What is a master plan?

From MA General Law, Section 81D: A planning board established in any city or town under section eighty-one A shall make a master plan of such city or town or such part or parts thereof as said board may deem advisable and from time to time may extend or perfect such plan.

Such plan shall be a statement, through text, maps, illustrations or other forms of communication, that is designed to provide a basis for decision making regarding the long-term physical development of the municipality. The comprehensive plan shall be internally consistent in its policies, forecasts and standards, and shall include the following elements:

(1) Goals and policies statement which identifies the goals and policies of the municipality for its future growth and development. Each community shall conduct an interactive public process, to determine community values, goals and to identify patterns of development that will be consistent with these goals.

(2) Land use plan element which identifies present land use and designates the proposed distribution, location and inter-relationship of public and private land uses. This element shall relate the proposed standards of population density and building intensity to the capacity of land available or planned facilities and services. A land use plan map illustrating the land use policies of the municipality shall be included.

(3) Housing element which identifies and analyzes existing and forecasted housing needs and objectives including programs for the preservation, improvement and development of housing. This element shall identify policies and strategies to provide a balance of local housing opportunities for all citizens.

(4) Economic development element which identifies policies and strategies for the expansion or stabilization of the local economic base and the promotion of employment opportunities.

(5) Natural and cultural resources element which provides an inventory of the significant natural, cultural and historic resource areas of the municipality, and policies and strategies for the protection and management of such areas.

(6) Open space and recreation element which provides an inventory of recreational and resources and open space areas of the municipality, and policies and strategies for the management and protection of such resources and areas.

(7) Services and facilities element which identifies and analyzes existing and forecasted needs for facilities and services used by the public.

(8) Circulation element which provides an inventory of existing and proposed circulation and transportation systems.

(9) Implementation program element which defines and schedules the specific municipal actions necessary to achieve the objectives of each element of the master or study plan. Scheduled expansion or replacement of public facilities or circulation system components and the anticipated costs and revenues associated with accomplishment of such activities shall be detailed in this element. This element shall specify the process by which the municipality's regulatory structures shall be amended so as to be consistent with the master plan.

Such plan shall be made, and may be added to or changed from time to time, by a majority vote of such planning board and shall be public record. The planning board shall, upon completion of any plan or report, or any change or amendment to a plan or report produced under this section, furnish a copy of such plan or report or amendment thereto, to the department of housing and community development.

A city or town which has an established master or study plan under section eighty-one A and applies for a state grant from the commonwealth shall prepare and keep on file within such city or town an economic development supplement; provided, however, that such city or town shall not be required to prepare such supplement if such city or town has a supplement on file. Such supplement shall be at least one page in length and shall contain the goals of the city or town with respect to industrial or commercial development, affordable housing, and preservation of parks and open space.

Acre: a unit of area; in the United States and England, an acre is equal to 43,560 square feet (4047 square meters). This is equal to 10 square chains or 160 square poles. 640 acres equals one square mile.

Boundary demarcation: the process of identification and acceptance of property boundaries. These boundaries may be physically created on the ground and have recognizable features (survey markers, fences, trees or bushes, roads, waterways, paths, etc.); or they may rely on a mathematical description usually based on a co-ordinate system.

Cadastral map: a map showing the boundaries of many land parcels over a larger geographic area. Such maps may also depict other geographic features such as roads, rivers, and structures. The level of precision and cost of cadastral surveys to create the map is dependent on the accuracy needed for boundary descriptions. The accuracy should reflect factors such as the value of the land, the risk and cost of land disputes and the information needs of the users of the cadastr

Common property: land and other resources over which individuals or communities have specific common rights. Common property refers to co-ownership rights which cannot be divided, alienated or developed without the unanimous consent of all common property owners, or according to the rules established by the common owners. Thus, common property owners have full rights of ownership as long as they act with common consent

Conservation management: an extension of land management that emphasizes the need to protect and safeguard natural resources

Convey/Conveyance: the act (or documentation of the act) of transferring legal title in a piece of property from one party to another.

Dual Occupancy: a block of land which is zoned in a way that there two separate residences are permitted to be constructed there.

Duplex: refers to a house with two units while sharing a common wall

Easement: the right of use over the property of another, for example the right of access or the right of passage of utilitie

Eminent domain: The right of the State to acquire real property without the consent of the property owner in order to use the property for a public purpos

Encroachment: part of a house or establishment illegally overhanging the street or a neighbor's p

GIS: A geographic information system (GIS) is a framework for gathering, managing, and analyzing data. Rooted in the science of geography, GIS integrates many types of data. It analyzes spatial location and organizes layers of information into visualizations using maps and 3D scenes. ​With this unique capability, GIS reveals deeper insights into data, such as patterns, relationships, and situations—helping users make smarter decisions.

Grantee: a person who buys, purchases or receives property

Grantor: a person who sells, gives or transfers property

Habitable: residential properties that are suitable for occupancy. Local building codes ensure that structures are habitable through requirements for building permits and occupancy certificates

Indiscriminate Survey: a survey method used in the U.S. State Land states which uses natural land features, such as trees and streams, as well as distances and adjoining property lines to describe plots of land. Also called metes and bounds or indiscriminate metes and bounds

Land administration: refers to the processes of recording and disseminating information about the ownership, value, and use of land and its associated resources. Such processes include the determination of rights and other attributes of the land, the survey and description of these rights, their detailed documentation, and the provision of relevant information in support of land markets and land use management

Lease: a contract conferring possession of land, and any profits of the land, for life or a certain period as long as the terms of the contract (e.g. rent) continue to be met. In some cases the contract of the lease may allow the lessee to sell or devise the land, but the land still reverts to the owner at the end of the specified period

Market Value: the price at which a seller is happy to sell and a buyer is willing to buy

Mixed-Use Development: a project providing for more than one purpose. In housing it blends a combination of residential, commercial, cultural, institutional and industrial usage

Open Space: land which has not had improvements such as buildings and other structures added to it. Such land is often left in a subdivision by a developer or stipulated by a local authority for recreational use or for personal use by the owner

Parcel/Plot: the basic spatial unit in a cadastre. The parcel/plot is an area of land having a particular ownership, land use, or other characteristics to distinguish it from neighboring areas of land

Partition: the legal process by which a parcel or lot of land is divided between several joint owners (e.g. siblings who jointly inherited the land of their father upon his death). Also called a “division

Plat: a map or drawing showing the outline of an individual tract of land (noun). To make a drawing or plan from a metes and bounds land description

Private property: property held in freehold by private persons, either natural persons or legal persons

Processioning: determining the boundaries of a tract of land by physically walking them in the company of an assigned processioner to confirm markers and bounds and renew the property lines. Owners of adjoining tracts often chose to attend the processioning as well, to protect their vested interest

Protected area: an area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means

Public property: property owned by any level of government

Public Housing: government-owned housing projects made available to low-income individuals or families at nominal rentals

Real Property: land and anything which is attached to it, including buildings, crops, trees, fences, etc

Registration of deeds: a system whereby a deed transferring rights in land is recorded in a register of documents in order to provide public notice of the transfer. The legal right to the land arises from the deed, not from the act of recordation

Site Plan: a detailed plan which depicts the location of improvements on a parcel of land which also contains all the information required by the zoning ordinance

State land: land owned by the government in contrast to land ownership by private persons legal or natural

Survey: the plat (drawing and accompanying text) prepared by a surveyor showing the boundaries of a tract of land; to determine and measure the boundaries and size of a piece of property. Survey: the process of measurement of land and the recording of related geographical information for planning, management, and administrative purposes

Tax Base: assessed valuation of all the real property that lies within the jurisdiction of a taxing authority, which is then multiplied by the tax rate or mill levy to determine the amount of tax due

Title: ownership of a specific tract of land; the document stating that ownership

Tract: a specified area of land, sometimes called a parcel

Trust: an arrangement through which property rights are transferred from an individual to one or more trustees to be held for a set of beneficiaries. A trust may be established to manage income from property on behalf of minors or a large group of people

Town and Country Planning: a planning system utilized by the government to balance economic development and environmental quality

Trustee: a person who holds or controls property for the benefit of another

Under-Valuation: value of the property that is lesser than the fair market value

Use right: the right to use a thing in accordance with its designated purpose. A use right is linked to membership in the resident community and perpetuated by stable and continuous occupation, confirmed by the work carried out by a family of farmers

Utilities: private or public service facilities such as gas, electricity, telephone, water, and sewer that are provided by the government agencies as part of the development of the land

Valuation: written analysis of the estimated value of a property prepared by a qualified valuer

Working Drawings: set of plans for a building that indicate the manner in which a project is to be built. It also includes a set of specifications for the building or project

Zoning: division of a city or town into zones and the application of regulations having to do with the structural, architectural design and intended use of buildings within such designated zone (i.e. a tenant needing manufacturing space would look for a building located within an area zoned for manufacturing)

Zoning Ordinance: refers to the set of laws and regulations, generally, at the city or county level, controlling the use of land and construction of improvements in a given area or zone