News & Updates

Q&A with Jeff Hampton, Director of Zoning

Jul 03, 2014

DSC_0064-(3).jpgYou were recently promoted to Director of Zoning. Congratulations! How does it feel? 

It's very humbling to know that the Director and Board trust me and my decisions in this position.

How long have you worked with the BRA, and on zoning in particular?  

Since zoning was created! Truthfully, this is my 21st year at the BRA since graduating college and the last 20 have been in the Zoning Department.


That's a long time, Jeff. Sometimes zoning has a reputation for being a little dry. How do you keep things interesting?

Maybe zoning regulations themselves aren't always that interesting, but changing times constantly present new challenges for land use regulations, and that is definitely interesting. 

Can you clear this up for all of us? Zoning Commission vs. administrating the Zoning Code vs. Zoning Board of Appeal. 

The Zoning Commission alters or creates the Zoning Code. The City's Inspectional Services Department (ISD) administrates the Code when you bring them plans for a new building project for review. ZBA deals with requests for zoning "relief" when your project doesn't fit the existing code.

So the Zoning Commission shapes the Code. Can residents also get involved in the process?  

Absolutely. Anyone can attend Zoning Commission Hearings. To find out when they are, check the BRA calendar or sign up for the agency's weekly newsletter

And ISD will review my project to see if it adheres to the Zoning Code. What if I have general questions about zoning before I get to that point? 

The best place to start is emailing the Planners working with your neighborhood. You can find their contact information on each neighborhood contacts page of the BRA's website. If your questions are more complex, you might get passed on to me.
If you just want to find out the zoning for your neighborhood, you should start with the BRA's zoning viewer

Who processes all the requests for zoning relief that go to the ZBA? Is that you? What are the most common requests? 

I'm the BRA's liaison to the ZBA and the BRA is required under the City's zoning statute to make recommendations on any appeal. The individual appeals are reviewed by the BRA's Planners and Urban Designers. They usually handle between 40 and 60 applications per month. 
The most common requests are setback requirements when erecting a new building or adding onto an existing structure.

What's a PDA?

A Planned Development Area is an overlay district to the existing zoning designed to promote and accommodate large-scale development where the underlying zoning may prohibit such development's uses and scale. It allows for a greater flexibility as well as additional controls for the development. Some recent PDAs include Millennium Tower Downtown and Boston Landing in Brighton. 

Some of Boston's neighborhoods haven't been rezoned in decades. Are there plans for updates?

There are. We'll be undertaking studies soon to analyze the best way to go about the rezoning process for those neighborhoods currently governed by the General Code.


What is one of the most unique or odd zoning regulations you know of in Boston? 

The Code is 3,000 pages but we do try to correct anything really strange or archaic as soon as possible. However, we just passed Article 89 to open up the City to more urban agriculture and we've been feeling pretty cutting edge about that. Meanwhile, in some neighborhoods the keeping of rabbits, poultry, cows, goats, and horses has been on the books as a conditional use since the early 1900s, so I guess we're not that visionary after all. Part of the quirks of working in a historic City like ours.

You spend a lot of time wrapped up in zoning code. What do you do to cut loose on the weekends?

I have three sons and they pretty much keep me busy all weekend long, usually coaching hockey or baseball, depending on the season. 


Is there really such a thing as a zoning amulet?  

I'll never tell.

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