Under the draft guidelines for a new multi-family zoning requirement for “MBTA communities” served by bus, commuter rail, ferry, or other forms of public transportation, Hull would be expected to accommodate 1,171 units of this type of housing “as of right” within at least one zoning district designated for that specific purpose.
This legislation was enacted as part of the January 2021 economic development bill signed by Gov. Charlie Baker as another way to address the state’s growing housing crisis.
Director of Community Development and Planning Chris DiIorio brought the Select Board up to speed about the new requirements this week.
“The town wouldn’t be required to actually build that many units, but we need to have that potential,” he explained.
Because Pemberton Point, where the ferry terminal is located, would not be able to accommodate such a development due to flooding and traffic issues, DiIorio said an alternative location that might be acceptable to the state Department of Housing & Community Development is the Nantasket Beach Overlay District, where similar zoning as required under this new law is already in place.
“The overlay district is on the bus line and relatively close to the Nantasket Junction commuter rail station,” DiIorio said. “There’s much more land there for potential development. If DHCD is open to that, then I think we’re in pretty good shape.”
The statute requires that communities served by the MBTA have at least one zoning district “of reasonable size” in which multi-family housing is permitted “as of right” and meets other criteria set forth in the law.
These include a minimum gross density of 15 units per acre, with an overall minimum 50-acre size requirement; that the housing be situated not more than one-half mile from a commuter rail, subway, or bus station or ferry terminal; that there be no age restrictions on the housing; and that it be suitable for families with children.
Town meeting will be asked to consider a zoning amendment to make changes related to the number of rooms and bedrooms allowed under existing regulations that would bring the town into full compliance with the new law.
Site plan review is one of the processes that’s allowed under this new requirement, but local oversight is otherwise minimal should a development plan be presented for the multi-family district.
DiIorio outlined the timeline: submission of an informational form by May 2 and a request for determination of compliance or an action plan by the end of the year. Dec. 31, 2024, is the deadline for the adoption by MBTA communities of any required zoning amendments to bring them into compliance with the new law.
Communities that are not granted waivers or that are unable to comply will risk losing certain state grants.
That said, DiIorio predicts there will be some substantial changes once the DHCD’s guidelines are finalized. “There has been a lot of outcry [about these new requirements],” he said.