The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 11, 2002


What is a comprehensive permit?

Under state law, developers can bypass local planning, wetland, and zoning regulations if 25% of the units in the proposed development qualify as "affordable housing." Only those towns which contain less than 10% affordable housing are subject to this type of project, and Carlisle currently falls below the 10% threshold. Developers must still meet all state regulations, such as Title 5 requirements and the state Wetland Protection Act.

By streamlining the local permitting process, and by allowing more units to be built on a given piece of land, the 40B process offers economic incentives to developers to build more affordable housing. According to CHAPA, the Citizens' Housing and Planning Association, comprehensive permits covering 25,000 units of housing in 170 towns have been approved in Massachusetts since 1970.

Normally, the town's zoning board of appeals (BOA) is not involved in reviewing plans for new subdivisions, but they are the town's main regulatory board for comprehensive permits. When a developer submits a 40b proposal, the BOA may consult with other town boards, and may hire outside consultants to provide technical assistance.

The BOA may negotiate with the developer to reduce housing density or the impact on traffic. The BOA may provide restrictions to insure that affordable housing stays affordable, or request other modifications, as long as the project remains economically feasible. CHAPA states that the BOA public hearing process often lasts several months. Once the public hearing is closed, the BOA must issue a decision within 40 days. The developer may appeal the BOA decision to the state Housing Appeals Committee.

Comprehensive Permit regulations are currently in a state of flux. Governor Jane Swift has just issued an executive order granting a temporary reprieve from the permits if a town has recently increased its quantity of affordable housing. The state legislature is also expected to propose changes to the regulations this term.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito