Land Use Planning and Zoning


Current or Recent Projects

Green Communities Technical Assistance: Twenty one (21) of the 26 towns in Franklin County are now designated Green Communities. Towns can become a Green Community by meeting a set of five criteria outlined by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER). Once designated as a Green Community, the Town is eligible to apply for grants that can be used on energy efficiency and clean energy improvements in the community. To date, Franklin County Green Communities have received a combined total of $3,796,660  that has been used in our local economy to improve energy efficiency and increase the use of renewable energy in Franklin County.

The Green Communities Program is an ongoing program with annual designation and grant application deadlines. FRCOG has been awarded funding through DOER’s Municipal Energy Technical Assistance (META) grant to assist towns to either become a Green Community, or if already designated, to meet annual reporting requirements and apply for additional grants. FRCOG staff have also applied on behalf of towns to fund energy audits of municipal buildings through the META grant program, which is open to all municipalities regardless of Green Community designation. For more information, please contact Alison Gage at or 413-774-3167 x 136, or Kimberly Noake MacPhee at or 413 774 3167 x130.


OSRP Thumbnail Field

Open Space and Recreation Planning: FRCOG has recently assisted the Towns of Ashfield, Erving, Gill, and Leverett in updating their Open Space and Recreation Plans. An Open Space and Recreation Plan (OSRP) helps a community to act strategically to protect and enhance the natural, cultural, and recreational resources they value most, makes them eligible to receive LAND (Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity) and PARC (Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations) grants from Massachusetts Division of Conservation Service, and increases their ranking for other competitive state grants. Contact Kimberly Noake MacPhee at or 413 774 3167 x130. Click here for more Natural Resource related projects.


Housing plans identify the housing needs of a community and outline the strategies a town can take toward meeting those needs. Housing plans seek to address questions that are important to the future of Franklin County towns:

  • Does current housing meet the needs of residents now and in the future?
  • Will seniors be able to stay in town as they age?
  • Will children be able to return to the community to raise a family?
  • Can people employed in town afford to live here?

In recent years, the FRCOG has assisted the Towns of Buckland, Deerfield, Greenfield, Montague, Shelburne, and Sunderland with completing new or updated housing plans utilizing DHCD Local Technical Assistance funds. For more information contact Megan Rhodes at or 413-774-3167 x132.


Vacant and Abandoned Buildings: Options for Town Officials: Vacant and abandoned buildings can be a financial drain on towns, can pose health and safety issues for residents and first responders, and can decrease the value of nearby properties. FRCOG Planning staff, partnering with our Cooperative Public Health Service, developed a Toolkit to help towns address vacant and abandoned buildings, focused on housing. The toolkit includes: 1) How to form a task force and who should serve on it, 2) How to inventory vacant and abandoned properties and set priorities for resolving issues and 3) how to follow various paths a town can pursue to clean up these properties. Click here to download a copy of the Toolkit. More information: Kimberly Noake MacPhee at or 413 774 3167 x130 or Phoebe Walker at or (413) 774-3167 x 102.


bylaws iconZoning Bylaw Technical Assistance:
The FRCOG works with towns on a wide variety of zoning topics including affordable housing, floodplain overlay districts, short-term residential rentals, pollinator habitat, large-scale solar facilities and recreational marijuana.  In addition, we assist Planning Boards to prepare comprehensive updates to Subdivision Regulations or Zoning Bylaws. For more information or assistance, contact Peggy Sloan at or 413 774 3167 x133.


Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership (MTWP) Project:

The Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership is a cooperative association of municipalities and regional organizations working collaboratively to implement the goals of the Partnership.  The goals of the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership (MTWP) Project are to bring recognition and additional financial and technical resources to 21 municipalities in northwestern Massachusetts, primarily via special designation by the State and the U.S. Forest Service to:

  • Increase economic development related to forestry and natural resource based tourism;
  • Support the expansion of forest conservation and sustainable forestry on private lands; and
  • Improve the fiscal stability and sustainability of municipalities.

After years of planning, 17 of the 21 communities have opted into the Partnership and are realizing the benefits of working together as a region.  For the past 3 years, MTWP Partnership towns have been eligible for $20,000 town implementation grants that have been used for a variety of purposes.  These include recreation trail improvements, creation of Forest Stewardship Plans to increase carbon storage and the resiliency of town forests to climate change, planting of climate resilient trees to increase forest cover, and creation of signage for public education and to improve public safety at recreation areas supporting tourism.  The Partnership is under the direction of the MTWP Board with administration and staff support provided by the New England Forestry Foundation.

For more information link to the official project website.

Past Projects

Regional Development

Sustainable FC thumbnailsSustainable Franklin County: A Regional Plan for Sustainable Development: The FRCOG and its Project Partners were selected in 2010 as one of 45 regional areas nationwide to receive a HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant. The plan is being used to guide local and regional sustainable planning and implementation activities, and addresses housing, transportation, economic development, energy, infrastructure, and natural and cultural resources. Sustainable Franklin County was given an American Planning Association Massachusetts Chapter Comprehensive Planning Award in 2013 for its unusually high merit. This award reflects the great work by many FRCOG planners and staff from our Consortium Members: Community Action, Franklin County Regional Housing & Redevelopment Authority, Franklin County Community Development Corporation, the North Quabbin Community Coalition and the towns of Deerfield, Greenfield, Montague & Orange. Read the Sustainable Franklin County Executive Summary or Sustainable Franklin County Complete Plan. For more information, contact Peggy Sloan at or 413 774 3167 x133.


Regional Housing

Franklin County Regional Housing Study: The FRCOG completed the Franklin County Regional Housing Study, a report to determine the affordable housing needs of Franklin County.  This study shows generally whether there is sufficient housing that is affordable for households at various income levels.  This analysis was performed for three sub-regions and the county as a whole.  For more information, contact Megan Rhodes at 413-774-3167 x132 or


Local Tree Inventories 

In 2017, the FRCOG conducted an inventory of public street trees in South Deerfield and Old Deerfield, funded by a DCR Urban and Community Forestry Challenge Grant.  The inventory included a GIS (geographic information system) data layer with each street tree’s location, genus, species, common name, height, canopy spread, condition and other vital information within the project’s geographic scope. A final report, along with printed maps and infographic poster was provided to the Deerfield Highway Department and Tree Warden – as well as town officials – to manage, maintain, and plan for additional plantings of trees in Deerfield. Read the report and review the Climate Resilient Trees for Streetside Planting document. (This project also included a collaboration with the Conway School, which provided a student team to conduct a town-wide ecological assessment, focusing on trees. Read Ecological Resilience in Deerfield: Trees as Green Infrastructure.)

In 2018, public trees in and around downtown Northfield were inventoried as part of a project to produce a tree planting and maintenance plan for the Town. Data gathered during the spring 2018 inventory were mapped and analyzed, and a final plan, along with printed maps and infographics poster, was provided to the Northfield Board of Selectmen. The information contained in the report will help Town officials manage, maintain, and plan for additional plantings of tree. Read the report and view the infographics posterTo help the Tree Warden select trees that will withstand climate change impacts and other stressors, a list of resilient trees was provided the Town as well.  Read the Climate Resilient Trees for Streetside Planting.


Food Systems

Fore more information on all past food systems projects, contact Kimberly Noake MacPhee at or 413 774 3167 x 130.


The Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan, co-authored by the FRCOG and released in December 2015, presents goals and actions to strengthen the state’s food system. The Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan is a comprehensive assessment identifying current strengths of the Commonwealth’s food system and opportunities for improvement. “Through the recommendations in this plan, we will continue our efforts to support Massachusetts agriculture and increase access to healthy food for all of our state’s residents,” said Governor Charlie Baker. Download the plan.

farm land and barnRegional Food System Plan: Franklin county and statewide food system projects identified lack of access to affordable farmland for new farmers and expanding farms as an issue. Through District Local Technical Assistance the FRCOG mapped and analyzed land in a four-town pilot area (Bernardston, Gill, Greenfield, and Northfield) to determine the amount of suitable town-owned land that could potentially be leased to farmers. As part of this project, the FRCOG teamed with Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust and Land for Good to offer a workshop for land owners interested in learning more about leasing land to farmers and for farmers interested in keeping their land in farming when they retire. The team also offered a training for town officials on leasing town-owned land to farmers, and options for stewarding and protecting farmland. The presentation given at the training for town officials is available here.

The final report and action plan for the Franklin County Farm and Food System Project is available here. Funded by a grant from the Henry P. Kendall Foundation, the Franklin County Farm and Food System Project focuses on food system infrastructure, processing, and distribution as well as on food access. The project supports the work of key organizations working toward a resilient food system in the region. Farmer outreach for this food system project was conducted via the Franklin County Farmer Survey. View the survey findings.