About Planning and Zoning

The Planning Division develops recommendations that allow us to best utilize our available land resources in meeting the needs of our residents and businesses. We seek to develop more and better community focused spaces while preserving the character of Somerville and incorporating the vision residents have for their neighborhoods. The Planning Division pursues these goals by administering and implementing the SomerVision comprehensive plan; which addresses the City's goals, policies, and actions for the years of 2010 to 2040. SomerVision and our neighborhood planning projects help us understand the needs of residents, while our zoning code aims to keep development aligned with our long-term planning goals.

More Information

You can learn more about SomerVision at www.somervision2040.com

You can learn more about our Neighborhood Plans at www.somervillebydesign.com

The Planning Division also administers the Historic Preservation ordinances by providing review and recommendation of cases before the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and the Historic Preservation Commission. You can learn more about the Historic Preservation Commission on their web page.

Information about projects reviewed by the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) is provided further down the page.

General responsibilities of the Planning Division include:

  • Planning, organizing, directing, and coordinating planning activities for the City of Somerville, including updating and implementing the City's Zoning Ordinance.
  • Administering planning and zoning activities before the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals, including preparation of reports and memoranda on matters before each Board.
  • Administering planning and zoning activities before the Design Review Committee on permit applications subject to design review.
  • Maintaining Somerville's historic resources and unique character which draws visitors to the City.
  • Coordinating the flow of information and procedures with other related City departments and offices.
  • Performing duties as directed by the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals, including maintaining current and historical statistics, reports, analysis relevant to the activities and needs of the Boards.
  • Serving as liaison with the other metropolitan, state and federal agencies and private institutions on matters pertaining to planning and zoning regulations and best practices.
  • Supporting sustainable growth that expands job opportunities, improves services and contributes to the City's tax base.
  • Striving to enhance relationships with residents and neighborhood organizations while expanding participation in the planning process.
  • Important Resources

  • Review Boards & Officials

  • Studies & Proposed Amendments

  • Reports & Decisions

  • Regulations & Policies

  • Forms & Information

If you were an owner, applicant, or agent that received an approval of a zoning relief request in front of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) or Planning Board over the last two years, this potentially effects your project. Typically, a project approval has to be exercised by starting construction, within two years for a Special Permit or one year for a Variance, from the date of the decision.

However, with the passing of the new zoning ordinance on December 12, 2019, the state law (MGL 40A Section 6) further limits that timeframe. Projects with approvals under the previous zoning ordinance have only one (1) year from the date of the zoning decision to commence construction or begin the permitted use. 

The potential cases of concern are being contacted by mail, but we wanted to be completely upfront with this information. If you’ve already started construction, please disregard this letter. If not, please pay attention to the date of your decision. Decisions can be found on this website through the Reports & Decisions tab above and searching by the project’s street address.

Please contact our office if you have any questions - call 617-625-6600 x2500 or email [email protected] to set up a meeting with a planner.

The Planning Division maintains three websites that offer a more
in-depth look at Planning and Zoning initiatives in the City:


Thumbnail preview of SomervilleZoning.com

The Somerville City Council adopted a new Somerville Zoning Ordinance and Official Zoning Atlas on December 12, 2019. SomervilleZoning.com is the new home of the Somerville Zoning Ordinance and provides a digital copy of the document and Atlas, guidance for navigating the new permitting process, copies of any future proposed Text Amendments or Map changes, technical reports, and more.


Thumbnail preview of SomervilleByDesign.com

SomervilleByDesign.com tracks the City's neighborhood planning initiatives as we work to create safer, friendlier, and more efficient streets and public spaces.


Thumbnail preview of SomerVision2040.com

At SomerVision2040.com, you can learn more about the SomerVision2040 comprehensive plan, a document written in partnership with our community that outlines our big picture ideas and goals for the next two decades.


When is/was the first hearing date for this case?