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.

Street Numbersort descending Case Number First Hearing Date Decisions Other Reports Updated date
Powder House Blvd 80 ZBA 2018-82-R1-2-19 Mar 20, 2019 PDF icon Decision PDF icon Plan Set
PDF icon Updated Plan Set for May 15 2019 ZBA
PDF icon Staff Report
PDF icon Updated Staff Report for May 15 2019
05/23/2019 - 12:05pm
Properzi Way 80 ZBA 2014-34 May 21, 2014 PDF icon ProperziWay80.pdf PDF icon Plans PDF icon Staff Report 06/27/2014 - 11:20am
Bay State Ave 80 ZBA2009-07 05/20/2010 - 7:10am
Yorktown St 80-82 ZBA 2016-23 Apr 20, 2016 PDF icon Decision PDF icon Plans PDF icon Staff Report 09/21/2018 - 10:32am
Park St 81 ZBA 2014-70 Sep 17, 2014 PDF icon ParkSt81.pdf PDF icon Plans 2014.07.16
PDF icon Environmental Cleanup Letter
PDF icon Plans 2014.09.04
PDF icon Supplemental Information
PDF icon Updated Site Plan 2014.10
PDF icon Parking Study
PDF icon Staff Report 2014.09
PDF icon Staff Report 2014.10
PDF icon Decision from 8-5-15 (WWOP)
08/20/2015 - 9:07am
Cedar St 81 ZBA 2014-103 Nov 05, 2014 PDF icon CedarSt81.pdf PDF icon Plan PDF icon Staff Report 02/23/2015 - 9:25am
Sacramento Street 81 ZBA 2017-25-R1-9/2017 Oct 18, 2017 PDF icon Decision PDF icon Plan Set 10-12-17
PDF icon Plan Set 11-15-17
PDF icon Staff Report 10-18-17
PDF icon Staff Report 11-29-17
08/07/2018 - 1:16pm
Cedar St 81 ZBA 2012-35 May 16, 2012 PDF icon CedarSt81.pdf PDF icon Plans PDF icon Staff Report 05/25/2012 - 8:49am
Sacramento Street 81 ZBA 2017-25 May 03, 2017 PDF icon Decision PDF icon Plans and Pictures PDF icon Staff Report 08/06/2018 - 11:43am
School St 81 ZBA2008-11 05/20/2010 - 7:10am
Highland Ave 81 ZBA 2017-101 Oct 18, 2017 PDF icon Variance Decision
PDF icon Special Permit Decision
PDF icon Plans
PDF icon Executive Summary - Parking Study
PDF icon Parking Study
PDF icon Staff Report
PDF icon Parking Variance Memo
08/07/2018 - 1:17pm
Alpine 81-83 ZBA 2018-141 Nov 07, 2018 PDF icon Decision PDF icon ADA
PDF icon Plan Set
PDF icon Shadow Study
PDF icon Updated plans for March 20, 2019
PDF icon Updated Plans for June 5, 2019 ZBA
PDF icon Staff Report 07/02/2019 - 11:15am
Highland Ave 82 ZBA 2014-16 Jun 04, 2014 PDF icon HighlandAve82.pdf PDF icon Plans
PDF icon Parking Study
PDF icon Updated Drainage Report
PDF icon Staff Report
PDF icon Staff Report 06.12.2014
06/27/2014 - 11:17am
Pearson Ave 82 ZBA 2012-46 Jul 11, 2012 PDF icon PearsonAve82.pdf PDF icon Plans PDF icon Staff Report 08/02/2012 - 11:58am
Highland Ave 82 ZBA 2014-16-R1(6/2015) Jul 15, 2015 PDF icon Plans PDF icon Staff Report 07/07/2015 - 12:24am


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