This section is designed to answer frequently asked questions about the permitting process in the Town of Hadley. Each question is followed by a short answer and directs the reader to a section that outlines the procedure in more detail.
How do I know if a permit or a review is needed?
Generally, remodeling or interior improvements to an existing building only require a building permit. No building or structure shall be erected, altered, demolished or its land use or use changed without a legal written permit. The State of Massachusetts Building Code 780 CMR states that any work other than minor repairs, such as fixing a hole in the wall, floor, or ceiling, must have a building permit. When work is performed by a contractor for hire, the contractor must be licensed and also when performing residential work. If you are constructing an addition and are near any wetlands or open running water you will be required to have the Conservation Commission review your project for compliance. For any commercial project, your first step will be with the Planning Board. The Planning Board reviews all business and commercial projects.
What if I want to construct a new house?
Your first step is to consult the building inspector. There will be many steps before you can actually start construction. One of the first items that will be reviewed is your property. Some of the items for review will be; is it a legal lot with minimum zoning size? The Building inspector will want to have a copy of the plot plan, to scale, showing the location of the house and any other accessory structures as well as the driveway layout. Include the location of your water tie in at the street as well as your sewer tie-in or septic location. There will be a number of different permits needed in order to build a house. Please refer to below for a complete list of permits that can be required to build.
What do I need as far as drawings to apply for a house permit?
This is governed by The State Building Code 780 CMR
- A site plan
- Foundation plan
- Floor plan(s)
- Cross Sections
- Window & Door schedule
- Structural calculations of beams, joists & rafters
What type of permits might I need to construct a house?
- Driveway permit - approved by DPW & Building Inspector
- Street Address - All street numbers must be verified by the Town Assessor.
- Water tie-in permit - approved by the DPW
- Sewer? Then you will need a sewer tie-in permit approved by the DPW
- Building Permit - approval to construct a structure
- Sani-can - approved by Board of Health
- Oil heat? then an oil tank permit through the Fire Department
- Smoke & Co detector - location to be approval by the Fire Department
- Possibly an approval by Conservation if you are near wetlands or running water
- Electrical permit - your electrician will handle this one
- Plumbing permit - your plumber will handle this
- Propane tank? A permit for the tank from the Fire Department
- Natural or propane gas? your installer will handle this through the Gas Inspector
- Hot forced air heating system - your installer will be issued a sheet metal permit
- Wood or pellet stove? A separate permit for each
- Shed or accessory building - this is a separate permit
- Fence - Hadley does not require a permit unless the fence is above 6 feet
What type of inspections will be needed?
There will be many inspections required throughout the course of construction. One good rule of thumb is not to cover anything before an inspection is performed. Several inspections can be combined at the same time. As for the construction of your house the following is a list, in order, of the required inspections:
- Site location including the location of the sani-can
- Footing Inspection
- Foundation walls prior to backfilling
- Sill plate
- Rough Electrical inspection
- Rough Plumbing Inspection
- Rough Structural
- Fire penetrations & sealing
- Insulation with vapor barrier
- Final Electrical
- Final Plumbing
- Fire Department - smoke& CO, oil tank, propane tank, street number
- Final structural
- Final site - no large dirt piles or holes final landscaping need not be finished
What are some issues that are critical that sometimes are overlooked?
As inspectors we seem to see the same issues that do not comply with code during inspections. This section will touch on some items but certainly this is not complete.
- We usually arrive on site and find no sani-can on site. This is required by the state and is very convenient for the contractors.
- With the footing we check that the keyway is at least 2" deep by 2" wide.
- The foundation walls will be checked to verify that all foundation wall panel ties are sealed after the ties are broken off flush with the concrete.
- The footing drain must be installed with the pipe perforations in the down direction and a membrane surrounds the pipe. Also at least 6" of stone bed is installed below the drain pipe.
- The sill plate must be installed with 12" long anchor bolts imbedded into the concrete so the bolt is above the sill plate with at least 4 threads showing. Each sill plate must have an anchor bolt within 12" of each end of each piece of sill plate.
- A sill seal must be installed below the sill plates.
- There are too many items to list that are checked during the rough framing. One of the items that sometimes is overlooked is with roof trusses. Proper bracing must be installed. There are two places to find proper bracing methods and placement. The first is with the truss computer generated sheet. It can show the additional required chord bracing. Another item that is overlooked is the sizing of the uplift connection. For standard cross bracing practices refer to the BCSI 1-12 manual.
- All large beams must have calculations supporting the required loading prior to installation
- Be cautious about drilling holes in beams, joists and rafters. Never allow holes to be drilled in any truss. Never!
- Exterior flashing seems to elude most builders.
- Fiberglass insulation must be installed fluffy with no rolls. It must have a good friction fit. If your hand can fit between the insulation and stud then it is too loose. No space is allowed at the top either. Make sure it is behind all electric outlet boxes.
- The vapor barrier must be installed and sealed at all openings.
- For fire penetrations please go through and check to see if all penetrations are done. All penetrations in the wall top plates and wall bottom plates must be sealed to stop the passage of flames. Either fire stop or draft stop caulk or foam can be used. Also any line of horizontal penetrations that are more than 10 feet must be sealed. This usually is with electrical.
- No large piles of loam may be present at the time of the final inspections. Have your site contractor knock them down if you will be doing your landscaping at a later date.
- Don't forget your street number on the house and at the road.
Can I be denied a building permit?
Yes it is possible. The Building Inspector has the authority to deny someone a building permit on the basis of noncompliance with the State Building Code 780 CMR and /or The Hadley Zoning Bylaws. This has been extremely rare since we are committed to working with applicants to ensure that the work is completed in a manner that is safe and in compliance with all codes and regulations.
How long is a building permit valid for?
A building permit lapses if substantial construction has not occurred within 6 months (180 days) following the approval of the permit. If an extension is required, the applicant should meet with the Building Official in advance of the expiration date to discuss the possibility of an extension. Some of the reasons for an extension are health, personal, or possibly a modification of the work. All permits laps after 3 years even if the work has not been finalized. Another permit must be issued to complete the remainder of the work.
What if I am doing work near a stream or wetland?
The Town of Hadley Conservation Commission regulates construction near wetlands, streams, or other bodies of water. The definition of "near" is within 200 feet the Commission has jurisdiction. It doesnít mean that you cannot build closer than 200 feet it means that the Commission will guide you through the requirements and ultimately oversee your work to ensure that the wetlands or stream are not contaminated with contaminents during and after construction.
Does the Town of Hadley have Storm Water Management plan that I must follow?
Yes it does and it is part of the Town's Zoning Bylaws which are within section 24. This section entitled "Erosion and Sediment Control for Storm Water Management". All projects must comply with this regulation. It controls sentiment runoff into storm drains and onto surrounding surfaces.
Do I need a permit for a pool or hot tub?
Yes you do. The State of Massachusetts requires permits for all pools even inflatable pools that can hold more than 12 inches deep of water. Hot tubs also need a permit since they require a lockable cover. All pools must have some type of barrier, such as a fence, around them in order to deter children. The fence regulation is very specific regarding the size of the opening in a chain link fence, the spacing of balusters, the height of the barrier, the gate and its latch as well as the ability to transverse from the house to the pool. It is not permitted to be able to exit a house onto a patio or deck that connects to the pool area without having either a proper barrier or alarms on the house doors. Please contact Inspection Services for a pool packet which helps spell out all these complex rules and regulations.
What about a shed? Is a permit required?
Under the new edition of the State Building Code 780 CMR 8th edition any shed or accessory structure that is less than 200 square feet does not require a building permit. Even though it does not require a building permit it must still meet the setback requirements of the zoning bylaws. The bylaws require a setback from the rear and side lot lines of 15 feet. Many residences have asked to set their small sheds closer than the required 15 feet. If the shed is a modular type that can be moved such as one on skids one can request the shed to be closer than 15 feet. One must obtain a written letter from their abutting neighbor that states that the neighbor understands the bylaw and that they agree to the requested setback. Please have a statement indicating what the setback wil be. Please understand that at any time in the future if
the neighbor demands that the shed be set back to the required setback of 15 feet you will be required to move the shed. Why do we allow this exception to the setback zoning? Quite simply we have found that it actually makes for good neighbors. In 20 years that we have allowed this only 3 sheds have had to be repositioned.
Do I need a permit for a wood stove or a pellet stove?
Yes, the State of Massachusetts requires permits for the installation of a "solid fuel burning appliance" such as a wood stove or a pellet stove. This also includes fireplace inserts. Installers must be licensed by the state but a homeowner may install one on their own, with a permit, if the homeowner feels that they are qualified to install. All stoves are different regarding installation and distances to combustibles. Please review the particular installation instructions that go with your particular model. Have these instructions available at the time of inspection. At the time of inspection both the Fire Department and the Building Inspector will inspect. The Fire Department will check for the proper location of all code required carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. If your smokes or CO detectors are older than 7 years please
change them over to new devices.
What should I do if I wish to use my property in a manner not allowed by the bylaws?
Exceptions for uses not specified within the bylaws will likely not be permitted since our bylaws do not provide for use variances. Please contact the Town's Building Inspector Zoning Enforcement Officer and review your request with him.
What if I wish to demolish a structure?
If the structure is within the Town's Village Center Overlay District (see section 19 of the Zoning Bylaws) then a review of the structure by the Historical Commission will most likely be required. Contact the Historical Commission's Chair prior to obtaining a demolition permit from the Building Inspector. One of the questions asked, when a building is demolished is can any of the debris be buried on site? In most cases the answer is no. The Board of Health, in some unique cases, can permit some concrete to be buried on site but it must also be shown on the deed as to where it was buried. As for how much can be buried only a small portion can be permitted.
How does the Board of Health get involved with new houses and subdivisions?
The Board of Health works with the Planning Board in reviewing Definitive Subdivision Plans. This review begins with the submission of the plan to both the Planning Board and the Board of Health. The Board of Health has 45 days after the Definitive Plan is filed to report to the Planning Board in writing either:
- Approval of the plan; or
- Disapproval of the plan including specific findings as to which, if any, areas shown on the plan, cannot be used for building sites without injury to the public health. The report should also include the reasons for such a decision and, where possible, should include recommendations for adjustments to the plan. Approval of the plan by the Board of Health shall not be deemed to be an approval of a permit for any form of construction.
What are the other activities of the Board of Health?
The Board of Health administers Title 5 of the State Environmental Regulation. Title 5 regulates the construction, maintenance, inspection and upgrade of septic systems. It also regulates the placement of private water supplies and point wells, where applicable, and issues drilling permits for them.
When can a perc test be performed?
Perc tests, a test of the soils in order to design a septic system, can be performed from March 1st through May 31st. Contact the Board of Health for further information or you stop in to see them during their normal office hours on Tuesday nights from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.
Are there standards other than Title 5, of which I should be aware of?
Yes, all septic tanks and soil absorption systems have minimum setback distances from property lines, watercourses, water supply wells, swimming pools, decks, and other natural and manmade features.
What approvals are required if my project requires a new or expanded septic system?
The Board of Health handles Title 5 septic system approvals. Contact them prior to any design work since the Board will only allow Title 5 septic systems designed by previously approved designers and professional Engineers.
What if I wish to add another bedroom onto my house and I have a septic system?
First of all septic systems are designed by the number of bedrooms not by the number of bathrooms. Please see the Board of Health (BOH) prior to applying for a building permit. You will need to know how large the existing system is prior to having the BOH granting approval. If you have no idea as to the size and you have no information on the system you will be required to hire an approved site contractor to verify the size of the existing system. Check with the BOH before hiring a site contractor since the site contractor will have to be approved by the BOH. Also, if your house is within the Aquifer Discharge Overlay district of town the size of your property will also come into play as to the number of bedrooms that you are allowed. Under DEP regulations for every bedroom 10,000 square feet of land is required.
What if I wish to subdivide my land?
The Planning board regulates the creation of new lots within the Town. It is strongly recommended to hire the expertise of a local land surveyor; one who knows and understands the Town's Zoning Bylaws and the Subdivision Regulations. They are very complex when it comes to subdivision and the process through the Planning Board may take a considerable amount of time.
How are zoning bylaws regulated and how are they contrived?
Zoning Bylaws are regulated under Massachusetts general laws 40A which is referred to as "The Zoning Act". This act was enacted in 1975 to facilitate, encourage and foster the adoption and modernization of zoning ordinances and bylaws by municipal governments: and to establish standardized procedures for the administration and promulgation of municipal zoning laws. Zoning bylaws are voted into law by the town's residence through town meeting.
Is there anything that can be exempt from zoning?
Yes there are several uses and items that are exempt from zoning. These are listing in section 3 of 40A "The Zoning Act". Some of the exempted uses are Agricultural, Interior of single family buildings, solar Access, religious, some child care, Accessibility ramps, Public Services, as well as other. Please review the Zoning Act for complete explanation of all exemptions.
What is a non-conforming lot?
A non-conforming lot is one that does not meet current zoning. This could be the minimum square footage requirement or setbacks to a structure. Since zoning changed many times throughout the 60's & 70's, most of the lots in Hadley are actually non-conforming. Depending on what one might be doing on one's lot will depend if one might need a "Finding" through the Zoning Board of Appeals. Section 5 of the Hadley's Zoning Bylaws and section 6 of "The zoning Act" MGL 40A stipulates how a non-conforming use is handled.
What is a Special Permit?
A Special Permit allows the Town to impose reasonable restrictions and conditions onto an authorized use. Zoning ordinances and bylaws provide specific types of uses which shall only be permitted in specific districts upon the issuance of a special permit. Special permits may only be issued for uses which are in harmony with the general purpose and intent of the ordinance or bylaw, and shall be subject to general or specific provisions for which may impose conditions, safeguards and limitations on time and use.
What happens after a Special Permit approval is granted?
The special permit becomes effective when recorded with the Hampshire District Registry of Deeds. The applicant must obtain a certificate from the Town Clerk and record the permit with the Registry if no appeal is filed within 20 days of the date on which the detailed record and decision with the Town Clerk. In granting the permit, the ZBA and/or Planning Board may impose reasonable conditions, safeguards, and limitations or may require a bond or other security to insure compliance.
How long is a Special Permit valid?
The Special Permit lapses if it is not exercised within one year of the date on which the decision is filed with The Town Clerk. Major amendments to the plans submitted in the original review process require an additional review and approval by the ZBA and/or Planning Board. Any person, whether or not previously a party to the proceedings, or any municipal officer or board, aggrieved by a decision of a Board regarding an action or inaction on an application, may enter an appeal to the Superior Court within 20 days after such decision has been filed in the office of the Town Clerk or after expiration of the required time in which a decision should have been rendered. See also MGL 40A "The Zoning Act".
What happens in the event of an unfavorable decision on a Special Permit?
If an unfavorable decision is issued, an applicant may not reapply until two years have passed, unless consent to reapply earlier is granted by the Planning Board or the ZBA based on specific, material changes in the application and/or conditions upon which the decision was based. The applicant may appeal the ZBA/ Planning Board decision to the Superior Court.