Sample Bylaws and Ordinances

Model Bylaws Around the Commonwealth

Below please find links to several entities in Massachusetts who have compiled model bylaws on everything from inclusionary housing to floodplain management.  Please note: communities should always consult with their town counsel or town attorney prior to drafting and/or adopting any bylaws or ordinances.

Citizen Planner Training Collaborative Model Bylaws

Cape Cod Commission Model Bylaws

Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District Bylaw Library

MA Smart Growth/Smart Energy Toolkit


40R, Smart Growth Bylaw

The Smart Growth Zoning Overlay District Act, Chapter 149 of the Acts of 2004, codified as M.G.L. chapter 40R (the Act), encourages communities to create dense residential or mixed-use, smart growth zoning districts. The districts should be located near transit stations, in areas of concentrated development such as existing city and town centers, or other accessible locations. Projects containing more than 12 units are required to provide a minimum of 20% affordable housing.

Below please find sample applications and bylaws submitted and approved throughout the Commonwealth.


City of Newburyport 40R Application


Amesbury 40R Ordinance

Haverhill 40R Bylaw

Newburyport 40R Ordinance

Transit Oriented Development

Transit-oriented development, or TOD, is an approach to development that focuses land uses around a transit station or within a transit corridor.  Typically, it is characterized by a mix of uses, pedestrian orientation/connectivity, transportation choices, reduced parking and high quality design.  TOD occurs within one-quarter MVRTA Bus Lawrencemile, or a five- to seven-minute walk, of a transit station. 

Below please find samples of Andover’s Historic Mill District TOD Development Bylaw and a slideshow for Town Meeting. We have also included the Transit-Oriented Model Bylaw from the Smart Growth/Smart Energy Toolkit to get you started.

Andover Historic Mill District Zoning Bylaw

Andover Town Meeting Slideshow Presentation

Transit-Oriented Development Model Bylaw

Mill Revitalization Districts

Mills were the economic engines of the Commonwealth for more than a century; however many of them are now vacant or underutilized. Several communities in the Merrimack Valley (Amesbury, Andover, Haverhill, Lawrence, North Andover) and throughout the Commonwealth are faced with how to revitalize these mills as they are such an important part of our history and culture.  In order to rejuvenate and reuse these gentle giants, the Commonwealth has developed guidelines for communities to create a Mill Revitalization District.

lawrence mill revitalization imageThe creation of a Mill Revitalization District (MRD) is a tool to preserve and reuse these mills.  An MRD usually encompasses a historic mill (in larger cities, multiple mill buildings) and the surrounding neighborhoods.  These surrounding areas are typically the canal and its banks, the worker housing, and utilitarian service buildings.

Below you will find links to case studies and slideshows that help you get started on developing a Mill Revitalization District.


Mill Redevelopment Overlay District: Master Plan Approach

Case Study:  Wood Mill, Lawrence, MA

Slideshow: Mill Revitalization District, Municipal Perspective

Slideshow: Mill Revitalization District, Developer Perspective


Registered Marijuana Medical Dispensary Bylaws

The Massachusetts medical marijuana law was adopted in cannibas station2012.  As a result of this, communities have drafted bylaws and ordinances that allow for the placement of marijuana medical dispensaries in their communities.   Below are samples of some for you to review.

Pioneer Valley Planning Commission Model Bylaw and Guidance Document

Executive Office of Health and Human Services Guidelines for Municipalities Regarding the Medical Use of Marijuana

City of Methuen Registered Marijuana Dispensary and Off-Site Medical Marijuana Dispensary Ordinance

Town of Andover Registered Marijuana Dispensary and Off-Site Medical Marijuana Dispensary Bylaw

Town of North Andover Registered Marijuana Dispensary and Off-Site Medical Marijuana Dispensary Bylaw


Low Impact Development

Low Impact Development (LID) is a more sustainable land development approach that begins with a site planning lid image ipswich_Page_05process that identifies critical natural resource areas for preservation. Then, once the building envelope is established, appropriate LID techniques are implemented, such as: maintaining natural drainage flow paths, minimizing land clearance, clustering buildings, and reducing impervious surfaces are incorporated into the project design.  A series of small stormwater best management practices (BMPs) that preserve the natural features and hydrology of the land are used instead of the conventional methods of collecting, conveying, and piping away runoff.

Below please find some sample LID bylaws and PowerPoint presentations from the MA Smart Growth/Smart Energy Toolkit.

Local Impact Development Model Bylaw ONLY

Model Local Impact Development Bylaw WITH Regulations

Local Impact Development Basic Presentation

Local Impact Development Presentation for Developers and Planning Boards


Transfer of Development Rights

Transfer of development rights bylaws make it possible to restrict or even prohibit development entirely in one area (called the Preservation or Sending District) where there is a sensitive resource, such as a wellhead protection area, and transfer those development rights to another area (called the Receiving District) where there are little or no impediments to higher density, such as a downtown area with public water and sewer infrastructure. The density is transferred from a “sending” parcel to a “receiving” parcel.  Below are sample bylaws or explanations of Transfer of Development Rights.

Pioneer Valley Planning Commission Handout on Transfer of Development Rights

Cape Cod Commission Model Bylaw

Easthampton Transfer of Development Rights



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