About Zoning

Building officials review building plans for Zoning compliance and conduct inspections on all buildings and structures. Zoning regulates the uses, dimensional boundaries and height of privately owned buildings and land.

Zoning Code

The current City of Boston Zoning Code was enacted in 1964 and has been modified numerous times since. The Zoning Code revisions recognize that Boston’s neighborhoods are unique. In fact, most neighborhoods outside the immediate downtown area were towns annexed over the years. There are fourteen similar neighborhood codes plus eighteen different codes for downtown and the waterfront.

Zoning is in place to protect the neighborhoods from the construction of buildings or structures that do not fit into the context of a neighborhood.  These structures may bring additional traffic, noise or pollution, or they may be constructed at a height that does not work for the neighborhood. For example, it may allow a homeowner to erect a small addition, but prevents an auto body shop from opening in a residential district.

If a Plans Examiner determines the project does not fit the use or dimensional requirements of the Zoning Code, the applicant may request relief from the Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA). Relief is granted after a public hearing and a finding that the proposed project is in harmony with the legal zoning in the neighborhood.
Boston Zoning Code and Enabling Act
Zoning for a Specific Address
Zoning Clinics »

Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA)

The Board is comprised of seven individuals who are appointed by the Mayor to serve a three-year term. The panel is scheduled to meet every other Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. in City Hall, Room 801. Note: Additional meeting dates may be added.

Zoning regulates the uses, dimensional boundaries and height of privately owned buildings and land. To a certain extent the City of Boston’s Zoning Code serves the purpose of a planning board for smaller projects. It allows owners and developers to build projects as long as the proposals fall within the guidelines of the Zoning Code.

Review Board Of Appeal Applications

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) is the planning agency for the City. This agency reviews most Board of Appeal applications and submits written recommendations to the Board. The BRA and the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services may also solicit and/or receive input from abutters and community groups and, if appropriate, will arrange meetings between builders and neighborhood groups. A representative from these agencies will attend all hearings. The Office of Business Development is also available to assist businesses and commercial enterprises through the city’s approval process. All of these agencies stand ready and willing to assist the applicant.
Contact the Zoning Planner »

Apply for an Appeal

When a project does not fit the use or dimensional requirements of the Zoning Code, the Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) can grant relief from strict interpretations of the Code(s). Relief (variance) is granted after a public hearing and a finding that the proposed project conforms to the legal zoning of that neighborhood. There are six important steps to follow carefully, and be aware of fees.
Learn More About the Appeals Process »

Resources

  • Attend a Zoning Clinic

    The Inspectional Services Department provides a clinic for homeowners and small businesses who have questions regarding the zoning approval process, every Tuesday from 9:00 a.m.-12 noon at Plans and Zoning, (Counter 2), 1010 Massachusetts Avenue, fifth floor. 

    Zoning Clinic