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.

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.

Danielle Fillis Evans, Clerk

Danielle Fillis Evans holds a master’s degree in Urban and Environmental policy and planning from Tufts University and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and has served on the ZBA since 2008. She has worked as a planner in several municipalities in Massachusetts and currently manages the Community Preservation Act program for the City of Medford.

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.

Josh Safdie

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.

Drew Kane, Alternate

Drew is currently the Senior Land Use Planner with the City of Cambridge Community Development Department. Prior to the City of Cambridge, he spent 15 years as a consultant in architecture and planning firms in Atlanta, New York and Boston. Most recently, he was a Senior Urban Planner and Associate at Utile, Inc., a multi-disciplinary architecture and planning firm in Boston.. 

With a professional focus on the regeneration of urban environments, Drew's areas of expertise includes streetscape and public realm design, master planning and regulatory development with particular interest in waterfronts and industrial districts. 

Drew received a Master of City and Regional Planning from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Bachelor’s of Art in Art History from the University of Georgia.

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 St 16 ZBA 2018-173 Apr 03, 2019 PDF icon Decision PDF icon Plan Set
PDF icon Updated plans for September 18, 2019 ZBA
PDF icon Plot Plan
PDF icon Staff Report
PDF icon Updated Staff Report
09/30/2019 - 7:28pm
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 131 (135) ZBA2004-05-R0208 05/20/2010 - 7:10am
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 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


Subscribe to Reports and Decisions