Land use and zoning regulations fall under Chapter 40A of Massachusetts General Laws. You can view and search this chapter at the state website: MGL Chapter 40A

The Zoning Board of Appeals serves two functions. First, they are empowered to issue special permits and variances. Second, they are the local authority where someone who feels aggrieved may appeal an enforcement order issued by the Zoning Enforcement Officer specifically when the order alleges a violation of the Ipswich Zoning Regulations. The Board can also overturn a ruling or decision of the Zoning Enforcement Officer. Orders issued under the Massachusetts Building Code (780 CMR) may be appealed to a different board (State Building Code Appeals Board).

Several uses mentioned in the Table of Uses,

Ipswich Zoning Bylaw [IBL], section V-D would only be allowed if the Board chooses to grant a special permit. These uses are shown by [SBA] in the tables. 

Special permits may also authorize an expansion of a previously existing, non-conforming use or structure as outlined in [IBL], II-B & XI-J. Existing non-conforming structures and uses are most commonly referred to as Grandfathered.  Special Permit Application

The Zoning Board may also issue a variance. This would allow a use that is ordinarily prohibited or a structure to be constructed, expanded or altered where the bylaw would otherwise prohibit such expansion or alteration.   Variance Application

Variances should only be granted where a hardship exists and only when the hardship is directly related to the land. Some examples are soil characteristics, shape or topography. If someone feels there is a financial hardship, it must also be related to the land in some manner.

Special permits could be granted if the proposed work or use does not have a detrimental effect on the surrounding neighborhood. Some of the general categories of consideration are any increase of traffic, parking, noise, dust odors etc.

The Ipswich Zoning Board of Appeals meets the third Thursday of each month except during December.

All applications must be filed in the Town Clerks office by 4:00 PM; dates are subject to change.

Meetings are posted in Town Hall at least 48 hours prior to meeting.


Applications are available at Town Hall (25 Green St.) or on this website. The meetings are conducted on the third (3rd) Thursday of the month.

The Ipswich Zoning Bylaw may be purchased with the zoning map at the Town Clerks’ office. There is also a version on this website that may be viewed and downloaded.

Please make sure to plan your projects with enough time for waiting out any subsequent appeal periods once a variance or special permit is granted.

The Zoning Board usually makes their decision the night of the hearing. There is nothing that prevents the Board from continuing the hearing and voting at a later time. Once the decision is made by vote of the Board, the written decision is filed in the Town Clerks’ Office. There is then a twenty (20) day appeal period after the decision is filed.

If no one appeals the decision (in court) it must be filed with the property deed at the Salem Registry of Deeds. It does not become a legal instrument until it is filed and must be filed within one (1) year.

No building permit or use/occupancy certificate can be issued (if required) until the special permit or variance is recorded at the registry.

Questions about use of land or structures should be directed to Jim Sperber at (978) 356-6605 ext. 2.   Procedural questions may be directed to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it at (978) 356-6672.



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