Commercial Recreation Opportunities Expansion - Draft Amendments for 2023 Annual Town Meeting

***UPDATE: This bylaw amendment passed Town Meeting March 2023 and was approved by the Attorney General's Office in July 2023***


ARTICLE 19 - March 25, 2023 Town Meeting

PB ZNG 2304: Amendments to Sections 2.1, 3.2.2, 8, Appendix A, and Appendix C of the Zoning Bylaw

The Planning Board has sponsored amendments to the Zoning Bylaw (Sections 2.1, 3.2.2, Appendix A, Appendix C, and a new Section 8.9) for consideration at the March 25, 2023, Annual Town Meeting (to be held at 9:00am at Westford Academy). The following summarizes the proposed changes, which essentially cover two key topics – the creation of a Commercial Recreation Overlay District and an expansion of Indoor and Outdoor Commercial Recreation and Winter Commercial Recreation opportunities by Special Permit in commercial and industrial districts: 

Proposed Amendments Description

Section 2.1: This simply identifies the name of the proposed overlay district – Commercial Recreation Overlay District (CROD).

Section 3.2.2: The intent of this change is that if a business use identified as an Indoor or Outdoor Commercial Recreation or Winter Commercial Recreation use is seeking to add an accessory commercial use (for example, retail sales of merchandise like t-shirts and hats to promote the business, a snack shop, etc.) that the Special Permit Granting Authority could authorize accessory uses during its review process.

Section 8.9: This section establishes the purpose, application standards, requirements, and proposed parcels of land to be included in the proposed overlay district. The current proposal includes parcels of land associated with Nashoba Valley Ski Area and Kimball Farm. Although these are both existing Commercial Recreation and Winter Commercial Recreation businesses, the overlay would allow both entities to make changes and add accessory commercial uses (such as new restaurant space) to their existing business through a more streamlined permitting process than the town’s Zoning Bylaw currently requires. These kinds of accessory use additions would still require a Special Permit, which is a public hearing process. 

Appendix A: Presently, Indoor and Outdoor Commercial Recreation is only allowed via Special Permit in the Commercial Highway zoning district. The proposed changes would also allow these types of uses by Special Permit in the Industrial Highway, Industrial A, Industrial B, and Industrial C zoning districts. Similarly, the opportunity to have a Winter Commercial Recreation business via Special Permit would be expanded to the Commercial Highway, Industrial Highway, and Industrial C zoning districts. 

The proposed amendments for the CROD and Appendix A also seek to change the Special Permit Granting Authority (SPGA) from the Zoning Board of Appeals to the Planning Board in an effort to consolidate the permitting process for applicants as they are likely to need other approvals from the Planning Board (such as Site Plan Review or a Major Commercial Project Special Permit). 

Appendix C: Because some commercial recreation uses may require a greater height than what is allowed within the underlying zoning districts of properties within the proposed CROD (e.g. ziplining, rock climbing, toboggan courses, etc.), a footnote has been added regarding height to allow structures that support commercial recreation uses within the CROD to have a maximum height of 50 feet. The SPGA may still require that any specific proposal be reduced in height during the public hearing process.

Following the public hearing (closed by the Board on March 6, 2023), the Board voted 5-0-0 to recommend that Town Meeting vote to APPROVE the requested zoning changes to create the CROD and allow Indoor and Outdoor Commercial Recreation and Winter Commercial Recreation uses by Special Permit in select commercial and industrial zoning districts.

The latest draft can be viewed here and is on file with the Town Clerk's Office and Department of Land Use Management.

What is Commercial Recreation?

Commercial Recreation Use includes things like indoor or outdoor sports, skiing, camping, aquatic recreation and more! The Land Use Management Department is exploring the idea of expanding opportunities for Commercial Recreation in town.

A community survey was run from September - October 2022. Click here to view the survey, and here to view the survey results.

Importance of Recreational Opportunities

The town has heard from Westford residents during the development of multiple town plans, including the Master Plan, Parks & Recreation Master Plan, the Open Space & Recreation Plan, and through Recreation Commission surveys the desire to promote healthy lifestyles for people of all ages and abilities, and provide for indoor and outdoor year-round recreational facilities for the active and sports-oriented community.

What is the current process to allow this type of use in Westford?

Commercial Recreation is only allowed in one zoning district, Commercial Highway (CH), which is generally only located along the Route 110 (Littleton Road) corridor.

Currently, these types of facilities are not allowed as-of-right; instead, the creation of new facilities requires a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Have questions, feedback, or want to learn more?

Please contact Director of Land Use Management, Jeffrey Morrissette, at 978-692-5524 or