Building Permits, Zoning, Setbacks, and Variances

If you plan to construct, reconstruct, alter, repair, remove, or demolish a building or structure, or if you intend to change the use or occupancy of a building or structure, you must obtain Building Permits.We thought we would revisit our blog, “What Do I Need a Building Permit For?” to discuss this process further. Building Permits and Zoning laws feel like a hassle, we hope that understanding them better will help explain why they are necessary and helpful.


The community’s welfare, safety, and economic growth depend greatly on zoning. The information provided below is taken from the website and pertains to Massachusetts residents.

  • In Massachusetts, towns decide their own zoning bylaws.
  • Zoning regulates the use of land and building which directly effects the value of the home or space.
    • Ensures that a property is using its most appropriate land in relation to its location and surroundings.
    • It makes sure that you’re using the best land to minimize potential negative impacts of construction.
    • To protect, wildlife, and vulnerable lands.
    • Ensure orderly development of city or town.
    • Make sure the space has adequate infrastructure like roads, water, and sewage.

These bylaws are enforced by a Zoning Enforcement Officer, Building Inspector, or Commissioner.


Within local zoning laws are setbacks on your own property. Setbacks are the minimum distance that a house must be located from a street, road, river, flood plain, or any other area requiring protection, such as conservation land, wetlands, or animal habitats.

Any time you are expanding the footprint of a house (i.e additions or decks), you need to meet setbacks, which are different for each town and each zone within the town.


Variances are exceptions to setbacks granted after homeowners present valid reasons for variances. They ask too prove the value of your home will not go down. They also have guidelines to ensure remodeling will not disrupt any neighbors, wildlife, etc. If a variance is necessary for your project, Almar can assist you with applying for the variance. Once you approve the variance, you can proceed with submitting your application for the building permit.

Building Permits

When it comes to Building Permits, when your working with Almar, we will apply for all necessary permits and keep in contact with the local Board of Health, Conservation Department, and Building Department.

During the construction of your project, the Building Department, Board of Health, and Conservation Department will conduct regular inspections. They will ensure that your project adheres to code and is running smoothly.

Inquire with us today on our website or call us during our business hours, Monday through Friday, 8 AM-4 PM at 781-826-2577.

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Allison Guido

Almar's CEO has over 20 years of experience in the remodeling industry. She is constantly learning and looking for ways to improve our homeowners' remodeling process and experience. Her mission is to break the Contractor Stereo Type and provide a great product at a good price for our homeowners.