Articles & Blogs

Crosscutting Coverage of MBTA-C

The Boston Globe’s Andrew Brinker highlighted Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell’s work enforcing housing laws, including MBTA Communities.

The Worcester Business Journal discusses the housing shortage in Central Massachusetts, mentioning that “Holden has faced a lawsuit and the ire of the Healey Administration for refusing to comply multifamily housing requirements in with the MBTA Communities Act.”

CEO of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board Greg Vasil offered ideas in the Boston Globe to meet targets for housing construction in Massachusetts.

The Boston Business Journal reinforced the same sentiments: “Simply put, there are not enough workers who can afford to live near the businesses that desperately need them. That means businesses must become more vocal in the conversations taking place in their towns and advocate for the passage of zoning plans to alleviate their worker shortage.”

Secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities Ed Augustus writes in the Boston Globe about MBTA Communities zoning: “Now is the moment for our state to act on housing. Massachusetts must lead the way.” 

CBS News offered analysis of MBTA Communities implementation. The Governor has been emphasizing that if communities fail to rezone, then: “We’re going to see people leave the state and we’re going to suffer for that.” 


Arlington is considering a proposal to allow three-family homes throughout the town, as long as they meet already-existing dimensional requirements such as maximum height, maximum stories, and minimum setbacks. - Jan 31, 2023


Jennifer and John McClain of Bedford wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Bedford Citizen: “We live in the center of Bedford, and we want more neighbors.” - Mar 15

Bedford Town Meeting passed MBTA Communities zoning by an overwhelming majority, in a hand vote. The Bedford Citizen covered this story. Of special note: Bedford’s MBTA Communities zoning did not include parking minimums! The new zoning districts are on bus routes and near rail trails. - Apr 10


Banker & Tradesman covered Burlington’s approach to meeting MBTA Communities requirements. Steve Adams reports that a divided Planning Board voted 3-2 in favor of creating five new overlay districts, four of which already include apartments and condominiums. Burlington’s Town Meeting is scheduled for May 13. - Apr 10


Framingham City Council held a discussion with Mayor Charlie Sisitsky and Director of Planning and Community Development Sarkis Sarkisian on the topic- Mar 12


Jack Clarke and Paul Lundberg discuss why MBTA Communities zoning is good for Gloucester in this Gloucester daily times commentary. - Feb 9


Harvard’s Planning Board is focused on an 8-acre parcel near the Route 2 interchange, across from Dunkin’ Donuts, for its MBTA Communities–compliant district. The plan is to bring this to the April 6 Town Meeting, if the details are finalized in time.

Harvard’s Planning Board, with assistance from the regional planning council, wrote a bylaw to designate an 8-acre overlay district on Ayer Road for MBTA Communities zoning. The site was chosen for its proximity to the Route 2 interchange. Also, it would be feasible to connect the site with water and sewer at Devens. - Apr 10


At Lexington’s recent local election, an incumbent Select Board member and two Planning Board members—all of whom were instrumental in passing MBTA Communities zoning last year—were reelected. The two challengers for the planning board positions both explicitly opposed implementation of MBTA Communities—and lost. - Mar 6


Massachusetts Planning, a publication of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Planning Association, featured Lowell’s MBTA Communities zoning in a 2022 article. The article explains that Lowell went beyond the state’s minimum zoning capacity requirements. The article is more than a year old, but still highlights important themes.


Manchester-by-the-Sea held a “density walk” to help residents understand what the density of 15 homes per acre looks like in the town. Manchester’s Select and Planning Boards formed a task force for MBTA Communities zoning. That said, the draft zoning might not be ready in time for Spring Town Meeting, according to Gloucester Times. - Jan 18


Mansfield passed a “Phase I” bylaw to comply with MBTA Communities last June. The town has developed a “Phase II” proposal to reach the required minimum zoning capacity. Town Meeting is scheduled to vote on this May 22. - Apr 10


Medway Town Meeting will vote on MBTA Communities zoning on May 13. - Apr 10


Methuen’s Director of Economic and Community Development Jack Wilson said that “Whether we as a community want to do this or not, the laws of the Commonwealth are saying you must,” the Eagle Tribune reported. - Feb 23


There has also been news on the Milton case. Bruce Mohl at CommonWealth Beacon reported that local officials in Milton were divided about next steps, after Attorney General Andrea Campbell filed suit against the town claiming it was out of compliance with the MBTA Communities zoning law. She also filed a motion to have the case moved directly to the Supreme Judicial Court. The Boston Globe’s Andrew Brinker explained that Campbell wanted to accelerate the case, and have the case heard by the SJC, so that municipalities can gain clarity on the law’s requirements well before their deadlines for compliance. Brinker reported that the town’s attorneys, in their initial filings, said they plan to question whether the law’s implementation guidelines are mandatory. They might also look at constitutional issues related to state and local zoning powers - Mar 12

Milton has remained in the local headlines since its February referendum vote. The biggest news was the Attorney General Andrea Campbell’s suing Milton for lack of compliance with the MBTA Communities law. - Mar 11

Jennifer Smith of CommonWealth Beacon offered an in-depth rundown of what the Milton case is about. Smith’s analysis includes a link to the Upzone Update! - Mar 11

Adrian Walker outlined several reasons, in the Boston Globe, that MBTA Communities should be enforced, including that “The legislation […] passed the State House with enthusiastic bipartisan support.” - Mar 11

Bruce Mohl at CommonWealth Beacon reports on the discussions at Milton’s Planning Board and the nuts and bolts of how this process is playing out. - Mar 11

Howard Husock, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former Brookline Town Meeting member, argues in the Boston Globe that “Persuasion, not mandate, is the right path forward,” and that 15 units per acre is a high bar for some communities, like Milton. The Globe Editorial Board responded to Husock’s argument: “Amid a housing crisis, Milton can’t be allowed to flout new zoning law.” The Editorial Board explained: “There’s about 100 years of proof, up to and including Milton’s ‘no’ vote last month, that the suburbs are not going to allow more housing simply out of the goodness of their hearts.” It is also worth noting that 15 units per acre is generally considered low-density for multifamily housing, easily surpassed in traditional triple-decker neighborhoods. - Mar 11

In a Letter to the Editor of the Boston GlobeNate Stell points out that some coverage of the Milton referendum implies that the zoning plan in question would have permitted more than 2,400 units—but a consultant’s analysis of the zoning plan suggested that 900–1,000 units is a more likely outcome. - Mar 11

CHAPA CEO Rachel Heller argued in a Globe letter to the editor that all cities and towns, including Milton, need to do their part in allowing needed housing: “Let’s rise to the occasion like Massachusetts always does. Let’s say yes to more homes in our neighborhoods.” - Mar 11

This article in Patch explains why Holden has more time to comply with the law than Milton. - Mar 11

The biggest news in zoning reform in the last two weeks has been in Milton. In December, a special town meeting in Milton passed zoning reform to come into compliance with the MBTA Communities zoning law, by the 2023 deadline that the state set for the 12 communities served by rapid transit. Last week, Milton voters rejected that zoning in a referendum, leaving Milton out of compliance. This zoning news even made it to TV (WCVB 5 ABC). And to local news outlets like the Franklin Observer. - Feb 15

GBH’s Adam Reilly discussed what happened in Milton with Boston Globe columnist and Milton resident Shirley Leung and GBH News transportation reporter Bob Seay. “You almost don’t want to ask a neighbor how they are voting, it was so contentious,” said Leung. MassLive’s Tréa Lavery reported that the majority of the dissenting votes came from East Milton, where the zoning in question would have allowed more multifamily housing, in addition to an area near the train. Opponents expressed concerns about traffic. - Feb 17

Salim Furth offers an in-depth analysis of what happened in Market Urbanism, including maps, photos, and personal observations. In East Milton’s Ward 7, 82 percent opposed the rezoning. Salim grew up in East Milton, and is a national expert in zoning policy now. - Feb 19

After Milton, the Boston Globe’s Andrew Brinker asks, What Now? The Globe’s editorial board weighed in, saying, “It’s a law, not a suggestion,” and that Milton has volunteered to be a test case for the state’s willingness to enforce the law. The Globe’s Emily Sweeney reported that Milton will lose out on state grants. Secretary of the Executive office of Housing and Livable Communities Edward Augustus sent a letter to Milton about this consequence. Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell posted to X: “My office has made it clear that compliance with the law is mandatory.” - Feb 14

Radio Boston asked former state Attorney General Scott Harshbarger for his take on what happens next. And Reason magazine interviewed Abundant Housing’s Jesse Kanson-Benanav who suggested that developers might sue non-compliant town governments when their proposed projects near train stations are rejected. - Feb 20

There is still hope for a conciliatory process that leads to compliance in Milton. Affordable Inclusive MiltonAbundant Housing Massachusetts and CHAPA have built momentum for a pro-housing agenda in Milton. The referendum rejected the zoning approved by Town Meeting, but Town Meeting can use the feedback to design and approve new districts in compliance with the state law.

Greg Ryan of the Boston Business Journal pointed out that Littleton Town Meeting also rejected a rezoning proposal that would have put Littleton in compliance with MBTA Communities requirements, but Littleton still has until the end of 2024 to comply. - Feb 14

On WCVB's On the Record, Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll said about Milton’s referendum, "We hope it passes for Milton. We don't want to take tools away from any community." The Healey-Driscoll administration has provided nearly $6 million in technical assistance grants to 156 communities to help them comply with the law, the article notes. - Feb 4

Boston Business Journal calls Milton’s referendum a test.

The Patriot Ledger offered coverage of the Milton case, in which oral arguments are scheduled for October, before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The Boston Globe’s Andrew Brinker has also been covering the case. - Apr 10


The MetroWest Daily News reported on Natick and Wellesley’s rezoning efforts. In Wellesley, the proposal would only impact districts currently zoned as commercial, business, and industrial. Natick completed some of the rezoning last spring during Town Meeting, and plans to finish meeting the compliance guidelines at town meeting this coming fall. - Mar 6


Judy Tymon, coordinator of the Greater Newburyport Housing Choice Coalition, writes in The Daily News that two Newburyport developments, the Foundry at 126 Merrimac Street and River’s Edge Condominiums at 129 Merrimac Street, are 15 units per acre, and the new developments by the train station are approximately 38 units per acre. She supports implementation of MBTA Communities zoning. - Mar 20


The Housing Needham Advisory Group is exploring options for Needham to come into compliance. The aim is for a Town Meeting vote in October. - Feb 18

Housing Needham held a community meeting to discuss two zoning scenarios, A) Base Compliance and B) Neighborhood Housing. Diverse views on many topics, such as parking minimums, were expressed. Local business owners offered support for the Neighborhood Housing scenario. For example, Steve Volante, co-owner of Volante Farms, said rezoning would ensure “a larger labor pool and a larger customer base” for small businesses. - Apr 10


The Boston Globe's Andrew Brinker wrote a feature about Deb Crossley who led Newton’s rezoning effort, who's quoted as saying, “I simply know that we as a city need to build more housing and help our village centers.” - Feb 8

After some accounts have cast Brookline’s new zoning as accomplishing more than Newton’s new zoning, recently elected Newton City Councilor David Micley argues in Fig City News that in both Brookline and Newton, “you see similar stories.” - Jan 9


This Week in Plymouth (video) features Plymouth Town Manager Derek Brindisi, Planning & Development Director Lee Hartmann, and Planner Judi Barrett discussing MBTA Communities. This will be taken up at Plymouth’s April Town Meeting.  - Feb 27

WATD (95.9 FM) has an update on what Plymouth officials are considering. In particular, they are looking at zoning where there is existing or recently permitted multifamily housing, for example at Pine Hills, Colony Place, Home Depot Drive, and Cordage. It is a strategy of taking credit for multifamily housing already there. - Mar 8


As reported by a local blog, Southborough’s planning board has picked potential locations for MBTA Communities zoning; hearings to open January 29.


Shrewsbury officials are eyeing the former Christmas Tree Shop site, at the intersection of Routes 9 and 20, for an MBTA-Communities zone. This is two miles from the commuter rail station in Westborough. - Feb 23


Swampscott is preparing to take up MBTA Communities at its May 20 Town Meeting. - Apr 10


In March, the Tewksbury Planning Board voted to recommend that Town Meeting adopt the proposed MBTA Communities zoning.


In Wakefield, an MBTA Communities Working Group has put together a draft compliance plan. Community leaders have been debating whether the local zoning should do the bare minimum to comply with the state law, or go beyond the requirements, Local Headline News reports. A Wakefield Town Councilor reports that Town Council referred a proposal for an MBTA Communities Overlay District Bylaw to the planning board, which will hold hearings on the proposal before it goes to Town Meeting in the spring. - Jan 22


Watertown Square’s infrastructure and zoning are both getting upgrades. This article explains the plans and options; high resolution maps and photos can be reviewed in this presentation; and more information is available on the city’s website. Watertown’s effort is led by a team of consultants including Jeff Speck, author of the landmark urbanist book Walkable City, and Tim Love, principal of Utile. - Mar 1


The Swellesley Report reports that Wellesley is “practically already in compliance,” and just needs some tweaks to its zoning. The zoning Wellesley already adopted to redevelop the Wellesley Office Park, at the intersection of Routes 9 and 128, will meet some of the requirements. - Feb 23

In CommonWealth Beacon, Greg Reibman of the Charles River Regional Chamber explains that Wellesley is moving toward “paper compliance,” using zoning for “an already permitted, half built, largely leased, project,” at Wellesley Office Park, on the far side of highways and rivers from train stations and walkability—to come into compliance with the MBTA Communities requirements. He concludes: “We should all worry that other municipalities across Eastern Massachusetts are in the process of drafting their own paper plans using similar workarounds.” - Feb 23

In December, Greg Reibman of the Charles River Region Chamber explained how Wellesley’s likely zoning approach will deliver far fewer homes than its “zoning capacity target”: “Most discouraging is that Wellesley’s proposal includes 850 units at the Nines on Williams Street. But that project and those units are already approved, a little less than half built and 90 percent occupied! That means, at best, Wellesley is creating a path for only for 583 new homes that aren't already in the pipeline. That's not likely either. Consider that many of the remaining 583 units (split between Wellesley Hills and Wellesley Square) includes parcels that may not be redeveloped for decades. Or ever.” - Jan 31

Wellesley will likely hold a Special Town Meeting later in the year to take up MBTA Communities zoning. Wellesley’s Town Meeting has 240 voting town meeting members who are elected in the annual town election in March. Each of eight precincts elects 30 members to three-year staggered terms. - Apr 10

West Newbury

The Boston Globe reports members of West Newbury’s planning board have been discussing two potential areas for rezoning: the former Knapp’s Greenhouses on Route 113 and the Dunn property on Main Street. The zoning will be on the agenda of Spring Town Meeting, on April 29.


Patch reports that Wilmington made revisions to its proposal based on the state’s feedback in its pre-adoption review. - Feb 28


Winchester’s Planning Board has issued a zoning plan to come into compliance with MBTA Communities zoning. The proposal includes four overlay districts that start in town center and go north on Main Street. Each district has different standards for floor-area-ratio, maximum height (in feet and stories), setbacks from property lines, and minimum open space. - Apr 10


The Worcester Business Journal issued an editorial in support of MBTA Communities zoning, concluding that the housing shortage is “a challenge impacting us all and may lead to the worst possible outcome: a more exacerbated workforce shortage.” - Apr 10


MassLive reports that Wrentham is against complying with the MBTA Communities law. The State House News Service explained that Wrentham officials have reached out to Governor Maura Healey to ask for a waiver or modification of state requirements. - Feb 26