Permit Procedures

Introduction: Beginning the Process

This guide will briefly introduce you to the development and construction permitting process in Hingham. The more research you do in the planning stage, the easier it will be to meet the Town's requirements, and also acquire state and federal permits and approvals, which are sometimes necessary.

All permit applications must be completed using Online Permitting.


This guide is for information only; it does not have the force of law. Please refer to the applicable laws and regulations for specific technical and procedural requirements. In most cases you will need professional help in such areas as land survey, architecture, engineering, law and transportation planning.


How Long Will it Take?

It depends on how many and what kinds of permits you need. Many applications can be processed simultaneously, but some, most importantly, the Building Permit, require that others be in place first. Staff can help you estimate the length of time your permits will take.
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Departmental Responsibilities
The usual process toward obtaining a permit would involve some or all of the following departments:

Building Department
We suggest you start at the Building Department, because in Hingham the Building Commissioner must issue a permit for any new or modified use of land. He or his staff will be able to advise you of the regulations that may be applicable to your project.

If zoning relief is needed, it should be sought first, so that you will be assured of being able to proceed with your project at the chosen site.

Board of Appeals
The zoning by-law authorizes the Board of Appeals to issue special permits for regulated uses, consider variances for proposed exceptions and hear appeals of decisions of administrative officers. The zoning process will involve an advertised public hearing, (generally on Thursday evenings), and your application will, in many instances, be sent to appropriate Town boards for prior review and recommendation.

If the Conservation Commission has jurisdiction, simultaneous application to that board is advisable because the zoning board is not authorized to act on applications for permits to work within the Flood Plain and Watershed Protection District (land shown on FEMA 100 year FIRM maps and flood plain as defined on Hingham's zoning map B) until all other boards have acted on the requisite permits.

Signs  - With limited exceptions, the zoning by-law regulates the size, location and number of building and ground signs in all zoning districts. The Building Commissioner is authorized to issue a permit for single signs up to a certain size.

To erect more of larger signs, a zoning permit is necessary. The Zoning Administrator is authorized to issue permits for single signs up to a certain size. To erect more or larger signs, a zoning permit is necessary. The Zoning Administrator is authorized to issue permits for such signs, following a public hearing, provided they meet the regulations; exceptions are reviewed by the full Board of Appeals.

Conservation Commission
Work in or within 100 feet of a wetland (defined in the Massachusetts) Wetlands Protection Act and the Hingham Wetlands Protection By-law) and work on storm drains or drainage systems, projects affecting or abutting town-owned open space, and projects affecting or including conservation restrictions, must be reviewed by the Conservation Commission. The Conservation Officer can tell you if your project falls under Conservation Commission jurisdiction; conservation impacts are not always apparent. All other necessary local permits must have been applied for prior to a filing with the Commission.

Planning Board
If no zoning relief is required, for commercial development, site plan review will be done by the Planning Board on receipt of your building permit application forwarded from the Building Department. Any division or re-division of land also must be approved by the Planning Board.

Historic Districts Commission
No building permit may be issued covering exterior work visible from the street for properties within local historic districts. The Building Department has information on district boundaries and application forms. In certain cases, a public hearing is required to obtain the requisite Certificate of Appropriateness from the Historic Districts Commission for the work.

Health Department
Based on the size and proposed uses of your project, the Health Officer can explain the procedures for obtaining septic system and other permits and licenses. Use the Health Department's records of soil tests and existing septic system locations to help determine your site's suitability for septic disposal.

Sewer Commission
Permits for those properties connected to the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority are approved by the department's foreman through the Sewer Commission.

Public Works Department
A permit from the Department of Public Works is required for all work within the layout of a public way owned and maintained by the Town of Hingham. This includes the installation of driveways or utility lines, cutting or pruning trees, installation or alteration of stone walls, fences or any structure, and changes in drainage patterns. Certain town streets are designated scenic roads; a public hearing is held by the Planning Board to review proposed changes in trees or walls along them.

In general, the public utility is responsible for obtaining the necessary street opening permit for service installation. You should first contact the specific utility company.