Multi-Family Zoning Requirements for MBTA Communities

dhawkins

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Does anyone have a good source for statistics on the number of school age children in MA and specific towns?

I hear the student-teacher ratio argument thrown around a lot, but my understanding is that the fertility rate has continually fallen. My small exurb had class sizes of 120 students in 2012 and now hovers at ~100. Enrollment in Boston Public Schools has declined by 8,000 since 2015.

Local conditions can certainly vary from the macro trends, but when a super-majority of new units are 1-2 bedrooms and targeted at young professionals, I'm far more skeptical of the school district concerns.
Just saw this today, has a lot of stats. https://www.usnews.com/education

 

GW2500

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How valid is the argument, but we will need additional (take your pic) teachers, cops, etc... Its been used constantly since I can remember. Will the additional residential tax and other local sales tax, not help offset those incremental and marginal requirements. Would it also not increase commerce in the area? They make growing sound like a death sentence. My god why even let families have children. Just about all sun belt cities have been adding people year in year out for a few decades now. It can be done, and its the 128 belt that really needs to increase stock to alleviate housing costs. There is no other way around it.
 

shmessy

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How valid is the argument, but we will need additional (take your pic) teachers, cops, etc... Its been used constantly since I can remember. Will the additional residential tax and other local sales tax, not help offset those incremental and marginal requirements. Would it also not increase commerce in the area? They make growing sound like a death sentence. My god why even let families have children. Just about all sun belt cities have been adding people year in year out for a few decades now. It can be done, and its the 128 belt that really needs to increase stock to alleviate housing costs. There is no other way around it.
If they want no growth, just close their T stations. Redirect the additional saved money to improvements at the stations in the communities that go along and build the residential units.

Win-win. Everybody happy.
 

tysmith95

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How valid is the argument, but we will need additional (take your pic) teachers, cops, etc... Its been used constantly since I can remember. Will the additional residential tax and other local sales tax, not help offset those incremental and marginal requirements. Would it also not increase commerce in the area? They make growing sound like a death sentence. My god why even let families have children. Just about all sun belt cities have been adding people year in year out for a few decades now. It can be done, and its the 128 belt that really needs to increase stock to alleviate housing costs. There is no other way around it.
The real consern in some of these communities is that poorer people in apartments might possibly hurt the average test scores in schools for some of these rich suburbs.

However, town officials are never going to admit that.
 

shmessy

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The real consern in some of these communities is that poorer people in apartments might possibly hurt the average test scores in schools for some of these rich suburbs.

However, town officials are never going to admit that.
Great. Let them be rural, landlocked towns with no opportunity for mobility and 21st century advancement. They can be the retirment communities that don't have young people - - like rural West Virginia.

They'll get what they deserve. Just like those idiot red states who refused the Medicaid funds.

In the meantime, the forward thinking progressive communities will get the additional monies saved from the Luddite communities. Baker (and the next Governor) shouldn't be trying to force square pegs into round holes. Use carrots, not sticks. Again, everyone wins.
 
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Smuttynose

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Great. Let them being rural, landlocked towns with no opportunity for mobility and 21st century advancement. They can be the retirment communities that don't have young people - - like rural West Virginia.

They'll get what they deserve. Just like those idiot red states who refused the Medicaid funds.

In the meantime, the forward thinking progressive communities will get the additional monies saved from the Luddite communities. Baker (and the next Governor) shouldn't be trying to force square pegs into round holes. Use carrots, not sticks. Again, everyone wins.
I agree that a mostly carrot approach is probably a better one but you do need some sticks. A decent example is 40B. In so many of these cases, there's a giant outcry. It's going to destroy our community, it's going to kill our land value, yadayada... In any of these cases has that actually ever panned out? Probably not. Lexington is still Lexington, Weston is still Weston, with just a few more affordable units thrown in. Ninety-nine percent of the population probably didn't even notice.

Another tool that Mass. should definitely adopt is an ADU requirement. Every town has to allow for an ADU on every property that has a single family home. It can be pretty simple. New Hampshire has a good simple law (RSA 674:42) --

"I. A municipality that adopts a zoning ordinance... shall allow accessory dwelling units as a matter of right or by either conditional use permit pursuant to RSA 674:21 or by special exception, in all zoning districts that permit single-family dwellings. One accessory dwelling unit shall be allowed without additional requirements for lot size, frontage, space limitations, or other controls beyond what would be required for a single-family dwelling without an accessory dwelling unit. The municipality is not required to allow more than one accessory dwelling unit for any single-family dwelling. The municipality may prohibit accessory dwelling units associated with multiple single-family dwellings attached to each other such as townhouses, and with manufactured housing as defined in RSA 674:31. Subsequent condominium conveyance of any accessory dwelling unit separate from that of the principal dwelling unit shall be prohibited, notwithstanding the provisions of RSA 356-B:5, unless allowed by the municipality.

II. If a zoning ordinance contains no provisions pertaining to accessory dwelling units, then one accessory dwelling unit shall be deemed a permitted accessory use, as a matter of right, to any single-family dwelling in the municipality, and no municipal permits or conditions shall be required other than a building permit, if necessary.

III. An interior door shall be provided between the principal dwelling unit and the accessory dwelling unit, but a municipality shall not require that it remain unlocked.

V. The applicant for a permit to construct an accessory dwelling unit shall make adequate provisions for water supply and sewage disposal...

VI. A municipality may require owner occupancy of one of the dwelling units, but it shall not specify which unit the owner must occupy. A municipality may require that the owner demonstrate that one of the units is his or her principal place of residence, and the municipality may establish reasonable regulations to enforce such a requirement.

VII. A municipality may establish standards for accessory dwelling units for the purpose of maintaining the aesthetic continuity with the principal dwelling unit as a single-family dwelling. A municipality may also establish minimum and maximum sizes for an accessory dwelling unit, provided that size may not be restricted to less than 750 square feet.

VIII. A municipality may not require a familial relationship between the occupants of an accessory dwelling unit and the occupants of a principal dwelling unit.

IX. A municipality may not limit an accessory dwelling unit to only one bedroom.

X. An accessory dwelling unit may be deemed a unit of workforce housing for purposes of satisfying the municipality's obligation under RSA 674:59...


There is one minor section I left out because it gets into the weeds a bit on HUD requirements and a couple I condensed, but above is basically the entire law. It's remarkably simple and has been on the books since 2016 without anyone hyperventilating too much about it.
 

jklo

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I agree that a mostly carrot approach is probably a better one but you do need some sticks. A decent example is 40B. In so many of these cases, there's a giant outcry. It's going to destroy our community, it's going to kill our land value, yadayada... In any of these cases has that actually ever panned out? Probably not. Lexington is still Lexington, Weston is still Weston, with just a few more affordable units thrown in. Ninety-nine percent of the population probably didn't even notice.
I have a feeling in most of those towns the 40B is being filled by Senior housing.
 

Arlington

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This doesn't really have a home, but since it is at the intersection of politics, density, and Commuter Rail, I thought I'd put it here:
In the 2022 Election, availability of Transit seemed highly correlated with whether you'd vote to raise taxes on incomes over $1m:

(source: Rich Parr's twitter: )
 

Arlington

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In many ways, the map is a pretty good look at where folks with big incomes or valuable homes live who have access to CR: Wellesley, Winchester, Medfield, Cohasset and those that just have fancy houses (Dover, Marblehead, Lynnfield)

And confirms the intertwined concepts of 40B housing (every community should accept some residents with slighly-lower than the local median) and TOD.

CR TOD is perhaps the "mildest" type--these are fancy people with "downtown" jobs, or they're going to be downsizing or consulting kind of households.

A condo or townhome in Wellesley, Winchester, Medfield or Cohasset is still going to be plenty expensive and filled with people who are plenty fancy (by statewide standards), and yet are willing to live in a slightly denser neighborhood that's walkable to CR (or just a good place to "downsize" to). Either way, it should be every community's job to host its own community-appropriate share of such housing on transit.
 

Blackbird

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I think the map in that tweet might’ve mixed up “yes” and “no”.
 

Java King

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Many local Planning Board Meetings are online. I used to be on the Scituate Planning Board from 2010 through 2018 and decided not to run again because of work related travel responsibilities at the time. However, I still watch the Scituate Planning Board Meetings every 2 weeks on YouTube.

From the discussions I hear about these MA state regulations, it sounds very complicated.

Mixed-use development such as commercial stores on the ground floor and apartments above are NOT eligible within this state formula. (Seems counterintuitive to TOD)
The regulations only apply to "As of right" zoning, but there is NO consideration for infrastructure such as sewer or water. As an example, Scituate is zoning for increased density around the North Scituate Train Station, but there is no sewer in that area, so development is nearly impossible.

There is some magical computer program developed by the state for communities to input criteria and see if they conform. However, it seems to change weekly according to listening to these planning board meetings. My understanding is that communities have until December 2024 for their zoning to conform to these state regulations.

My conclusion is that many communities are trying hard to comply with the State Regulations, but it actually may not increase housing production due to all kinds of other constraints within these towns.
 

Blackbird

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Whose responsibility is it to extend the sewer system to new areas? The town’s, the state’s, or the developers’? I imagine its not the latter’s..

Definitely weird that mixed use buildings don’t qualify. What kind of wording precludes them?
 

Java King

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Definitely weird that mixed use buildings don’t qualify. What kind of wording precludes them?
I don't know exactly, but the Scituate Town Planner keeps saying that mixed-use development is not calculated within the housing requirements from the State. (That magical computer program I mentioned.) I think Scituate is trying to research this condition, because quite a bit of new mixed-use development has been constructed recently. One half of the massive Greenbush parking lot is now retail and apartments.

architectural_renderings_2.14.19.pdf (scituatema.gov)
 

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