Land Use and Economic Development

Below is an archive of recent land use and economic development focused plans and reports. 
  1. Canton Center Study
  2. Rapid recovery plan
  3. Route 138 Study
  4. Canton Junction Area Study
  5. Draper Knitting Study
  6. Golf Course Study

Project description and context

The Canton Center Economic Opportunity Overlay District (CCEOD), especially sub-sections A and B and its complementary Design Guidelines, have been in place since the early 2000s.  This overlay district has successfully led to mixed-use development in the area over the past 20 years. However, the recently updated Master Plan (2020) and Downtown Parking Study (2019) have found some recommendations for improvements.  

Specifically, the Master Plan states to revisit zoning in the Downtown to:

  • Clarify the Zoning Map to have one set of development procedures and standards for Downtown.
  • Revise signage requirements to ensure high quality design and appropriately scaled signage.
  • Revise the Use Table to ensure that only highly desirable uses are allowed in the Downtown area. Highly desirable uses are those that contribute to the development of a cohesive, walkable, and attractive Downtown experience.
  • Include better standards for dimensional requirements that reflect best practices in downtown design.
  • Develop design standards/guidelines for elements like building form, façades, pedestrian space, building materials, and other important aspects of site and architectural design.
  • Adjust parking requirements in the Zoning Bylaw. Current parking requirements for Downtown exceed standard recommendations for a mixed-use vibrant downtown.
  • Use results of the Parking Strategy and curbside inventory to designate ride share drop off/ pick up zones for services like Uber and Lyft to provide curbside management.

Additionally, the Master Plan Action Plan states to revisit zoning in general in the following areas:

  • Evaluating the implementation of resilience design standards (required or voluntary) for new nonresidential and multi-family buildings in general. This includes for commercial, industrial, mixed use, and multi-family housing, requiring landscaping practices that are drought tolerant.
  • Amending the Zoning Bylaw to remove impediments to the development of multifamily housing models where they are already allowed.
  • Review and amend the individual sections of the Zoning Bylaw that potentially allow for a more diverse housing stock. These sections include accessory dwelling units, provisions for inclusionary zoning, home conversions, missing middle housing options, and the Mixed-Use Overlay District. 
  • Project need and alignment with local, regional, and state goals:  This analysis is recommended in our Downtown Parking Study (2019), our Master Plan update (2020), and is consistent with goals in MAPC’s regional plan, as well as statewide goals for supporting COVID economic recovery in downtowns, multi-modal transportation, and multi-family housing/ mixed-uses near transit. 

Project Deliverable(s) and Outcomes 

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) will review the existing Zoning Bylaws of the Canton Center Economic Opportunity District(s), the Canton Master Plan 2035, and the Downtown Parking Study (2019).  MAPC will come up with new, revised draft zoning recommendations in order to eliminate the overlay district, and create a new underlaying mixed use zoning district – or to modify the existing CCEOD to have one set of development procedures and standards.  As needed, MAPC will also draft revisions to the off-street parking regulations, signage bylaws, special regulations for multi-family housing, and update the Canton Center Design Guidelines (2003).  The outcome will be to streamline and make easier permitting/uses that we want to see in the downtown, and updating parking requirements and design guidelines to meet best practices.  

Community Engagement

Managing zoning and design review changes is demanding from a technical and administrative perspective. Municipal staff, boards, and committees may be required to understand new funding programs, regulatory tools, and policy frameworks within which decisions will be made. In addition to the technical work needed to implement new zoning changes, a steady public education component will be necessary.  To adequately address concerns a continuous, well-developed community discussion needs to occur. This requires a combination of technical study, effective messaging, and regular communication with the public. 

Project Timeline

The project kicked off in March 2022 and the effort will take several months to complete.  Ideally, zoning proposals would be ready to bring to Town Meeting in 2023.