Guidelines for Homes Built Under Site Plan Approval
The purpose of the information below is to assist the Applicant in developing a proposal that will meet the standards and criteria for site plan approval established in Section XI of the Weston Zoning By-law (PDF). The Planning Board evaluates a proposal for a house located on a Scenic Road or a house that exceeds a certain size (RGFA) against these standards and criteria.
The Planning Board has developed a list of design, siting, and planning guidelines that implement the preceding standards and criteria. Adherence to these guidelines will facilitate a timely review by the Board.
Landscaping: Landscaping should serve to create a buffer between houses and the streets for privacy and to retain the natural “woodsy” character of Weston. The larger the house, the greater the buffer that will be required. To best achieve this, the existing native trees, understory and bushes should be preserved as much as possible along the property’s frontage to a minimum of at least 50 feet. This means that a septic system or storm water drainage structure should be located on the lot where it will require the least removal of the existing landscape buffer and allow for new buffer to be planted. Outside of the immediate construction area trees can be lost due to regrading for a system and damage from heavy equipment compacting the roots. In cases of significant or specimen trees near the limit of work extra protection measures such as chain link fencing will be necessary.
It is a simple fact that newly planted trees and bushes will never replicate the natural looking “woodsy” habitat created by the large mature trees found along Weston’s roads. Preservation of existing trees and understory will maintain this appearance, especially legacy and old growth trees that help ground the Town in history. This means that septic systems, driveways and stormwater drainage structures should be located in such a way as to preserve existing vegetation, wherever possible.
Mature Landscape Maintained New Landscape
In most cases new plantings will be required to either supplement existing screening or to mitigate new construction. New plantings should include variety of plant species (evergreen and deciduous) of varying heights (i.e. a mix of trees, shrubs and groundcover as well as a mix of calipers/sizes at planting) in order to create as naturalistic a feel as possible and to block views at pedestrian as well as 2nd story levels, especially once taller trees develop a higher canopy. Native and traditional plantings are highly encouraged (see appendix), although plantings along roadways should contain more native plant selections than ornamental Understory plants include saplings and shrubs which grow well in low light conditions beneath larger trees. They are essential for a natural looking habitat. Plantings should be arranged in an organic natural layout. Straight rows of “soldier” trees and strict geometric arrangements are discouraged. Plant bed edges that are irregular and asymmetrical with no hard, cut edges, and planted at grade as opposed to being raised are highly encouraged. Large expanses of mulched beds should be avoided along rights-of-way. Instead, beds containing ample shrubs and groundcover, such as ferns, Lily of the Valley, or Day Lilies are also encouraged as well as more native ‘mulches’ of pine needles and leaf litter, are encouraged
Maintenance of native vegetation (naturally occurring species sometimes disparaged as weeds) is encouraged in rights-of-way as it protects the rural character of the Town. Periodic assessment and treatment of this material for damage, disease, and presence of invasives (Norway maple, buckthorn, burning bush, bittersweet, kudzu, etc.) is strongly encouraged. New buffer plantings should also be periodically assessed for crowding, and appropriate, selective removal of vegetation, as well as addition of understory plantings that are considerate of changing light levels should be considered in order to promote future, healthy growth. In no instance should shearing, topping, or broad applications of weed killers or chemical fertilizers be implemented. Large flat areas and expansive lawns should be minimized particularly where they necessitate clearing. Native plantings should be selected to flourish in the New England climate without regular irrigation beyond what is needed to establish the plantings. Use of municipal water for regular irrigation is discouraged.
Landscaping, whether new or transplanted, will need to be actively maintained though the two to three year establishment period, The required plantings will need to be maintained in perpetuity and replaced should any of the plantings die. The Board can consider waiving replacements, particularly in line with a "plant thick, thin quick" methodology (i.e. if the maturing plant buffer would benefit from thinning) to establish landscape buffer.
For existing buffer, replacement plantings will be required in situations where:
- Decline of trees is due to either construction activity or removal of ‘the first layer’ of protective canopy,
- Within a clearly defined ‘no touch area’ that has been scrutinized because of site pressures to reduce expanded development footprint or
- A buffer zone that is narrow and/or thin.
Exterior lighting should be minimized as much as possible. The Board will permit one post light by the street and lighting required by Building Code (at doors). Lighting beyond that required by Code will be scrutinized. Runway lights up the driveway; up lighting of trees and bushes; and floodlights are discouraged. Exterior lighting should below 22,000 lumens total and minimize bulb wattage should be minimized. Light fixtures should be California Title 24 compliant, meaning that the fixture itself is cut off and shielded not just the bulb.
House and Driveway Siting
Notwithstanding significant high groundwater or septic issues, work with the natural topography of your site. Re-grading should be kept to a minimum. Maintain a building apron or platform that is substantially lower or at the natural grade. Retain rock outcroppings and irregular landforms-they create an interesting lot that is consistent with the natural look of Weston and can provide privacy.
Keep your driveway design basic. A circular driveway will necessitate more re grading and tree removal than a single driveway. Minimize re grading to protect existing vegetation. Keep the driveway narrow, no more than 12’, to avoid tree removal and utilize curving to minimize site lines from road to house. Avoid undue large programmatic elements such as auto courts to minimize site disturbance. Entrance piers, formally planted and mulched beds, cobblestone aprons, and driveway gates will be highly scrutinized.
Architecture and Materials
New construction homes should take cues from the surrounding neighborhood and be designed in such a way as to compliment existing homes. House design should be sympathetic to neighboring properties in size, character and massing by being considerate of elements such as style, roof design and pitch, type of materials, window design, color, etc. Traditional style houses in Weston include Colonial, Greek Revival, Mid-19th Century Farmhouse Adaptations, Shingle Style, Federal, Italianate, Queen Anne, Four-Square, Tudor, and Colonial Revival, although existence of these homes varies by neighborhood.
Additions and renovations: Side and rear additions, properly scaled to suit the proportions of the original house, are highly encouraged. Whenever possible, original architectural detailing, including original siding, porches and porch detailing, window placement and size, window sash, door and doorway surround, trim at corners and roofline, etc. should be preserved.
Materials and details: Common, traditional building materials found in Weston include cedar shingle and wood clapboard, and these materials are highly encouraged for both new construction as well as renovations and additions. Detailing that is consistent with other homes in the neighborhood (e.g. half-round fanlights above doorways, paired brackets at rooflines, decorative surface textures, turned porch posts, and fluted columns) help harmonize new construction with old. Garages that do not face the street are highly encouraged, as are farmer’s porches and preservation of historic outbuildings. Finally, a color palette that blends with the surroundings is also highly encouraged (e.g. white or muted colors with contrasting, muted trim).
Storm water runoff from impervious surfaces must be controlled on your lot. Infiltration of runoff as a means of controlling the peak rate of runoff is highly encouraged. Design drainage so that groundwater recharge is maximized and at the project boundaries the rate of runoff is not increased. Storm water controls should be incorporated into the site and landscape design so that they complement and do not detract from the rest of the site. Clearing, grading and additional disturbance should be minimized.
Stormwater will need to be controlled on site during construction with erosion controls at the limit of work on the downslope.
Septic System and Drainage Structure Siting
Installation of leaching fields and infiltration systems necessitate tree and understory removal. Trees are lost due to re-grading and compaction from heavy equipment. In order to avoid this, test in multiple areas within the site and avoid the front and perimeter of the lot whenever possible. The location and configuration of the septic system should complement the rest of the site design and not stand as a separate piece of the design. When constructed, the system should not appear obvious or unnatural. These areas should double as lawn avoiding creating additional lawn areas for the sake of lawn. Grading above and around the system should be naturalized. The location, configuration and elevation of the system should not dictate the design of the site plan. Pumped systems should be considered and may be required by the Planning Board if they meet the standards and criteria of the Zoning By-Law.
Stone walls -Wherever possible, Weston’s existing stone walls should be preserved. New stone walls should be constructed of traditional materials (e.g. New England fieldstone) using traditional construction techniques (e.g. double-faced and dry laid, or mortared core with no exposed mortar). Where existing stone walls meet new stone walls, transitions should be seamless.
Fences - Vegetative buffers will almost always be the preferred option to fencing. However, where fencing is appropriate, it should be located, constructed and/or buffered in such a way as to be visually inconspicuous. Planting in front of privacy fences is highly encouraged. Fencing other than traditional fencing styles (e.g. split rail, stockade and picket), using traditional materials (e.g. natural wood and wrought iron), and/or subdued colors (e.g. dark green, black and exposed wood) will face scrutiny from the Planning Board, especially if these fences are highly visible from roadways or neighboring properties.