About the Design Review Board

The Design Review Board (DRB) and its accompanying zoning regulations were created in October 1983 by act of Town Meeting. Its charge and purpose under Section 3.2 of the Zoning Bylaw is:
“... to preserve and enhance the Town's cultural, economic and historical resources by providing for a detailed review of all changes in land use, the appearance of structures and the appearance of sites which may affect these resources. The review procedures are intended to:
  1. Enhance the social and economic viability of the Town by preserving property values and promoting the attractiveness of the Town as a place to live, visit and shop;
  2. Encourage the conservation of buildings and groups of buildings that have aesthetic or historic significance;
  3. Prevent alterations that are incompatible with the existing environment or that are of inferior quality or appearance; and
  4. Encourage flexibility and variety in future development.”
The DRB consists of 5 members appointed by the Select Board. Two members must be design professionals and 1 member a business proprietor or owner in the downtown area. Two of the 5 members are nominated by and represent the Planning Board and Historical Commission, respectively. The DRB’s geographic jurisdiction includes all exterior changes requiring building permits within the downtown business districts, and any exterior change within 150 feet of the edge of the green spaces in the Town Common. These areas are of primary importance for the preservation of historic architecture and site features, and for the application of sound new urban design. Design review is also required for all Town projects above and beyond routine maintenance anywhere in Amherst.

Design review is a mandatory step in the permit process, but the DRB offers design advice and recommendations, and does not impose permitting requirements. It is up to the applicant and other permitting board(s) to determine how to incorporate or respond to the DRB’s design recommendations. In those geographic areas where DRB jurisdiction does not extend, other permitting boards are authorized to apply the design review principles and standards set out in Section 3.204