What is Development Review?

Planned Development Area (PDA) Review

A Planned Development Area (PDA) is an overlay zoning district that establishes special zoning controls for large or complex projects. The Zoning Commission may approve a request to establish a PDA where a development that is well-suited to its location cannot be accommodated by the general zoning for the area. For example, a PDA may be appropriate where a development involves a large building, a cluster of buildings, or a mix of uses.

Approval of a PDA requires the submission of a development plan. Development plan submission triggers a 45 day public comment period and requires the approval of both the BPDA and the Zoning Commission.

A PDA Development Plan must specify the proposed location, dimensions, and appearance of all buildings located within the PDA, as well as all proposed uses, parking, and landscaping. The Development Plan may provide for uses, dimensions, or parking that deviate from the general zoning for the district. To ensure that these deviations do not unfairly burden the surrounding neighborhood, the Development Plan also must provide for specific public benefits.

PDA Special Requirements

The Zoning Code requires PDAs and those projects within them to comply with certain special review requirements and development conditions.

Size and Location

A PDA must contain at least one acre of land. In addition, the zoning articles for many downtown and neighborhood districts restrict the establishment of PDAs to certain locations within the district.

Public Benefits

A PDA Development Plan must specify particular public benefits that projects in the PDA will provide. The commitment to provide these benefits is enforced by the execution of a cooperation agreement between the BPDA and the applicant.

Underlying Zoning

The neighborhood and downtown district zoning articles include a variety of specific requirements that projects in PDAs must meet. Among these requirements are use and dimensional limitations, wind and shadow standards, transportation planning requirements, and public benefit criteria. The BRA must find that the Development Plan conforms to these specific PDA requirements and to the general planning goals established in the underlying zoning for the area.

Design Review

Every project located within a PDA is subject to BPDA design review before it may receive a building permit. For most PDA projects, the BPDA conducts this review through Large Project Review. (Any project that is too small for Large Project Review is subject to Small Project Review.)

For more information, please contact Jonathan Greeley, Director of Development Review, by email or by telephone at 617.918.4486.

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