HATFIELD — The Hatfield Planning Board will host a public hearing on Feb. 7 at Memorial Town Hall to receive input on proposed revisions to the Open Space Development section of the Zoning By-laws.

According to Stephanie Slysz, the chair of the Hatfield Planning Board, the broad goal of these proposed revisions is to encourage more housing in Hatfield while simultaneously preserving important land in town.

“We understand that housing is so important right now across the commonwealth, and it’s especially important in Hatfield too because we don’t have a lot of affordable housing and we want to make sure that families can afford to buy homes in Hatfield to have their kids attend Hatfield’s schools, which currently is a problem right now,” Slysz told Reminder Publishing.

According to Slysz, by creating these revisions, the hope is for the Open Space Development bylaw to be utilized more in town since it is the only way in Hatfield to build a smaller kind of cluster development.

Under the current open space development requirements, a minimum of 40% of the total development parcel must be permanently protected as common open space, and developers can build on the other 60%. The Planning Board is proposing that the town increase the minimum preserved land requirement to 50%, according to Slysz.

Additionally, the proposed open space development revisions include eliminating frontage requirements altogether. Developers, however, would still need to meet the setback requirements.

“We’re hoping that [the revised bylaw] can be a tool that folks can use when they are thinking about developing their properties,” Slysz said. “We want to make it easier to develop and not have so many hoops to jump through … but we’re also honoring the idea that people like the fact that we’re a farming community.”

The board is also looking to add incentives in the Open Space Development bylaw section. For example, a developer is awarded an extra lot if more than 50% of their total development parcel is permanently preserved or if one their lots includes affordable housing.

“There’s incentives in that way to encourage the kind of development that is needed and wanted that we don’t currently have in our by-law,” Slysz said.
By adding these incentives and implementing the other revisions, the Planning Board’s hope is that the Open Space Development section becomes a tool that is more attractive than a traditional subdivision.

“We want to make sure developers can work with us and have the ability to be more creative with a plan,” Slysz said.

The public meeting on Feb. 7 will include a presentation on these revisions before public input. The town will take the public input into account, add any necessary updates and then the public will vote on the revisions during town meeting in May.

People can look at the proposed revisions by going to the Town Clerk’s Office, where the zoning bylaws are available for public inspection during regular business hours.

Slysz added that there will also be opportunity at the Feb. 7 meeting for the public to express their opinions on Hatfield’s design guidelines around commercial or larger scale development. The Planning Board does not need to bring these guidelines to Town Meeting, but they feel that it is necessary to still garner feedback from the public before they vote on the guidelines as a Planning Board.

These guidelines are references in the town’s by-laws multiple times, but the Planning Board never officially passed them back in 2014.

Lastly, the Feb. 7 meeting will also feature a presentation from the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission about Hatfield’s updated master plan, which needs to be passed by the Planning Board by the end of the fiscal year this summer.

Slysz said its been around two decades since Hatfield’s last master plan was approved.

A virtual option for the Feb. 7 meeting will also be available to the public.

rfeyre@thereminder.com | + posts