Multi-Family Zoning Requirements for MBTA Communities

tysmith95

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I thought it would be interesting to discuss the new zoning requirements for communities with mbta stations and neighboring communities. It'll be interesting to see how many towns comply and if any decide to forgo certain state funding.

I'm a big fan of this effort though. Hopefully it works and loopholes are closed. I'm also interested in the fact that it does not specify affordability requirements.


 

Arlington

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I think we had another thread going on this topic (well worth discussing and I or another mod will likely merge)
 

tysmith95

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In unsurprising news, suburban communities are starting to complain about the new requirements.
 
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Scott

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What would you say to someone who said it is coercive, that people shouldn’t be blackmailed by the government and denied the tax dollars they worked for? Or that the state does not have jurisdiction over local zoning so this is a back door way of negating that prerogative?
 

Equilibria

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What would you say to someone who said it is coercive, that people shouldn’t be blackmailed by the government and denied the tax dollars they worked for? Or that the state does not have jurisdiction over local zoning so this is a back door way of negating that prerogative?
I'd say that every State law that limits what municipalities can do for the sake of the greater good could be described that way. Municipalities can't openly ban non-White people from living there because of State and Federal laws, but they can do so indirectly through zoning. The State is simply correcting that oversight.
 

Smuttynose

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In unsurprising news, suburban communities are starting to complain about the new requirements.
"According to Galvin and local Planning Director Tina Cassidy, local officials believe the draft MBTA Communities “guidelines” - which would require Woburn to allow for the by-right construction of some 3,500 new multi-family housing units - threaten the very character of the city."

Not to disparage Woburn, but does it have a particularly strong small town-ish type character? I don't know much about it, except for the giant Toyota dealership right off 95 and the other 5-6 story office buildings along the highway and Anderson/Woburn, which seems to be weirdly isolated.
 

SuffolkHeights11

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What would you say to someone who said it is coercive, that people shouldn’t be blackmailed by the government and denied the tax dollars they worked for? Or that the state does not have jurisdiction over local zoning so this is a back door way of negating that prerogative?
Local zoning exists because the state allowed it via a Zoning Enabling Act. That right can be altered or taken away entirely at any time.
 

Blackbird

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"According to Galvin and local Planning Director Tina Cassidy, local officials believe the draft MBTA Communities “guidelines” - which would require Woburn to allow for the by-right construction of some 3,500 new multi-family housing units - threaten the very character of the city."

Not to disparage Woburn, but does it have a particularly strong small town-ish type character?
Turns out “industrial wasteland” is exactly the character that Galvin and Cassidy are trying to preserve!
 

737900er

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I think it's odd that Wellesley and Weston (which don't have bus or rapid transit in their towns) have higher requirements than Watertown (which has 3 key bus routes and the frequently served 70 and 502/504). I also think it's odd that Watertown and Hull or Lincoln (which have one tiny bus route) get put in the same category.
 
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tysmith95

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I think it's odd that Wellesley and Weston (which don't have bus or rapid transit in their towns) have higher requirements than Watertown (which has 3 key bus routes and the frequently served 70 and 502/504).
It's because they're within a half mile of Riverside (rapid transit). Watertown is considered to be just a bus community. But yes I agree from a practical perspective Watertown is a better place to build multifamily housing as the bus routes are very frequent and it's easier to be car free (or car lite meaning one car per household) in Watertown than Wellesley/Weston.
 
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Stlin

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I will say sometimes the beneficial broad state wide policy has unfortunate local repurcussions. I know the small town where I sit on a committee just barely has a corner that triggers compliance, being ½ Mile from a CR stop. That corner is about 12 single family and an orchard, and the 750 unit minimum would literally be over 35% increase for the town as a whole. I don't think the town is opposed in principle - just to the 750 unit minimum.

I think it's odd that Wellesley and Weston (which don't have bus or rapid transit in their towns) have higher requirements than Watertown (which has 3 key bus routes and the frequently served 70 and 502/504).
It may be that Watertown is already substantially more compliant with the proposed zoning requirements- they may already have substantial multifamily zoning and not need to "create" as much new zoning.
 

737900er

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"According to Galvin and local Planning Director Tina Cassidy, local officials believe the draft MBTA Communities “guidelines” - which would require Woburn to allow for the by-right construction of some 3,500 new multi-family housing units - threaten the very character of the city."

Not to disparage Woburn, but does it have a particularly strong small town-ish type character? I don't know much about it, except for the giant Toyota dealership right off 95 and the other 5-6 story office buildings along the highway and Anderson/Woburn, which seems to be weirdly isolated.
Maybe a "floor-and-trade" system would help alleviate some of the local resistance? Allow a town to pay another town in the same category or denser to approve the required units? Let Woburn pay Dedham or Quincy to take over half their obligation.
 

Equilibria

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Maybe a "floor-and-trade" system would help alleviate some of the local resistance? Allow a town to pay another town in the same category or denser to approve the required units? Let Woburn pay Dedham or Quincy to take over half their obligation.
That serves the purpose of building housing, but not the purpose of forcing communities that benefit from rail stations to densify in a manner commensurate with the stations being there.

We all pay to subsidize their Commuter Rail access, especially given the ridership at some of these stations. They need to pay us back by building housing (and presumably increasing the ridership).

"According to Galvin and local Planning Director Tina Cassidy, local officials believe the draft MBTA Communities “guidelines” - which would require Woburn to allow for the by-right construction of some 3,500 new multi-family housing units - threaten the very character of the city."

Not to disparage Woburn, but does it have a particularly strong small town-ish type character? I don't know much about it, except for the giant Toyota dealership right off 95 and the other 5-6 story office buildings along the highway and Anderson/Woburn, which seems to be weirdly isolated.
And yes, this is completely absurd. Just build 3,500 units north of 128 along Commerce Way. That needs to be TOD anyway, and it's currently commercial and light industrial with nary a trace of "village character" to be found.
 

jklo

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It's because they're within a half mile of Riverside (rapid transit).
Weston could in theory build where that golf course is. As others have mentioned though, even if there was housing there residents would need a car (or two) for sure.
 

Equilibria

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Weston could in theory build where that golf course is. As others have mentioned though, even if there was housing there residents would need a car (or two) for sure.
Weston could have incorporated residential into the redevelopment of the Riverside Office Park. Easy walk to the T via current/future trails.

The golf course is DCR property, so no, Weston could not build there.
 

Blackbird

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I know the small town where I sit on a committee just barely has a corner that triggers compliance, being ½ Mile from a CR stop. That corner is about 12 single family and an orchard, and the 750 unit minimum would literally be over 35% increase for the town as a whole.
Isn't the bolded kind of absurd for a town on the commuter rail?
 

SomerJeff

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One thing to note with this law is that it doesn't require communities to actually build the housing, just zone it such that it could be built.

I bet the orchard is large enough that it could satisfy the requirements alone with rezoning.
 

DZH22

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Municipalities can't openly ban non-White people from living there because of State and Federal laws, but they can do so indirectly through zoning.
It's all about money, not race. You don't think Jayson Tatum and his $32.6 million salary could buy a home in any town he wants? Obviously the salary averages aren't equal, but a rich non-white person is not going to be excluded from anywhere, unless everybody in the town somehow colludes not to sell their property to certain people. It's hard enough getting 3 people to agree what to get for dinner, let alone having an entire town collude to do something illegal.

I understand your sentiment based on averages, but it's extremely misleading and flat-out untrue based on absolutes. You could point to the combined richest/whitest town in the state, and if the Celtics starting 5 wanted to live there then there would be 5 new black families moving to that town, no questions asked and no additional barriers besides them being able to afford it.

By the way, the average pay of Asians in Massachusetts is even higher than white people, which is the typical inconvenient truth in America that blows a hole in claims like the above:
 

Charlie_mta

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It's all about money, not race. You don't think Jayson Tatum and his $32.6 million salary could buy a home in any town he wants? Obviously the salary averages aren't equal, but a rich non-white person is not going to be excluded from anywhere, unless everybody in the town somehow colludes not to sell their property to certain people. It's hard enough getting 3 people to agree what to get for dinner, let alone having an entire town collude to do something illegal.

I tend to agree with you that it's more about money than race. I'm white and grew up in the Jefferson Park public housing project in North Cambridge. We (the "project" people) were treated somewhat as pariahs by the adjacent North Cambridge community (back in the 1950s/60s), even though the housing project was 95% white. My poor mother, who was a very devout Catholic, was shunned by the ladies in the Catholic church, not letting her join the "Sodality" women's club in the church. I myself, and the other kids from the projects, were picked on a lot more by the nuns at the Catholic grammar school I attended. When my mother and I would take a cab home to the projects, the cab driver would say insulting things about the projects and the people who lived there. The list of insults could go on and on. So, based on my own experience, I don't think it's so much an issue of Blacks not being welcome in a well-off suburban town; it's more am issue of poor people, of any race not being welcome in such a town.
 

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