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Zoning revisions headed to Town Meeting

March 01, 2011
STURBRIDGE — Following a Board of Selectmen decision last Tuesday night, Feb. 22, two referrals for zoning bylaw revisions are headed to the Planning Board for a public hearing process.

The first proposal involved modifications to Chapter Three Establishment of Districts (Section 3.12), which involves flood plain boundaries. According to Town Administrator Shaun Suhoski, this action would update the town's zoning regulations to reflect the new Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood plain designations. These new proposed flood maps represent the first re-examination of the town's flood zones in 27 years.

"FEMA has been revising flood maps in every community, and we have already gone through the processes where town officials and residents submitted comments about the changes," said Town Planner Jean Bubon.

The Board's decision to refer this proposal back to the Planning Board marks one of the final chapters in a long process. In April 2009, FEMA issued an initial set of Preliminary Revised Digital Flood Hazard Maps, which changed the Flood Hazard Designation for many properties within Sturbridge. More than 1,200 letters were then sent to property owners who the Planning Board expected these changes would involve. In the following weeks members of the Board analyzed the maps and informed FEMA that they believed these maps should be further reviewed, prompting the agency to alter them once more. Five months later, a second set of maps was sent from FEMA, which listed about 900 fewer properties in the Special Flood Hazard Area.

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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