The Towns of Mashpee, Barnstable and Yarmouth launched an online tool to make local permitting and zoning analysis easier and more user friendly.
In partnership with the Cape Cod Commission’s Strategic Information Office, zoning portals were developed for each town on a platform created by the San Francisco-based firm Open Counter. Working with each town, zoning laws were translated to provide user-friendly interfaces, allowing users to easily explore how town land use policies affect specific parcels.
The Commission contracted with OpenCounter for a pilot program in these three contiguous towns. The platform includes all zoning districts and special overlay areas. It takes about a month to translate written regulations into the online platform.
“This technology helps entrepreneurs find appropriate locations and supports towns in facilitating initial inquiries,” Commission Executive Director Kristy Senatori said.
“Barnstable is committed to making local regulations as understandable and easy to navigate for new businesses as possible. Adding the Zoning Portal to our business resource toolbox gives the public an innovative new way to look at zoning and to connect with our staff about opening a business,” explains Elizabeth Jenkins, Barnstable’s Director of Planning & Development.
The Zoning Portal aims to make business and regulatory exploration easier. It has the added benefit of tracking user inquiry, providing towns with insight about trends in local development and areas of local regulation.
Users can enter a term describing their business, such as “restaurant,” to find details of related land use codes to further refine project feasibility. The tool also provides a high-level zoning and permitting pathway for selected projects.
After users answer questions about their desired project, a zoning map is displayed showing areas such businesses are allowed conditionally allowed or prohibited. A project summary details the regulations triggered by the location, desired use and project type, providing starting point for discussions with town permitting staff. Zoning and overlay geometry are connected to live data, ensuring it is up to date.
“Yarmouth is looking forward to piloting this program to offer an on-line tool for permitting information on uses and businesses allowed through our local zoning and unique incentive-based overlay districts,” Yarmouth Town Planner Kathy Williams said. “Town Staff is always available to assist developers in navigating our Zoning Bylaw and other Town permitting processes.”
The Barnstable and Mashpee zoning portals are now live. Yarmouth is expected to launch shortly.