Newburyport, Massachusetts, Special Permits

From the emails I’ve gotten, the post on the “positive” aspects of infill has really, really upset a whole lot of folks (including me.) Since I had a “heads-up” on this post, I did some research on “Special Permits” which made me feel a whole lot better. I was going to post it tomorrow, but since there seems to be so much distress out there in web-land, I thought it might be a good idea to post it today. So here it is.


This is a learning curve on my part. I have been very unclear on exactly what a “Special Permit” issued by the Planning Board might be.

I found the “Universal Glossary Of Land Use Terms And Phrases” by the Land Use Law Center at Pace University School Of Law. That web link is:

You can also find the “Glossary of Land Use Terms” under “Helpful Links” at the side of the main page of the Newburyport Political Blog.

I figured that the Law Center at Pace University School of Law would probably know what they were talking about. At the very least, give me some guidance about planning and development stuff, including what a “Special Permit” would be.

This what the website has to say:

“Special Use Permit: Special uses are allowed in zoning districts, but only upon the issuance of a special use permit subject to conditions designed to protect surrounding properties and the neighborhood from any possible negative impacts of the permitted use. Also called conditional use permit, special exception permit, and special permit.”

I did check with a member of the Newburyport Planning Board who confirmed that Special Permits are to benefit the abutters and the neighbors.

I think this is a good thing. In fact I think this is a great thing. And now I understand that when people say that “6-C” is a good thing, what they are talking about a “Special Permit.”

So therefore, a Special Permit to build in front of an extremely historic home like 347 High Street, for example, would not benefit either the abutters or the neighbors or even the City of Newburyport as a whole.

So a special permit is an opportunity to come and chat informally with the Newburport Planning Board about making a project more beneficial to the neighbors and to the residents of the City of Newburyport than it would be under the existing zoning laws.

And if a Special Permit is granted, as I understand it, then the applicant does not have to come in front of the Newburyport Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) for a variance, if that would have been a necessary step. (“Variance: This is a form of administrative relief that allows property to be used in a way that does not comply with the literal requirements of the zoning ordinance.”…. Pace University School Of Law again.)

So this helps me to understand the planning and development stuff a little bit better.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport