MBTA Community Initiative
In January 2021, the Massachusetts legislature approved changes to the Zoning Act. The new Section 3A of M.G.L. c. 40A now requires that an MBTA community shall 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 statute:
Minimum gross density of 15 units per acre
Not more than ½ miles from a commuter rail station, subway station, ferry terminal or bus station, if applicable.
No age restrictions
Suitable for families with children
Norwood is one of 175 municipalities in the state that is considered an MBTA Community due to its access to commuter rail. The Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is overseeing compliance with these new requirements, and has issued final guidance in August 2022 on implementation. Although the implementation phase will allow for ample time for communities to pass new zoning, once it is fully operational, non compliant communities will not be eligible for various state funding programs.
Status Updates and Resources:
- DHCD issued preliminary guidelines in December 2021. You can locate that guidance here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/draft-guidelines-for-mbta-communities/download
- A memo from the Planning Department to the Planning Board describing how the guidelines apply to Norwood: Memo 3.7.22
- DHCD accepted public comment on this guidance until March 31, 2022.
- Final guidance was released in August 2022 and may be located here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/compliance-guidelines-for-multi-family-zoning-districts-under-section-3a-of-the-zoning-act/download
- Norwood's Planning Board created an MBTA Communities Task Force to research, advise and plan for compliance with this legislation. The Task Force is comprised of representatives from the Planning Board, Planning Department, Managers' Office, Board of Selectmen, and residents at large.
- The Task Force began meeting in September 2022 to begin the process of identifying appropriate locations for the newly mandated zoning districts.
- The Task Force, Planning Board and Community Development Department recommended that the Board of Selectmen authorize the Director of Community Development to submit an Action Plan by end of January 2023, a first step in achieving compliance with the new state law
- The Board of Selectmen voted to issue this authorization on January 10, 2023.
- The Action Plan was submitted timely and Norwood received its certification of interim compliance on February 17, 2023. You can locate that certification here: Certification of Interim Compliance
- The state Attorney General's office released this statement on municipal compliance on March 15, 2023: MBTA Communities Advisory
- The first step in the planning process as defined by the Task Force is a robust community engagement strategy that includes opportunities for education, participation and feedback. The first phase, education and information, will begin in March 2023.
- In February, town staff secured technical assistance for this phase at no cost to the town in CHAPA's Community Engagement Technical Assistance Program.
- The Task Force's goal is to have proposed zoning on a March 2024 Special Town Meeting warrant. Full compliance must be complete by December 2024. The Town of Norwood is on track to meet this goal.
- Next meeting of the Task Force is scheduled for Wednesday April 5 at 6:30 PM at Town Hall (details forthcoming, check the Town Calendar for updates). Save the date for the first public informational session on Tuesday April 25.
MBTA Communities Task Force Members:
Ernie Paciorkowski, Planning Board Chair
Matt Lane, Selectman
Shannon Greenwell, Zoning Board of Appeals
Rachel Churchill, member at large
Patrick Ronin, member at large
Michael Rosen, Assistant Town Manager, ex-officio member
Sarah Dixon Bouchard, Acting Director of Community Development, ex-officio member