Legislative session expires without action on zoning

The formal session of the Massachusetts General Court ended at midnight this morning with no movement on the zoning reform or value capture bills. A municipal modernization bill did have some provisions related to zoning, but for the most part it looks like zoning reform will have to start over again in the next session.

H. 4569, the municipal modernization bill, contains provisions for the creation of smart growth and starter home zoning overlay districts. In a smart growth district, a municipality would have to allow at least 20 units per acre for multifamily housing, eight units per acre for single-family housing and 12 units per acre for two and three family homes. A starter home district would would allow at least four units per acre, but all developmentys would have to follow smart growth principles. In both types of overlay district, 20 percent of housing would have to be affordable, infill and mixed-use development would be permitted and municipalities would be unable to pass moratoriums on issuing permits. In addition, no age restrictions or other occupancy restriction could apply to the whole district. Lastly, a single district can cover no more than 15 percent of the municipalities’ area, but the area of the districts in a municipality can cover no more than 25 percent of the total municipal land.

The bill also contained some funding prtovisions, such as $15 million for a Smart Growth Housing Trust Fund and $25 million for a Workforce Housing Production Trust Fund. Several local projects were also funded. In the Greater Boston area they included $250,000 for the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway; $250,000 for facade improvements in Malden; $200,000 for improvements to Arsenal Street in Watertown; $300,000 for facade improvements in Watertown and Coolidge Squares; and $250,000 for sidewalk replacement in Chelsea.

The bill awaits signing by Governor Charlie Baker.

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