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“An Act Promoting the Planning and Development of Sustainable Communities”
Bill Number - H.1859Brian Domina, Senior Land Use Planner
The latest attempt to update the major planning, zoning and subdivision statutes in MassachusettsThe proposed legislation is a streamlined version of CLURPA and rightfully focuses on many of the important issues
Overall Recommendation
BRPC is pleased to lend itsQUALIFIEDsupport to “An Act Promoting the Planning and Development of Sustainable Communities.”Discussion: The “good” and the “not so good”
Major Changes – Good
Expressly recognizes a municipality’s home rule authorityAllows a municipality to change from a supermajority vote to a majority vote when adopting zoning bylaws (6 month waiting period)Vested Rights: (duly applied for)Building Permit (2 years)Special Permit (3 years)Definitive Subdivision Plan (8 years)Minor Subdivision Plan (4 years)Eliminates (3 year) vested rights for ANR plansMinimum 3 year duration for special permits
Major Changes - Good
Adds standardized “Site Plan Review” process95 days to decideMajority voteDiscretion is very limitedPublic hearing may be requiredMinimum duration of approval is 2 years
Major Changes - Good
Allows for Development Impact Fees for off-site public capital facilities (e.g. infrastructure)States that “inclusionary zoning” is a permissible action (affordable housing req.)Includes a voluntary land use dispute avoidance processSets new standard for the issuance of a varianceLocal option to replace the Approval Not Required (ANR) process with a minor subdivision process
Major Changes - Good
Creates process for recording perimeter plans and lot line change plansAllows for the dedication of open space as a part of a development.Change of judicial review fromde novotocertiorariIf a zoning change is consistent with master plan the court will find that such change serves a public purpose.
Major Changes – Not So Good
Requirement that certain factors be met before multi-family is allowed in non-residentially zoned areas. (what about home rule authority)Special permit vote reduced to simple majority (why not reduce at local option)No public hearing is required for extension of special permit
Major Changes – Not So Good
Clarification is needed as to who must pay for the studies to determine the impact fee amount.Consolidated PermitProcessAt option of the developer for projects of 25+ units or 25,000 sq. ft.Time to hold public hearing reduced to 45 daysJoint public hearing requiredUnclear if Board has authority to continue public hearing
Major Changes – Not so Good
Planning Ahead for Growth ActLocal opt-in is good.If community adopts certain bylaws for economic development, housing, etc. and becomes certified they earn incentivesOne incentive is preference in state discretionary funds – however the required bylaws are not all appropriate for rural towns and thus these towns are disadvantaged
Major Changes – Not So Good
Master Plans (are good)Not requiredOverly prescriptiveRestatement of Administration’s prioritiesDiscourages communities from adopting master plansRequires legislative approval of master plan, which might lead to the plan being politicized.
Major Changes – Not So Good
Land Court given concurrent original jurisdiction for appeals relating to developments of 25+ units or 25,000 sq. ft.Such cases originally begun in Superior Court may be transferred to Land Court upon notice by either party.
Action to be taken.





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