NEWS (And SOME Opinion): Planning Board Handles Zoning Hot Potato
After quickly disposing of a single “general business” matter, Monday evening’s Planning Board meeting opened a hearing into two related issues, Zoning Amendment 23-889 Multi-Family Density, and Zoning Amendment 23-890 Inclusionary Zoning, matters largely put forward to satisfy the Baker Administration’s MBTA zoning law aimed at propping up the transportation system and, ostensibly addressing the region-wide housing shortage. This ‘hot potato’ issue had been handled gingerly by a special ad hoc committee, addressed by the Town Council, and passed to the Planning Board which, unsurprisingly, passed it back to the Town Council with a ‘yes’ vote at the meeting’s end.
The measures up for discussion were slightly modified from the guidance provided by the planning department and attempted to make the changes facing the town just a little less draconian.
But before that vote came, it was clear that all the same horror of the law is still keenly felt by many of those who ultimately felt they had not choice but to approve it. It was noted that under the measure, the town can’t prevent a well-funded developer from buying up a whole block of one, two, and three family homes and replacing them with a modern structure or structures housing many more people and, worryingly to some, completely changing the look and feel of the town in the process.
Bryan Taberner, Director, Planning and Community Development, also expressed serious concerns about the state mandate that will allow first floor housing in the “downtown” central business district, potentially undermining years of effort to create a vibrant, mixed use downtown with store fronts, restaurants, and small businesses.
Others testifying at the h earing, however, continued to speak in favor of the entire rezoning project, insisting that only unbridled growth can keep the town solvent and meet its so-called housing production goals.
So, after a little more than 45 minutes of beating the proverbial dead horse, the matter came to a vote, which was in the affirmative, and was thus sent back to the Town Council, which will presumably sign the town’s death warrant at the next opportunity by formally adopting the measure.
Not that anyone has any choice. The Governor and the Attorney General have made clear that local government, local elections, and local voters no longer have a say in much of anything (See related article, below).