A bill is being fast tracked that might be very dangerous to
A number of us in Acton, have developed a memo listing concerns
about H4075. (see below)
To me, these concerns are based on "environmental justice".
Personally, I fear that the bill will
hurt the most vulnerable. It looks like it would promote "more
moderate priced housing", but at what cost? Where are the provisions
to protect the most vulnerable? Where are the provisions to ensure
sustainability actually happens, rather than using the word
"sustainability" to greenwash developer giveaways.
See our concerns below. Please ask your own cities and towns to
detail, in writing, the impacts to concerns such as these. And if
you are as concerned as me, please ask your Town Managers to notify
the Massachustts Municipal Association and ask your leadership to
ask Legislators to vote NO!
The hearing is Tuesday, this is being fast-tracked. We only have a
few days to act.
-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject: An Act to Promote Housing Choices
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2018 09:40:33 -0500
From: Danny Factor <facto...@gmail.com> <facto...@gmail.com>
To: Terra Friedrich <ter...@compuserve.com> <ter...@compuserve.com>
Thanks, Terra. Below is info about Governor Baker's Act to Promote Housing
Choice H4075, (commonly referred to as the 'Housing Choice Initiative' and
referred to below as H4075 or "the Act").
As far as our concerns:
For background purposes, it is helpful to know that Massachusetts is a home
rule state and municipalities have local control except where the legislature
has specifically taken power away. For example, the Chapter 40B
"Affordable Housing" legislation specifically limits municipal rights.
It appears that The Act, if passed, would severely limit the right of a
town to limit harmful growth. We would like Town Counsel's confirmation of
the extent to which The Act would limit the town's control, and what the
impact would be, in both the governance process and the impact on build out
For example, it is our understanding that currently, when a property owner
seeks to build more than allowed "by right", either via "transfer of
development rights" (TDR) or zoning relief/special permit, the applicant
must give notice to abutters, and ask the local officials (BoS, Planning
or Zoning Boards) for permission. (One existing definition of 'Transfer of
Development Rights' is contained here:
Currently, the applicable boards may or may not necessarily grant these requests,
especially if the board or abutters have reasonable objections. Currently, most
or all of these approvals of these "special permits" require a "super majority"
of the governing body. It appears as though The Act, if passed, would instead
allow a simple majority of Town Meeting to transfer authority for zoning
changes in specific areas to a simple majority of the Board of Selectmen,
after which additional significant density bonuses will be able to be voted
in by a simple-majority of the Board of Selectmen. As part of this simple majority
vote, The Act appears to allow for and define "as of right" as not
requiring abutter notice, or approval by a local governing body.
We would like confirmation from the Acton Town Manager/Town Counsel to what
extent our understanding is correct.
In addition to a clarification to our general understanding above, we would
like the Town Manager/Town Counsel to clarify our understanding of the following
*Concerns about H4075 Section 3:*
It appears as though Section 3 of The Act would change the definition of
Special Permit Granting Authority in Ch. 40 Sec. 1A to include a TDR
exception, where this exception is then referred to in subsequent sections.
We would like Town Counsel to confirm whether this would change how a TDR is
approved and whether or not this change would allows TDRs in all zoning
districts or just in certain areas.
*Concerns about H4075 Section 4*
It appears at though Section 4 would change Town Meeting rules to allow a
majority vote (instead of the current 2/3) for zoning bylaw changes in
various areas of town that have been designated as meeting certain criteria
where the state gets to decide what those criteria are. Section 4
identifies the many, many types of land whereby a simple majority vote
would allow changes in zoning to facilitate additional:
a) multi-family housing in a location that would qualify as "eligible"
b) accessory dwelling units or open space residential development units
c) mixed-use development in an area of concentrated development as defined
by M.G. L. 40R (The Smart Growth Zoning Overlay District Act).
d) to provide for additional TDR or Natural Resource Protection zoning
that does not require a diminution in maximum number of housing units
e) to modify dimensional restrictions to allow additional housing
f) to allow denser development
g) to allow reduced parking
h) to allow 40R districts
While some of this may be "good", we would like Town Counsel to confirm our
understanding above, and to clarify the following:
- who decides what is "eligible"?
- who decides what is an appropriate determination of "denser"?
- who decides what height/size is appropriate?
- how is "diminution" calculated?
Our concern is that while the vote to adopt zoning may be by Town Meeting,
designation of what is a smart growth area, what is "dense", what is
"eligible location", etc. will be made by other bodies in town, also by a
simple majority, without notice to abutters. As a specific example of why
we are concerned is that some areas of Acton are already designated as
high density areas, and Acton already has thousands of apartments. It appears
as though, with The Act, these apartments may be able to be torn down
"as-of-right" and more expensive apartments could be built. We would like
Town Counsel's clarification as to this understanding.
*Concerns about H4075 Section 5*
It is our understanding that currently, if you want to transfer development
rights (where allowed), you have to get a special permit and abutters get
notice, and then the Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) will
approve or not. Section 5 appears to say that a special permit would no
longer be required for TDR, nullifying local control (by town boards or
abutters) over this process. We would like Town Counsel to confirm our
understanding of this.
*Concerns about H4075 Section 12*
This section appears to, if passed, give rights to land owners who are
able to have their land classified as a Starter Home Zoning Districts
(SHZD's). The section appears to say that once the designation is achieved
by a vote of 51% of Town Meeting, a special permit is not required. We would
like Town Counsel to confirm which agency would decide what properties get
classified as SHZDs, and what rights would be granted to SHZD. We would like Town
Counsel to clarify whether a special permit would be required or not, and
if so, what would be the local governing body.
a. do any of these proposed changes apply beyond M.G.L. 40R ? or are these
changes only for 40R opt-in districts?
b. are any of these changes "required"? or are they all "opt-in"?
c. would these proposed changes allow developers to buy up properties and
destroy very affordable existing market-rate units, to build more expensive
d. are all these changes "opt-in" or if the bill passes? are there changes that
would apply to Acton regardless of whether Town Meeting opts-in?
Ideally, we would like an estimate of how this bill will impact build out, which
is critical to many planning functions, including water quantity/quality.
The bill is being fast tracked, and as now Terra has ascertained, a public hearing
is scheduled January 30th, so time is of the essence to act.
>> On Wed, Jan 24, 2018 at 8:34 PM, Terra wrote:
>> > by the way, a HUGE affordable housing FUNDING bill just passed, which
>> > in favor almost all of it
>> > http://www.jeffreysanchez.org/housingbondbill/
>> > Terra
>> > ~*~*~*~
>> > Terra Friedrichs+1 978 808 7173 <(978)%20808-7173> <(978)%20808-7173>
>> > On 1/24/2018 8:31 PM, Terra via Assabet-Discuss wrote:
>> > The bill: https://malegislature.gov/Bills/190/H4075
>> > The hearing Jan 30th 10 am: https://malegislature.gov/
>> > Events/Hearings/Detail/2872