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MBTA Community Initiative


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Multi-Family Zoning Requirement for MBTA Communities

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 177 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. 


UPDATE!
The MBTA Communities Task Force and Planning Board have submitted draft articles, including a proposed amended Zoning Map and Zoning Bylaw to the Board of Selectmen for inclusion on a March 21, 2024 Special Town Meeting warrant. The articles are linked here: Map and Bylaw. Read all about these changes in the new FAQ section. For a full history of the process leading to this point, we encourage to scroll through the timeline of updates below. Please don't hesitate to contact the Planning Department with any questions about this important initiative. 


15 minutes

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-guideli
  • nes-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, began 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.
  • A community informational session was held on April 25, 2023, with over 60 people in attendance. The presentation may be viewed here: Information Session April 25, 2023
  • Community feedback workshops were held in June and July, all welcome to the public for discussion and input. Some were co-hosted by such groups as Commission on Disability, Council on Aging, Friends of Norwood Center and Neponset River Regional Chamber. Workshops were well attended and many productive ideas and concerns were shared and will be considered by the Task Force in its draft bylaw.
  • Find out more about the Massachusetts Housing Partnership’s MBTA Zoning & Complete Neighborhoods initiative here: Complete Neighborhoods Initiative
  • The Massachusetts Housing Partnership’s 15-minute Neighborhood Handbook.
  • The Massachusetts Housing Partnership’s Complete Neighborhoods Initiative Presentation.
  • The Massachusetts Housing Partnership’s MBTA Communities Introductory Video.
  • All are encouraged to take the Official Survey located here:  https://forms.gle/sEPeXTBF4u2drVTr8
  • The Task Force presented recommendations to the Planning Board on October 23. The Planning Board is reviewing a working draft and will discuss suggested edits at its meeting on November 6.
  • Presentation to Planning Board on 10-23-23
  • Draft Bylaw (10-23-23)
  • Draft Proposed Zoning Maps (10-23-23): Norwood Central Subdistrict Windsor Gardens Subdistrict 
  • Joint meeting on October 23 recording located here
  • Planning Board informal discussion and work session recording located here
  • On January 8, 2024 the Planning Board held a final public work session on the draft bylaw and voted to submit the zoning to the Board of Selectmen for placement on the March, 21, 2024 Special Town Meeting warrant
  • Planning Board informal discussion and vote to submit MBTA zoning article to BOS recording located here
  • Final proposed Zoning Map located here
  • Final proposed Zoning Bylaw articles located here 

Meetings of the Task Force will be posted on the Norwood Homepage Calendar. Updates on progress will be posted on this page. Questions about these new requirements may be directed to cped@norwoodma.gov.

Upcoming Events:

  • Planning Board public hearing: February 12, 2024 7 pm, 275 Prospect St and on Google Meet at https://meet.google.com/mhu-ifvs-njz
  • Open House: January 29,  9-11 am, Town Hall, Memorial Hall. Planning staff and Board/Task Force volunteers will be available to share the proposed document, answer questions, and discuss the proposed changes in a relaxed setting. Coffee and refreshments will be available. 
  • Open House: February 16,  9-11 am, Town Hall, Memorial Hall. Planning staff and Board/Task Force volunteers will be available to share the proposed document, answer questions, and discuss the proposed changes in a relaxed setting. Coffee and refreshments will be available. 
  • Town Meeting Member Information Session: February 28, 6:30 pm, located TBD (check the town homepage for updates). All TMMs invited to hear a presentation on the articles and ask questions. 
  • Open Mic Night: March 11, 7 pm, on Google Meet at https://meet.google.com/obu-tgtf-wbc : Planning staff and Board/Task Force volunteers will be available to share the proposed document, answer questions, and discuss the proposed changes in a relaxed setting.
  • Special Town Meeting, March 21, 2024, 6:30 pm, Norwood High School (check Town Clerk's page for updates)


MBTA Communities Task Force Members:

Ernie Paciorkowski, Planning Board Clerk
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, Director of Community Development, ex-officio member