About the Zoning Board of Appeals

The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) as a quasi-judicial body charged under the provisions of Chapter 40A of the Massachusetts General Laws. The ZBA is the Special Permit Granting Authority for:

  • Variances
  • Special Permit Applications, including Special Permits with Design Review and Special Permits with Site Plan Review
  • Appeals by aggrieved parties of administrative or enforcement decisions
  • Comprehensive Permit Petitions (MGL Chapter 40B)


  • Notes for Applicants

  • Board Members

  • Reports & Decisions

Development Review Standards:

  • Please be advised that, per the standards set out in Article 15 of the Somerville Zoning Ordinance, a development review application is not complete until all required community and Design Review meetings have been held, all necessary information has been submitted, and all fees have been paid. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed, will not be publicly noticed, and will not be scheduled for a public hearing.
  • Planning staff will work with applicants to discuss meeting dates and review application materials.
  • Applications for large projects may require a longer review period and evaluation by multiple City departments before being deemed complete and scheduled for a public hearing.
  • Planning staff reserves the right to ask for additional information or to change meeting dates.
  • The list of anticipated public meeting dates for this Board can be found here.

Orsola Susan Fontano, Chair

Orsola Susan Fontano is a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals and also volunteers with the Elections Department, the Council of Aging, and the Art's Council. Some of her past affiliations include the Historic Preservation Commission, member of the award-winning Somerville All-American City delegation, and founding president of East Somerville Main Streets. She is self-employed, operating Up, Up & Away balloons since 1981 and managing her sister business Nefertiti Hair Salon since 1977.

Josh Safdie, Clerk

Josh Safdie, AIA, NCARB, is a Principal at KMA, an architecture and consulting practice. He serves as the co-chair of the Access Committee for the Boston Society of Architects and has received awards from the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board and the Boston Preservation Alliance for projects merging preservation and accessibility. He is also an Associate Professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and a contributor to Architecture Boston magazine.

Elaine Severino

Elaine Severino is a former educator and small business owner. She spent 5 years serving on the Zoning Task Force Committee that rewrote the previous Somerville Zoning laws and has served in the Zoning Board of Appeals for over 15 years. She is also a member of the Somerville Garden Club and dedicated to helping create better green spaces in Somerville.

Anne Brockelman

Anne Brockelman, AIA, LEED AP BD+C is an architect with two decades of experience in the design profession. She is an Associate Principal and Director of Sustainable Design at Perry Dean Rogers Partners Architects (PDR), a full-service architectural firm specializing in cultural and institutional projects, with a focus on higher education. Her diverse experience includes all project phases from planning, programming through construction, and various project types such as campus and facilities master plans, libraries, and academic buildings. Ms. Brockelman graduated from Wesleyan University with a B.A. in Art History and Studio Art, and holds a Master of Architecture from Harvard University's Graduate School of Design.

Katherine Garavalgia, Alternate


Reports and Decisions

PLEASE NOTE: Applications made before April 15, 2011 are not included in this listing and can be found by clicking here.

Streetsort descending Number Case Number First Hearing Date Decisions Other Reports Updated date
Whipple Street 8 ZBA 2017-96 Oct 18, 2017 PDF icon Decision PDF icon Plan Set 10-30-17 PDF icon Staff Report 08/07/2018 - 12:54pm
Whitman St 50-52 ZBA 2013-90 Jan 22, 2014 PDF icon WhitmanSt50-52 REVISED.pdf PDF icon Plans
PDF icon Parking Study
PDF icon Staff Report
PDF icon Staff Report 3.27.14
PDF icon Staff Report 5.1.14
PDF icon Staff Report 5.15.14
PDF icon Staff Report 5.29.14
07/29/2014 - 8:52am
Whitman St 23 ZBA2008-44 05/20/2010 - 7:10am
Whitman St 47 ZBA2007-43 05/20/2010 - 7:10am
Whitman Street 30-32 ZBA 2019-59 Aug 07, 2019 PDF icon Decision PDF icon Plan Set 7-19-19 PDF icon Staff Report 08/12/2019 - 4:12pm
William St 27 ZBA 2015-35 Jul 15, 2015 PDF icon WilliamSt27.pdf PDF icon Plans PDF icon Staff Report 07/28/2015 - 10:27am
Williams Ct 1 ZBA 2017-82 Nov 08, 2017 PDF icon Decision PDF icon Plans - for Nov 8, 2017
PDF icon Plot Plan
PDF icon Updated Plans for Nov. 29 2017
PDF icon Staff Report for Nov 8, 2017
PDF icon Updated Staff Report for Nov 29, 2017
08/07/2018 - 1:16pm
Willow Ave 26-28 ZBA 2013-31 May 15, 2013 PDF icon WillowAve26-28.pdf PDF icon Plans 09/16/2013 - 11:39am
Willow Ave 187 ZBA 2012-32 May 16, 2012 PDF icon WillowAve187.pdf PDF icon Plot & Site Plans PDF icon Staff Report 06/11/2012 - 1:04pm
Willow Ave 131 (135) ZBA2004-05-R0208 05/20/2010 - 7:10am
Willow Ave 259-261 ZBA 2015-41 Jul 15, 2015 PDF icon WillowAve259-261.pdf PDF icon Plans PDF icon Staff Report 07/28/2015 - 10:27am
Willow Ave 200 ZBA 2013-80 Dec 11, 2013 PDF icon WillowAve200.pdf PDF icon Plans PDF icon Staff Report
PDF icon Updated Staff Report
03/17/2014 - 11:09am
Willow Ave 221 ZBA 2012-64 Aug 15, 2012 PDF icon WillowAve221.pdf PDF icon Plans PDF icon Staff Report 08/29/2012 - 12:43pm
Willow Ave 153 ZBA 2014-17 Apr 16, 2014 PDF icon WillowAve153.pdf PDF icon Plans PDF icon Staff Report 04/28/2014 - 11:04am
Willow Ave 221 ZBA 2012-82 Oct 17, 2012 PDF icon WillowAve221_#2012-82_.pdf PDF icon Plans PDF icon Staff Report 10/26/2012 - 9:08am


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