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Daily Buzz | MBTA Communities Legislation Requires Multifamily Zoning, Not New Construction
This bylaw can be used to rejuvenate existing properties
Looks like you’re having some beautiful days without me! I’ll be back home today, and happily I’m leaving good weather to come back to good weather—just the way it’s supposed to be.
Town Meeting resumes tonight, so let’s continue reviewing the updates provided at Monday’s opening meeting. The last department to present was Planning, and they had a number of updates:
The town’s Master Plan is complete. What is a Master Plan? According to the state bylaws, it is “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…”
In plain language, this plan sets the vision for the town, and this plan is what people consult when trying to decide if a proposed municipal project fits that vision.
The development of this plan was supported by a steering committee—consisting of members of various town boards as well as business owners and residents—and a team of consultants; its elements consist of plans for land use, town center, natural and cultural resources, and more. Community conversations also informed this process, with workshops, focus groups, and interviews—both in-person and online.
Find a copy of the Master Plan here!
Some priorities came out of the Master Plan for housing in Burlington:
Preserve the quality of housing stock
Expand the range of housing options
Promote housing affordability
If these look familiar, that’s because these were the recommendations from the Housing Needs Assessment that was presented in 2022.
Speaking of housing, the MBTA Communities legislation, enacted in 2021, requires that “…at least one zoning district of a reasonable size in which multi-family housing is permitted as of right” be available in each MBTA community. This law was passed because the state has determined that the lack of housing is an economic disadvantage.
The total zoning area must be at least 50 acres with a density of 15 units per acre.
Multifamily housing is an allowed use in the bylaws (so the use doesn’t need a special permit), but proposed developments still have to go through the Site Plan review process.
There can be no age or bedroom number restrictions.
Because we’re an “adjacent” community, we don’t need to have our new zone/overlay near any bus stop or transit center, but we need a zoning overlay that could support 1043 units (10% of the inventory in Burlington). But—and here is the interesting part—WE DON’T EVER HAVE TO BUILD THE UNITS. We just need to prove that we have the zoning and capacity to build it.
The consequences of not complying are significant:
No eligibility for MassWorks Infrastructure Program funding
No support for Housing Choice Initiative
No access to Local Capital Projects Fund
Attorney General is prepared to take civil action
According to Planning Director, Liz Bonventre, some of this overlay can/should go over existing multifamily housing such as Beacon Village, Hallmark Gardens, and Lord Baron. Also, we can use this as an economic development tool—we have areas and buildings that can use a little rejuvenation as it is, and we can incentivize mixed-use zoning.
The town is going to continue working through creating new zoning bylaws, which will be before Town Meeting for a vote in 2024; full compliance is expected by the end of 2024.
That’s all for the reports. We’ll be back at it tonight, picking up about 2/3 of the way down the capital requests list.
Today in Burlington
Meetings and Events
10:30 & 11:30 AM - Toddler and Preschool Storytime at the library
2:00 PM - Board of Health Tri-Ton Advisory Board will work on their FY24 Workplan and Budget. (61 Center Street)
2:30 PM - Shawsheen School Council will discuss next year’s Improvement Plan and Handbook. (Shawsheen Tech)
5:30 PM - Burlington Lacrosse Youth Night at BHS: By a $2 slushie and support the Class of 2024 Student Council!
5:30 PM - Board of Health Subcommittee meets about public participation policy.(BOH Conference Room)
Sports and Activities
Girls (74-62) and Boys (105-31) both won their track meet against Wilmington yesterday. Volleyball teams, though, fell to Winchester 0-3 (Varsity) and 0-2 (JV).
Today we’ve got a few matchups:
Unified coed basketball in Winchester at 4:00
Tennis at 4:00: Boys play in Watertown and girls play Watertown at Rahanis
Lacrosse against Woburn at 5:00: Boys travel and Girls’ Varsity plays at BHS; JV girls play at 7:00
That’s all I’ve got for you today. tomorrow I’ll be back with a Town Meeting update. See you then!