Review Versus Site Plan Review

The Dennis Zoning By-law contains a rather nebulous review criteria referred to as Special Review. This status has been granted to Municipal Uses and land uses typically considered “exempt” under Chapter 40A Section 3.

Special Review is not a public hearing, no approvals are granted and no conditions established that have any teeth due to the lack of a decision. Special Review is, essentially a courtesy visit. Special Review has more drawbacks than it has advantages. Special Reviews are not public hearings, no notices are required to be mailed to abutters, public participation is extremely limited. While a controversial exempt use might move more easily to completion, real issues may never arise and appropriate conditions cannot be imposed.

Site Plan Review, on the other hand, requires an approval or an approval with conditions. Mandatory Site Plan Review meets the by-right requirements found in Chapter 40A Section 3 for “exempt” uses. Site Plan Review, in Dennis, requires a public hearing, notice to abutters and notice in the newspaper. The public has a forum on site plan reviews where they can ask relevant questions and provide comments. Finally, a decision is issued which can establish, under Chapter 40A Section 3, reasonable conditions.

One caveat, if we chose to go this route, we would need to reconsider what municipal projects fall under site plan review. At present the Planning Board reviews many town projects that are not land use related.

Just something to consider.


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