The main steps in designating a DCPC are: 1) Nomination, 2) Designation, 3) Adoption of Regulations, and 4) Ongoing Administration. This is a summary of the relevant sections of Chapter 831and of the Critical Planning District Qualifications.
Step 1 – Nomination
Nominations of Critical Districts may be made by boards of selectmen, town planning boards, boards of health, or conservation commissions, of any of the towns on the Island. They may also be made upon petition by any seventy-five (75) taxpayers of the Island, or by the Commission itself.
If the MVC agrees to consider the nominated area as a Critical District, then a special moratorium will take effect within the area being considered. The Commission will decide to consider a nominated area as a Critical District within forty-five (45) days of receipt of a nomination. If an area being nominated is not considered as a possible Critical District, the Commission will return the nomination to the nominator with reasons why it is not being considered.
The moratorium extends to all town "development permits applicable within the district" defined by the statute as "any permit, license, authority, endorsement or permission required from a municipal agency prior to the commencement of construction, improvement or alteration made to buildings or land". Exemptions from the moratorium may be granted.
Acceptance for consideration means that the Commission has found reason to institute a temporary building moratorium, and to proceed to review the nomination. The acceptance vote is made at a regular or special meeting of the Commission, without a public hearing. The vote to designate is a separate, second vote, taken following a public hearing.
Step 2 – Designation
The Commission will hold a public hearing and then take a vote to designate or not to designate. The designation vote must be taken within sixty days of voting acceptance for consideration.
- If the area is designated as a Critical District, the vote will include guidelines for development of the District. The guidelines will be incorporated into the designation decision.
- If the area is not designated as a Critical District by the Commission, then the district moratorium will end. The nomination may not be reconsidered for designation until one year after the original acceptance for consideration, unless two-thirds of the Commission members vote for early reconsideration.
Step 3 – Adoption of Regulations
Four town boards; the Board of Selectmen, the Planning Board, the Conservation Commission, and the Board of Health are responsible for proposing regulations. Prior to the town vote to adopt the regulations, the Commission will hold a public hearing to determine conformance of the proposed regulations with the guidelines in the designation. The proposed regulations must then be voted by a two-thirds majority of the town meeting.
If the town has not submitted proposed regulations within six months, the Commission may adopt regulations for the District. Otherwise, the town may take up to one year to adopt regulations. If, one year after designation, the Commission has not adopted or approved regulations for any part of the District, then the designation for that part of the District is terminated, and no part of that area may again be designated for a period of one year.
The town may choose how to regulate the District, so long as the proposed regulations are in conformance with the guidelines in the designation. If the guidelines specify specific numerical standards such as height restrictions, the regulations must include those standards. Often, numerical standards are not appropriate and a more flexible regulation, such as site plan review, is appropriate.
The Commission's review is based on conformance of the proposed regulations with the guidelines for development that were adopted in the designation of the District.
After regulations for the Critical District have been adopted by the town, then the special district moratorium will end and development resumes in accordance with the town regulations.
Step 4 – Ongoing Administration
Once the Commission has held a public hearing and voted conformance, the town alone will administer the new regulations with no further Commission involvement. However, the Commission may be asked to hear proposals for amendments to the regulations from time to time.
Regulations may be amended in a like manner to the original adoption. Proposals by the four town boards (board of selectmen, planning board, conservation commission, or board of health) will be reviewed by the Commission for conformance with the guidelines in the designation. The Commission will hold a public hearing prior to its conformance vote. The amendments must be voted by two-thirds vote of the town meeting.
DCPC Nomination Form: This form must be submitted by the officials or petitioners nominating a DCPC.
DCPC Guidance: This provides information about how a District is nominated and designated.
DCPC Criteria: The criteria for DCPCs are based very closely upon the criteria as stated in Chapter 831(the Act), and have been in use nearly as long in the history of the Commission. They were adopted in 1975.
DCPC Flow Chart:The flow chart is a handy visual display of the steps involved in nomination and designation of a DCPC, with time references.
DCPC Exemption Form —This form must be submitted by anyone requesting an exemption from a DCPC moratorium.
DCPC Exemption Guidance: This provides information about the moratorium and how exemptions may be granted.
MVC Act — Chapter 831 of the Acts of 1977 as amended is the MVC's enabling legislation. Sections 3 and sections 7-11 sets forth how districts are to be nominated and designated, and it establishes procedures to be followed in the process.