Essex Zoning Bylaw Review


Zoning Bylaw Review Project

About the Project

Essex's current zoning is unique - it allows residential, commercial, and industrial buildings to be constructed potentially anywhere with minimal requirements. This has resulted in conflicts when residents are surprised by new businesses opening near their homes. Most towns have zoning districts that guide where residential and neighborhood-oriented commercial uses can develop and where more intense commercial and industrial uses are more appropriate.

The Town of Essex began the phased process of reviewing and updating its zoning bylaw in Fall 2021. During Phase I of this work, the Town wanted to better understand its existing land use patterns and characteristics and hear from residents, business owners, and visitors on how it should proceed with the zoning revision process. MAPC helped the Town by conducting an audit of existing zoning regulations and organizing several different community engagement opportunities. Phase I is now complete! Read the Essex Zoning Diagnostic report to learn more about what community members want to see in zoning reform and how MAPC recommends proceeding with Phase II.



November to December 2021:
Zoning bylaw review and stakeholder interviews

January to March 2022:
Planning Board meetings and community outreach (including focus groups, Town-wide survey, and community forums)

May 2022:
Zoning recommendations finalized

Winter 2022:
Begin Phase II, pending grant funding

What's Happening Now?

Grant Application Submitted to Fund Phase II. MAPC helped the Town submit a Community One Stop for Growth grant application to fund Phase II of the zoning bylaw review and update project. If awarded, Phase II will begin in Winter 2022 and focus on implementing recommendations from the Zoning Diagnostic. Phase II includes significant opportunities to continue engaging with Essex residents to help shape future zoning bylaw amendments.

About Zoning

Zoning is a critical tool used at the local level to shape a municipality through requirements and incentives for land use. Zoning provides the legal framework for what can and cannot be developed on every parcel of land in the community. This includes the types of uses that are or are not allowed, the massing and siting of structures, the amount of required parking, and environmental and open space considerations. Zoning is one of the key ways to achieve goals outlined in a community’s master plan or other long-range plans. Learn more about zoning and community planning. 

Past Meetings

Febuary 15, 2022

Attendees heard how other communities use zoning and shared ideas about how zoning in Essex could be updated.
Note: The presentation included maps with an incorrect boundary for the Downtown zoning district. The maps have been reflected to show the correct boundary, which includes only Main Street (Route 133) and Martin Street (Route 22).

March 23, 2022

Attendees heard about results from a zoning survey conducted in February, draft zoning recommendations, and project next steps. The Essex Board of Selectmen shared draft state compliance guidelines for potential zoning amendments related to multi-family districts under Section 3A of the State Zoning Act.

Community Feedback

Zoning Survey Results Available

428 people completed the survey about zoning in Essex, which was open from February 15 to March 1. Respondents answered questions about how the current zoning bylaw is working for them and what they’d like to see changed.


View Results Summary
View All Survey Results