THIS IS THE FIRST IN A SERIES of articles by the Planning Board in The Cricket addressing adjustments currently being considered as part of the zoning “recodification” process. Voters will be asked to consider these changes at a special Town Meeting in the Fall.
The owner of every buildable lot in Manchester has the right to establish a driveway as long as it is safe, does not impact the property rights of others, and meets certain design and safety standards.
The current approval process for driveway entrances is unnecessarily time consuming for both the applicant and for the Planning Board while the issues involved are usually simple. Driveway design should promote pedestrian and vehicular safety, adhere to accepted standards, and should minimize drainage to the public way and neighboring properties. Manchester currently has the unusual requirement that the Planning Board is responsible for the granting of “curb cuts” for all new or altered driveway entrances. It is more typical for municipalities to have the Department of Public Works (DPW) grant permits for driveway entrances, since they have engineering experience and are in charge of public roadways. Some towns require permits from the Board of Selectmen, who then delegates the approval process to the DPW.
Another problem with the current driveway approval process is there are no criteria to determine what an acceptable driveway should be. There are no minimum or maximum width requirements, no limits to the number of entrances, no minimum sight distances for cars passing by on the public road, and no minimum distances from street intersections, crosswalks or light poles. Standards for these fundamental design elements have been adopted in most localities and should be established in Manchester.
To rectify this situation, the Planning Board has proposed to remove the curb cut section from the zoning regulations and create a new general bylaw that would authorize the DPW to approve new or modified driveway entrances as long as they comply with specific standards. Proposed driveway entrances that do not meet these criteria would be referred to the Planning Board for the granting of a special permit, including the requirement for a public hearing and notification to neighbors.
Specific driveway entrance requirements described in the proposed bylaw include:
Driveway entrances should be at least 20 feet from the nearest street intersection, 10 feet from the nearest driveway entrance or fire hydrant, and 5 feet from side lot lines, trees, utility poles or street light fixtures. Where possible, trees with a caliper width of 8 inches or more should be protected. Driveways must be engineered to minimize the flow of water onto the public way and adjacent properties while the use of pervious materials such as gravel or pea stone is encouraged.
To reduce the risk to passing pedestrians, bikers and motorists, driveways should be designed to maximize visibility in all directions, and to allow vehicles to enter the roadway in a forward direction. Residential properties are encouraged to utilize only one driveway entrance with two being the maximum allowable by right.
The driveway as it approaches the street must have a minimum width of 8 feet and a maximum width of 12 feet, with a flare area meeting the street pavement of no more than 2 ½ feet on either side of the driveway. If there is a street curb, a curb return of no more than 3 feet is permitted.
If a public sidewalk or roadway is constructed or modified as part of the project, it shall be done in accordance with ADA and DPW standards.
Any curb cuts that do not comply with these criteria, or in the opinion of the DPW should require special review, may be allowed if a special permit is granted by the Planning Board.
All driveway entrances in existence prior to the adoption of this bylaw shall not require review unless they are substantially modified or relocated.
Any changes to the zoning bylaw must be approved by Town Meeting. A more detailed description of this proposal along with the current bylaw and the proposed new bylaw can be found on the Planning Board website: www.manchester.ma.us/384/Planning-Board
The Planning Board is also hosting a series of public workshops and a formal public hearing so that residents can ask questions and express their views on these proposed changes.