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Smart Growth Glossary


Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU): A self-contained housing unit incorporated within a single-family dwelling (not within accessory structures, except with a Special Permit) that is clearly a subordinate part of the single-family dwelling.

Adequate Public Facilities: Adequate public facilities ordinances prevent new construction until municipal services, including water, sewer, roads, and schools, are available to serve that development.

Agricultural Districts/Preservation Areas: Areas designed to keep land in agriculture that are legally recognized. Landowners may voluntarily enroll in programs and may receive special benefits and protection from regulation.

Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program (APR): A voluntary program which is intended to offer a non-development alternative to farmers and other owners or "prime" and "state important" agricultural land who are faced with a decision regarding future use and disposition of their farms. Towards this end, the program offers to pay farmers the difference between the "fair market value" and the "agricultural value" of their farmland in exchange for a permanent deed restriction which precludes any use of the property that will have a negative impact on its agricultural viability.

Agricultural Zoning: Agricultural zoning, including forestry zoning, restricts land uses to farming and livestock, other kinds of open-space activities and limited home building. It is sometimes used in tandem with urban growth restrictions.

Annexation: A change in existing community boundaries resulting from the incorporation of additional land.

Aquifer: A water-bearing geologic formation, sometimes confined between clay layers and sometimes on the surface. The source of ground water for drinking and irrigation.


Biodiesel: Biodiesel is diesel fuel combined with a certain percentage of vegetable oil. B5 refers to a blend of diesel with 5% vegetable oil. Many diesel engines can run on blends up to B20 without modifications.

Biodiversity: The variety and essential interdependence of all living things; it includes the variety of living organisms, the genetic differences among them, the communities and ecosystems in which they occur, and the ecological and evolutionary processes that keep them functioning.

Biomass: Energy produced from organic matter: plants, food waste, manure, wood, and agricultural crops that can be burned or converted to gas for power generation. Biomass can be used to produce electricity, transportation fuels, or chemicals.

Bioretention System: The bioretention system (also referred to as a "rain garden" or a "biofilter") is a stormwater management practice to manage and treat stormwater runoff using a conditioned planting soil bed and planting materials to filter runoff stored within a shallow depression. The method combines physical filtering and adsorption with bio-geochemical processes to remove pollutants. The system consists of an inflow component, a pretreatment element, an overflow structure, a shallow ponding area (less than 9" deep), a surface organic layer of mulch, a planting soil bed, plant materials, and an underdrain system to convey treated runoff to a downstream facility.

Blight: Physical and economic conditions within an area that cause a reduction of or lack of proper utilization of that area. A blighted area is one that has deteriorated or has been arrested in its development by physical, economic, or social forces.

BMP: Best Management Practice; refers to the practice considered most effective to achieve a specific desired result for protection of water, air and land and to control the release of toxins.

Brownfields: Sites that are underutilized or not in active use, on land that is either contaminated or perceived as contaminated.

Buffer Zone: A strip of land created to separate and protect one type of land use from another; for example, as a screen of planting or fencing to insulate the surroundings from the noise, smoke, or visual aspects of an industrial zone or junkyard.

Built Environment: The urban environment consisting of buildings, roads, fixtures, parks, and all other improvements that form the physical character of a city.


Carrying Capacity: The level of land use or human activity that can be permanently accommodated without an irreversible change in the quality of air, water, land, or plant and animal habitats. In human settlements, this term also refers to the upper limits beyond which the quality of life, community character, or human health, welfare, and safety, will be impaired, such as the estimated maximum number of persons that can be served by existing and planned infrastructure systems, or the maximum number of vehicles that can be accommodated on a roadway.

Catch Basin: A conventional structure for the capture of stormwater utilized in streets and parking areas. It includes an inlet, sump, and outlet and provides minimal removal of suspended solids. In most cases a hood also is included to separate oil and grease from stormwater. Catch basins are differentiated from drainage "inlets", which do not contain sumps or hoods.

Central Business District (CBD): The downtown retail trade and commercial area of a city or town, or an area of very high land valuation, traffic flow, and concentration of retail business offices, theaters, hotels and services.

Charrette: A Charrette is a planning session in which participants brainstorm and visualize solutions to a design issue. Charrettes provide a forum for ideas and offer the unique advantage of giving immediate feedback to designers while giving mutual authorship to the plan by all those who participate. The term "charrette" comes from the French term for "little cart" and refers to the final intense work effort expended by architects to meet a project deadline. At the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris during the 19th century, proctors circulated with little carts to collect final drawings, and students would jump on the charrette to put finishing touches on their presentations minutes before their deadlines.

Climate Action Plan: A description of the policies and measures that a local government will take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve its emissions reduction targets. Most plans include a timeline, a description of financing mechanisms, and an assignment of responsibility to departments and staff. In addition to direct greenhouse gas reduction measures, most plans also incorporate public awareness and education efforts.

Climate Change: Any long-term significant change in the weather patterns of an area, which can occur naturally or by changes people have made to the land or atmosphere.

Cluster Development: A pattern of development in which industrial and commercial facilities, and homes are grouped together on parcels of land in order to leave parts of the land undeveloped. Cluster development is often used in areas that require large lot sizes, and typically involves density transfer. Zoning ordinances permit cluster development by allowing smaller lot sizes when part of the land is left as open space.

Combined Heat and Power (CHP): Also called cogeneration, CHP is the use of the waste heat generated by an engine or power station to produce useful heat, typically for heating of a building.

Compact Building Design: Refers to the act of constructing buildings vertically rather than horizontally, and configuring them on a block or neighborhood scale that makes efficient use of land and resources, and is consistent with neighborhood character and scale. Compact building design reduces the footprint of new construction, thus preserving greenspace to absorb and filter rain water, reduce flooding and stormwater drainage needs, and lower the amount of pollution washing into our streams, rivers and lakes. Compact building design is necessary to sustain transit ridership at levels necessary to make public transit a viable transportation option.

Comprehensive Plan: Regional, state, or local documents that describe community visions for future growth. Comprehensive plans describe general plans and policies for how communities will grow and the tools that are used to guide land use decisions, and give general, long-range recommendations for community growth. Typical elements include, land use, housing, transportation, environment, economic development, and community facilities.

Conservation Areas: Environmentally sensitive and valuable lands protected from any activity that would significantly alter their ecological integrity, balance, or character, except in cases of overriding public interest.

Conservation Easements: Conservation easements are voluntary, legally binding agreements for landowners that limit parcels of land or pieces of property to certain uses. Land under conservation easements remains privately owned, and most easements are permanent.

Context Sensitive Design (CSD): A collaborative, interdisciplinary approach that involves all stakeholders to develop a facility that fits its physical setting and preserves scenic, aesthetic, historic, and environmental resources. CSD is an approach that considers the total context within which a project will exist.

 CZMA (Coastal Zone Management Act): National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides funding for implementation and sets standards (including prevention of non-point source pollution) for states to comply with when they develop a plan to protect their coastal areas.


Deed Restriction: A legally binding restriction on the use, activity, and/or limitation of property rights, recorded at the registry of deeds.

Density: The average number of people, families, or housing units on one unit of land. Density is also expressed as dwelling units per acre.

Density bonus: Allows developers to build in specified areas densities that are higher than normally allowed.

Design Standards: Design standards or guidelines can serve as a community's desire to control its appearance, from within and without, through a series of standards that govern site planning policies, densities, building heights, traffic and lighting.

Detention Ponds: (Extended Detention Basins) An area surrounded by an embarkment, or an excavated pit, designed to temporarily hold stormwater long enough to allow settling of solids and reduce local and downstream flooding.

Development Rights: Development rights give property owners the right to develop land in ways that comply with local land use regulation.

Distributed Generation: The generation of power from many small sources, such as windmills or solar panels, instead of large power plants.

District Energy: A district energy system consists of a central plant that produces steam, hot water, or chilled water, to provide space heating, domestic hot water heating, and air conditioning. The water or steam is delivered through a network of pre-insulated buried pipes to a clustered community of commercial, industrial, and/or residential customers. As a result, individual buildings don't need their own boilers, furnaces, and cooling systems saving money and energy. When designed with a combined heat and power plant the system can also provide electricity.

District Improvement Financing (DIF): Economic tool that promotes redevelopment by channeling dollars into targeted redevelopment districts.

Downzoning: A change in zoning classification to less intensive use and/or development.


Ecological Footprint: The impact of humans on ecosystems created by their use of land, water, and other natural resources. Ecological footprint used as a complex sustainability indicator that answers the question: How much of the Earth's resources does your lifestyle require?

Economic Opportunity Area (EOA): An area or several areas within a designated Massachusetts Environmental Target Area of particular need and priority for economic development.

Ecosystem: The species and natural communities of a specific location interacting with one another and with the physical environment.

Electrical Load: The amount of electrical demand on a particular circuit or of a particular use or facility.

Energy Efficiency: Using less energy to achieve the same outcome. For example, better insulation would enable a home to stay warm utilizing less energy.

Energy Service Company (ESCO): A company that offers to reduce a client's energy costs by capitalizing the upfront expenditures and sharing the resulting future cost savings with the client. This is typically accomplished through the use of an energy-performance contract (EPC) or a shared-savings agreement.

Environmental Justice: Is based on the principle that all people have a right to be protected from environmental pollution and to live in and enjoy a clean and healthful environment. Environmental justice is the equal protection and meaningful involvement of all people with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies and the equitable distribution of environmental benefits.

EPA (Environmental Protection Agency): The federal body charged with responsibility for natural resource protection and oversight of the release of toxins and other threats to the environment.

ERI (Environmental Resource Inventory): A listing and description of natural resources and general environmental characteristics of a given geographic area.

Eminent Domain: The legal right of government to take private property for public use, provided the owner is offered just compensation for the taking of property.

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS): A comprehensive study of likely environmental impacts resulting from major federally-assisted projects; statements are required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Endangered: Species that are in danger of extinction. It also is a category that denotes protection under federal law (Endangered Species Act).

Estuary: A water body where salt and fresh water meet resulting in brackish water. These areas usually have associated marshlands and are critical nursery and feeding habitat for a variety of marine species.

Eutrophication: The natural aging process of water bodies, by siltation and organic decomposition, which reduces both water volume and oxygen levels. Surface run-off or airborne deposition of nitrogen and phosphorus accelerate this.


Fair Market Value: The price an owner willing, but not under compulsion, to sell, ought to receive from a buyer willing but not under compulsion to buy.

Federal Tax Incentives: The federal government offers financial and tax incentives to individuals and business that install renewable energy systems at their homes or offices. This section provides a summary of these incentives and who to contact for more information.

Fiscal Impact Analysis: The analysis of the estimated taxes that a development project would generate in comparison to the cost of providing municipal services demanded by that project.

Flood Hazard Area: Total stream and adjacent area periodically covered by overflow from the stream channel containing 1) the floodway which is the channel itself and portions of the immediately adjacent overbank that carry the major portion of flood flow, and 2) the flood fringe beyond it which is inundated to a lesser degree.

Flood Plain: The land adjacent to a water body ? stream, river, lake or ocean - that experiences occasional flooding.

Floor Area Ratio (FAR): A measure of development intensity. FAR is the ratio of the amount of floor area of a building to the amount of area of its site. For instance, a one-story building that covers an entire lot has an FAR of 1. Similarly, a one-story building that covers 1/2 of a lot has an FAR of 0.5.

Frontage: The continuous linear distance along any approved way, measured on the street line, between the side lot lines.

Fuel Cells: Electro-chemical devices (similar to batteries) that use a continuous supply of hydrogen to produce electricity.


Generation: The electricity generated by a system as recorded by a KWH meter, recorded in KWH or MWH.

GIS (Graphic Information Systems): GIS technology is used to develop maps that depict resources or features such as soil types, population densities, land uses, transportation corridors, waterways, etc. GIS computer programs link features commonly seen on maps (such as roads, town boundaries, water bodies) with related information not usually presented on maps, such as type of road surface, population, type of agriculture, type of vegetation, or water quality information. A GIS is a unique information system in which individual observations can be spatially referenced to each other.

Global Warming: An ongoing increase in the average temperature of the Earth? s surface in recent decades resulting primarily from human activities, principally the burning of fossil fuels, that release greenhouse gases. An increase in global temperatures is expected to raise sea levels, increase the frequency and intensity of storms, and alter the amount and pattern of precipitation and agricultural yields, among other effects.

Green Building or Green Design: Building design that yields environmental benefits, such as savings in energy, building materials, and water consumption, or reduced waste generation.

Greenfields: Newly developed commercial real estate on what was previously undeveloped open space.

Greenhouse Gas: Some greenhouse gases, which contribute to the greenhouse effect, occur naturally in the atmosphere while others result from human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone.

Greenway: A linear open space; a corridor composed of natural vegetation. Greenways can be used to create connected networks of open space that include traditional parks and natural areas.

Groundwater: All water below the surface of the land. It is water found in the pore spaces of bedrock or soil, and it reaches the land surface through springs or it can be pumped using wells.

Growth Management: A term that encompasses a whole range of policies designed to control, guide, or mitigate the effects of growth.


Habitat: Living environment of a species, that provides whatever that species needs for its survival, such as nutrients, water and living space.

Habitat Fragmentation: Division of large tracts of natural habitat into smaller, disjunct parcels.

Housing Element: A comprehensive assessment of current and projected housing needs for all economic segments of the community. It sets forth local housing policies and programs to implement those policies.

Historic Area: An area or building in which historic events occurred, or one which has special value due to architectural or cultural features relating to the heritage of the community. Elements in historic areas have significance that necessitates preservation or conservation.

HVAC: Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.

Hydropower: The force of flowing water moving downstream creates energy that can be harnessed and turned into electricity. This is called hydroelectric power or hydropower. Hydropower is produced for mechanical power or electricity generation. Often stored and controlled by dams, hydropower is created when the kinetic energy of moving water (rivers, waterfalls) is converted by turbines and generators into electricity, which is then fed into the electrical grid to be accessed by homes, businesses, and industry.


Impact Fees: Costs imposed on new development to fund public facility improvements required by new development and ease fiscal burdens on localities.

Imperviousness Overlay Zoning: One form of the overlay zoning process. Environmental aspects of future imperviousness are estimated based on the future zoning build-out conditions. Estimated impacts are compared with environmental protection goals to determine the limit for total impervious surfaces in the watershed. Imperviousness overlay zoning areas are then used to define subdivision layout options that conform to the total imperviousness limit.

Impervious Surface: Any surface through which rainfall cannot pass or be effectively absorbed. (Roads, buildings, paved parking lots, sidewalks etc.)

Incentive Zoning: Provides for give and take compromise on zoning restrictions, allowing for more flexibility to provide environmental protection. Incentive zoning allows a developer to exceed a zoning ordinance's limitations if the developer agrees to fulfill conditions specified in the ordinance. The developer may be allowed to exceed height limits by a specified amount in exchange for providing open spaces or plazas adjacent to the building.

Inclusionary zoning: A system that requires a minimum percentage of lower and moderate income housing to be provided in new developments. Inclusionary programs are based on mandatory requirements or development incentives, such as density bonuses.

Infill Development: Infill projects use vacant or underutilized land in previously developed areas for buildings, parking, and other uses.

Infrastructure: Water and sewer lines, roads, urban transit lines, schools and other public facilities needed to support developed areas.

Intermodal: Those issues or activities which involve or affect more than one mode of transportation, including transportation connections, choices, cooperation and coordination of various modes. Also known as "multimodal."

ISTEA/TEA-21 (Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century): Federal legislation that encompasses all transportation regulation and funding (Inter-modal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act was the original title).


Jitney: Privately-owned, small or medium-sized vehicle usually operated on a fixed route but not on a fixed schedule.


Kilowatt (KW): A measure of instantaneous electric power consumption or production. Equal to one thousand watts.

Kinetic Energy: The energy of motion, or the amount of work needed to accelerate a body of a given mass from rest to its current velocity. For example, wind carries kinetic energy that is captured by wind turbines to generate electricity.


Landfill Gas: Methane gas that forms in landfills from the decay of organic materials. The gas can be collected and used for power generation.

Land Trusts: Nonprofit organizations interested in the protection of natural resources and historic areas. Activities include public education, purchase and coordination of conservation easements, and planning services.

Land Use: The manner in which a parcel of land is used or occupied.

Leapfrog Development: Development that occurs beyond the limits of existing development and creates areas of vacant land between areas of developed land.

LED: Light-emitting diode. This very energy efficient lighting technology uses 80 to 90% less energy than conventional lights.

LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System is a nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. Administered by the U.S. Green Building Council LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

LEED "Plus": Created by the Massachusetts Sustainable Design Roundtable to address shortcomings with standard LEED certification these standards apply to construction of state facilities. This standard specifically mandates certain LEED points for energy performance, building commissioning, achievement of smart growth objectives, and water conservation.

Level of Service (LOS): A qualitative measure describing operational conditions within a traffic stream in terms of speed and travel time, freedom to maneuver, traffic interruptions, comfort and convenience, and safety. Level A denotes the best traffic conditions while Level F indicates gridlock. An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for a development proposal evaluates the impact the development will have on the LOS standards for police, fire, utilities, parks, schools and traffic in the effected area.

Location Efficient Mortgage: A lending program that allows homebuyers to borrow more money based on the transportation cost savings of living near mass transit.

Lot Area: area is the total square footage of horizontal area included within the property lines. Zoning ordinances typically set a minimum required lot area for building in a particular zoning district.

Low Impact Development (LID): An approach to environmentally friendly land use planning. It includes a suite of landscaping and design techniques that attempt to maintain the natural, pre-developed ability of a site to manage rainfall. LID techniques capture water on site, filter it through vegetation, and let it soak into the ground where it can recharge the local water table rather than being lost as surface runoff. An important LID principle includes the idea that stormwater is not merely a waste product to be disposed of, but rather that rainwater is a resource.

Low-e windows: Low-emittance (Low-E) refers to very thin coatings on a window primarily used to reduce heat flow through the window.


MassGIS: The Commonwealth's Office of Geographic and Environmental Information, within the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA). Through MassGIS, the Commonwealth has created a comprehensive, statewide database of spatial information for environmental planning and management.

Massachusetts Sustainable Design Roundtable: Created by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Division of Capital Asset Management the Roundtable explores ways in which the state can actively promote sustainable design practices in public building projects and projects receiving state aid or oversight.

Master Plan: A statement, through text, maps, illustrations or other forms of communication, that is designed to provide a basis for decision making regarding the long term physical development of the municipality.

Megawatt (MW): A measure of instantaneous electric power consumption or production. Equal to one thousand KW.

Mitigation: Process or projects replacing lost or degraded resources, such as wetlands or habitat, at another location.

Mixed Use Development: Development that is created in response to patterns of separate uses that are typical in suburban areas necessitating reliance on cars. Mixed use developments include residential, commercial, and business accommodations in one area.

Modal Split: A term that describes how many people use alternative forms of transportation. Frequently used to describe the percentage of people using private automobiles as opposed to the percentage using public transportation.

MTC (Massachusetts Technology Collaborative): MTC is the state's quasi-public development agency for renewable energy and the innovation economy, which is responsible for one-quarter of all jobs in the state. MTC administers the John Adams Innovation Institute and the Renewable Energy Trust.


National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): A comprehensive federal law requiring analysis of the environmental impacts of federal actions such as the approval of grants; also requiring preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for every major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.

Neo-Traditional Development: A traditional neighborhood, where a mix of different types of residential and commercial developments form a tightly knit unit. Residents can walk or bike to more of the places they need to go and municipal services costs are lower due to the close proximity of residences. A more compact development also reduces the amount of rural land that must be converted to serve urban needs.

New Urbanism: Neighborhood design trend used to promote community and livability. Characteristics include narrow streets, wide sidewalks, porches, and homes located closer together than typical suburban designs.

NIMBY ("Not In My Backyard"): NIMBY is an acronym for the "Not in my backyard" sentiment that exists among some people who do not want any type of change in their neighborhood.

Non-Point Source Pollution (NPS): Pollution that cannot be identified as coming from a specific source and thus cannot be controlled through the issuing of permits. Storm water runoff and some deposits from the air fall into this category.


Open Space: Used to describe undeveloped land or land that is used for recreation. Farmland as well as all natural habitats (forests, fields, wetlands etc.) is lumped in this category.

Open Space Residential Design (OSRD): A form of residential subdivision that maximizes resource protection and conservation of natural areas through the use of design strategies that result in permanent open space preservation.

Overlay Districts: Zoning districts in which additional regulatory standards are superimposed on existing zoning. Overlay districts provide a method of placing special restrictions in addition to those required by basic zoning ordinances.


Performance Zoning: Establishes minimum criteria to be used when assessing whether a particular project is appropriate for a certain area; ensures that the end result adheres to an acceptable level of performance or compatibility. This type of zoning provides flexibility with the well-defined goals and rules found in conventional zoning.

Photovoltaic (PV): Literally, "light" (photo) and "electricity" (voltaic). The class of equipment used to generate electricity directly from sunlight.

Plan: A statement of policies, including text and diagrams, setting forth objectives, principles, standards, and plan proposals for the future physical development of the city or county.

Planning: The process of setting development goals and policy, gathering and evaluating information, and developing alternatives for future actions based on the evaluation of the information.

Planned Unit Development (PUD): PUDs are areas that are planned and developed as one entity, by a single group. Planned unit developments usually include a variety of uses, including different housing types of varying densities, open space, and commercial uses. Project planning and density is calculated for the entire development rather than individual lots.

Purchase of Development Rights: Programs through which local governments may purchase development rights and dedicate the land for conservation easements, protecting it as open space or agricultural areas.


Quality of Life: Those aspects of the economic, social and physical environment that make a community a desirable place in which to live or do business. Quality of life factors include those such as climate and natural features, access to schools, housing, employment opportunities, medical facilities, cultural and recreational amenities, and public services.


Receiving District: An overlay zoning district established by the Town Meeting/ Town Council upon recommendation from the Planning Board as an area suitable to receive transferred development rights.

Recharge: Water that infiltrates into the ground, usually from above, that replenishes groundwater reserves, provides soil moisture, and affords evapotranspiration.

Rehabilitation: In communities with a large stock of older housing or other structures that could lend themselves more easily to conversion into residential units, rehabilitation can be a very affordable and environmentally-friendly way to provide more housing, commercial areas, and offices.

Renewable Energy: Generation of power from naturally replenished resources such as sunlight, wind, and tides. Renewable energy technologies include solar power, wind power, hydroelectric power, geothermal, and biomass.

Renewable Energy Certificate (REC): A tradable certificate representing the generation attributes of energy derived from a qualified renewable energy source. In the U.S., formal markets for RECs are established in New England and Texas, and are developing elsewhere. Informal and voluntary markets are active or emerging in several other U.S. regions. RECs are also called renewable energy certificates, tradable renewable certificates (TRCs), "green tags", and other names.

Residential Site Improvement Standards (RSIS): Development rules (disseminated by DCA) that delineate infrastructure requirements for new residential areas. (Road widths, sidewalks, type of materials used, etc.)

Riparian Area: Vegetated ecosystems along a waterbody through which energy, materials, and water pass. Riparian areas characteristically have a high water table and are subject to periodic flooding.

Runoff: The water that flows off the surface of the land, ultimately into our streams and water bodies, without being absorbed into the soil.


Sending District: An overlay zoning district established by the Town Meeting/Town Council upon recommendation from the Planning Board as an area in which use or development rights should be restricted and from which development rights may be transferred to a Receiving District.

Siltation: Process by which loose soil is transferred and builds up in streams, rivers, and lakes, causing changes in stream channels and in depth. It may result in filling in an area and/or causing flooding.

Site Plan: A scaled plan showing proposed uses and structures for a parcel of land. A site plan could also show the location of lot lines, the layout of buildings, open space, parking areas, landscape features, and utility lines.

Smart Energy: Is the use of renewable resources to create electricity and to heat and cool buildings, as well as more efficient use of energy through conservation and high efficiency technologies.

Smart Growth: Well-planned development that protects open space and farmland, revitalizes communities, keeps housing affordable and provides more transportation choices.

Solar Power (or Energy): Use of sunlight, or solar energy, to heat and light buildings, generate electricity (using solar photovoltaic systems - PV cells/panels), heat hot water, and for a variety of commercial and industrial uses.

Special Districts: Geographic areas in which fees or taxes are collected to fund investments or services benefiting properties within the district.

Special Permit: A use that would not be appropriate generally, or without restriction through the zoning district but which, if controlled as to number, area, location, or relation to the neighborhood, would promote the public health, safety, welfare, order, comfort, convenience, appearance, prosperity or general welfare. Such uses may be permitted in such zoning districts as special permits, where specific provision for such special permits is made in a Town zoning bylaw or City zoning ordinance.

Sprawl: Development patterns where rural land is converted to urban/suburban uses more quickly than needed to house new residents and support new businesses, and people become more dependent on automobiles. Sprawl defines patterns of urban growth that includes large acreage of low-density residential development, rigid separation between residential and commercial uses, residential and commercial development in rural areas away from urban centers, minimal support for non-motorized transportation methods, and a lack of integrated transportation and land use planning.

State Tax Incentives: Massachusetts offers tax incentives to individuals and business that install renewable energy systems at their homes or offices. This section provides a summary of these incentives and who to contact for more information.

Stream Corridor: The area (containing wetlands, flood plains, woodlands, unique habitats, and steep slopes) which lies between relatively level uplands and stream banks and through which water, draining from the uplands, flows and is naturally cleansed and stored. Base flow for streams comes from ground water as springs and seeps.

Streetscape: The space between the buildings on either side of a street that defines its character. The elements of a streetscape include: building frontage/façade; landscaping (trees, yards, bushes, plantings, etc.); sidewalks; street paving; street furniture (benches, kiosks, trash receptacles, fountains, etc.); signs; awnings; and street lighting.

Sustainable Development: Development with the goal of preserving environmental quality, natural resources and livability for present and future generations. Sustainable initiatives work to ensure efficient use of resources.

Subdivision: A subdivision occurs as the result of dividing land into lots for sale or development.

Subdivision Rules and Regulations: Procedures, requirements, and provisions governing the subdivision of land that is specified in formal Rules and Regulations promulgated by a city or town under the authority vested in the Planning Board by section 81-Q of Chapter 41 of the General Laws of Massachusetts.

SWAP (Source Water Assessment Plan): A requirement of the 1996 amendments to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act that an assessment and protection plan be developed for each surface water source used for drinking water.


Taking: A taking occurs when a government action violates the 5th Amendment property rights of a landowner by taking a piece of property without offering fair compensation. "Takings" include physical acquisitions of land, and may include regulations that unduly deprive landowners of certain uses of their property or have the effect of diminishing the value of property.

Tax Increment Financing: A program designed to leverage private investment for economic development projects in a manner that enhances the benefits accrued to the public interest.

TEA-21 (Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century): Federal legislation that encompasses all transportation regulation and funding (Inter-modal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act was the original title).

Traditional Neighborhoods: Traditional neighborhood development emphasizes two broad goals: to reduce the destruction of habitat and natural resources, and to reduce dependency on automobiles and their associated impacts; and to reduce polluting emissions, excessive use of energy and fragmentation of the landscape. Traditional neighborhood design is a development approach that reflects historic settlement patterns and town planning concepts such as gridded, narrow streets, reduced front and side setbacks, and an orientation of streets and neighborhoods around a pedestrian oriented "town center." Such an approach usually requires modifications to zoning and subdivision regulations.

Transfer of Development Rights (TDR): A system that assigns development rights to parcels of land and gives landowners the option of using those rights to develop or to sell their land. TDRs are used to promote conservation and protection of land by giving landowners the right to transfer the development rights of one parcel to another parcel. By selling development rights, a landowner gives up the right to develop his/her property, but the buyer could use the rights to develop another piece of land at a greater intensity than would otherwise be permitted.

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD): The development of housing, commercial space, services, and job opportunities in close proximity to public transportation. Reduces dependency on cars and time spent in traffic, which protects the environment and can ease traffic congestion, as well as increasing opportunity by linking residents to jobs and services.

Transit Nodes: Stops along a public transportation route where people board and disembark, often where one or more routes intersect with each other. These sites can provide ideal locations for mixed-use development as well as transit-oriented development.

Transportation demand management strategies (TDM): TDM is a general term for strategies that result in more efficient use of transportation resources, including incentives to reduce driving, use alternative options, and improve transit.


Upzone: To change the zoning of a tract or parcel of land from a lesser to greater intensity of usage. An example would be a change in zoning from single family to multi-family or mixed use.

USGS (United States Geological Survey): A federal agency which provides mapping of topography, aquifer levels, and areas where aquifers are recharged.

Urban Growth Boundary: A line drawn around a city that prohibits development outside that boundary. Designed to slow or prevent sprawl, UGBs are designed to accommodate growth for a designated period of time and are used to guide infrastructure development. Portland , Oregon is the most commonly cited example of an urban growth boundary.

Use Value Taxation: Land assessments according to the value of the present use rather than the speculative value.


Variance: The relaxation of requirements of a zoning district for a specific parcel or tract of land. Variances are often issued to avoid unnecessary hardships to a landowner.


Watershed: The geographic area which drains into a specific body of water. A watershed may contain several sub-watersheds.

Wetlands: Area having specific hydric soil and water table characteristics supporting or capable of supporting wetlands vegetation.

Wind Farm: A collection of wind turbines in the same location (on or off-shore) utilized to generate wind powered electricity.

Wind Power: Harnessing the wind to generate electricity. Wind turbines produce electricity when wind turns blades that are connected to a shaft that drives a generator.

Wind Turbine: A machine that converts the kinetic energy in wind into mechanical energy. If the resulting energy is used directly by machinery, such as a pump, the machine is usually called a windmill. If the energy is converted to electricity, the machine is called a wind generator.




Zero-lot-line Development: A development option where side yard restrictions are reduced and the building abuts a side lot line. Overall unit-lot densities are therefore increased. Zero-lot-line development can result in increased protection of natural resources.

Zoning: Classification of land in a community into different areas and districts. Zoning is a legislative process that regulates building dimensions, density, design, placement and use within each district.

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