Updates to the Boston Zoning Code definitions
The BPDA’s Zoning Reform team has launched an effort to rework the Boston Zoning Code’s definitions sections. Phase 2A of this project, which will consolidate applicable terms defined in both Article 2 and elsewhere in the Code, is scheduled to go before the BPDA Board on July 13, 2023 for approval and the Boston Zoning Commission on August 9, 2023 for adoption. Note that these updates to term definitions are not intended to substantively change their meaning or how they operate within the Code. To learn more about the proposed updates, view the proposed Text Amendment and Summary of Updates documents.
Overview & Goals
As of Spring 2023, Boston’s Zoning Code has two sets of definitions: Article 2 and Article 2A. These apply to the Base Code, and Neighborhood Articles and Article 80, respectively.
Article 2 was adopted as a part of the 1964 Boston Zoning Code. When the new neighborhood zoning began in 1990, with Article 50, a new set of definitions was needed. Article 2A was created to fulfill that purpose; and, presumably, to eventually replace Article 2 once the entire City had been rezoned. With the advent of Article 80 Development Project Review, additional definitions were required. Those too, went into Article 2A. Since, only minor changes have been made to each set. The two sets still remain separate.
Having two sets of definitions which apply to different parts of the Code has been a source of confusion for practitioners and laypersons alike; with subtle distinctions, missing terms, outdated language, and the need to amend both Articles whenever a new or amended definition is required. Because of this, the BPDA has undertaken an effort to create a new, unified, and updated set of definitions, applicable to the entire Zoning Code.
Consolidate Articles 2 and 2A into one set of definitions, applicable to the entire Zoning Code.
Consolidate terms defined in other Articles into the new definitions set, where applicable.
Streamline definitions set by eliminating redundancies.
Update definitions to modernize the Code and progress planning goals.
Create a more user friendly Zoning Code (clear and concise language, visual aids, consistency across the Code).
Phase 1: Consolidation (May 2023)
This phase focuses on consolidating parallel terms and resolving incongruencies between Articles 2 and 2A definitions, giving the Code a strong foundation to support further updates to come.
Phase 2: Streamlining (July 2023)
This phase will attempt to consolidate non-2/2A terms into the new Article 2, where appropriate, and streamline the definitions set. These efforts will serve to further eliminate inconsistency and redundancy, and reduce the total number of terms defined throughout the Code.
Phase 3: Updates and Modernization (Late 2023–2024)
This phase will aim to clarify and modernize the Code’s definitions through updating existing definitions, adding missing terms, and implementing tools to improve accessibility and legibility.
Phase 1: Consolidation
The first phase of the Definitions Project, which consolidated Articles 2 and 2A into a single definitions set, was approved at the BPDA Board on May 11, 2023 and adopted by the Boston Zoning Commission on June 7, 2023.
Proposed Zoning Amendments of Floor Area and Other Dimensions
Note that the initial phase of the definitions project recommends adopting Floor Area Ratio (FAR)-related definitions that combine the current Articles 2 and 2A definitions. The changes to FAR-related terms recommended by the public process on July 20, 2022 and September 14, 2022 will not be incorporated. Further updates to these FAR-related definitions are necessary and will be addressed through a public process in a later phase of this project.