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
Sycamore St 67 ZBA 2011-51 Jul 13, 2011 PDF icon SycamoreSt67.pdf PDF icon Plans PDF icon Staff Report 07/19/2011 - 8:34am
Sydney Street 51 ZBA 2015-20 Apr 03, 2015 PDF icon SydneySt51 (Denial).pdf 06/11/2015 - 11:06am
Taylor 9 ZBA 2018-144 Dec 12, 2018 PDF icon Decision PDF icon Plan Set - Initial Submission PDF icon Staff Report 02/12/2019 - 9:07am
Temple St 48 ZBA 2012-72 Sep 19, 2012 PDF icon TempleSt48.pdf PDF icon Plot & Site plans
PDF icon Existing & Proposed plans
PDF icon Staff Report 10/05/2012 - 10:41am
Temple Street 15 PB 2018-20 Feb 07, 2019 PDF icon Decision PDF icon Staff Report 10-16-18 PDF icon Staff Report 03/11/2019 - 2:30pm
Tennyson Street 39 ZBA 2018-149 May 15, 2019 PDF icon Decision PDF icon Plan Set 10-19-18
PDF icon Plan Set 4-29-19
PDF icon Plan Set 4-30-19
PDF icon Staff Report
PDF icon Updated Staff Report
07/02/2019 - 11:14am
Tennyson Street 14 ZBA 2016-117 Nov 16, 2016 PDF icon Decision PDF icon Plans PDF icon Staff Report 09/20/2018 - 7:29pm
Third Ave 44-48 ZBA2010-01 05/20/2010 - 7:10am
Third Ave 21 ZBA 2011-39 Jun 08, 2011 PDF icon ThirdAve21.pdf PDF icon Plans
PDF icon Traffic Memorandum
PDF icon Level 1 Environmental Site Assessment
PDF icon Staff Report 06/21/2011 - 10:17am
Thorndike St 17 ZBA 2019-67 Sep 04, 2019 PDF icon Decision PDF icon Plan Set
PDF icon Existing Front & Side Elevations
PDF icon Staff Report 09/18/2019 - 4:52pm
Thorndike St 41 ZBA 2018-81 Aug 08, 2018 PDF icon Decision PDF icon Plans for August 8, 2018 ZBA
PDF icon Thorndike St 41 - Plans for Aug 22, 2018 ZBA
PDF icon Staff Report 11/14/2018 - 12:54pm
Thurston 7 ZBA 2015-55 Sep 02, 2015 PDF icon Thurston St, 7 Staff Report.doc.pdf 08/26/2015 - 4:33pm
Thurston 7 ZBA 2015-55 Aug 27, 2015 PDF icon Staff Report 08/26/2015 - 4:35pm
Thurston St 79 ZBA 2015-42 Aug 05, 2015 PDF icon ThurstonSt79.pdf PDF icon Plans PDF icon Staff Report 08/20/2015 - 9:01am
Thurston St 52 ZBA2008-62 05/20/2010 - 7:10am


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