Authored by David Bryant
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Supporting changes to Commonwealth's Zoning Laws

September 24th, 2015 by David Bryant

On September 15th MACDC joined with partners from the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, MAPC and CHAPA and testified before the Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Business in support of legislation to update the Commonwealth’s zoning laws. S.122, An Act Promoting the Planning and Development of Sustainable Communities is co-sponsored by Senator Dan Wolf, Rep. Sarah Peake, and Rep. Steve Kulik who noted “Our zoning laws are widely known to be as antiquated  and as out of touch with the modern world as any you’ll find anywhere in the country.”

S.122 will encourage new jobs and more housing, offering new models and resources for community planning and additional safeguards for public health and natural resource protection. Massachusetts and, in particular, the Greater Boston region will undergo dramatic changes in population over the next 25 years. More than a million workers will retire during this time, and we will need to attract younger workers from other places to sustain and grow our economy. With this shift in demographics and housing needs, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) and other experts suggest we need to build 500,000 new housing units between 2010 and 2040; 87 percent of that projected housing need is in Greater Boston, approximately two-thirds of which should be multifamily housing.

The bill presents a balanced, well-crafted approach that offers greater certainty and predictability for developers and property owners, enhanced protections for important natural and agricultural landscapes, and an enhanced set of tools and incentives for local officials and citizens to guide and shape the future of their communities. MACDC members have a long track record of balancing these three goal. CDCs work collaboratively with local residents and local governments to identify community goals and develop projects with strong local support. Over the years, our members have developed more than 17,000 apartments and hundreds of homeownership units as well as dozens of commercial buildings and green spaces. CDCs will benefit from the additional and expanded definitions and authorizations for many useful zoning techniques, including cluster development, inclusionary zoning, and variance provisions that will facilitate more community-scale residential projects as well as a consolidated permitting process that will benefit larger, more complex projects.

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