The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 21, 2007


Repeal 40B Coalition fails to place question on ballot

Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin announced on Wednesday that the Coalition to Repeal 40B did not meet the minimum requirement of 66,593 certified signatures, and that the group's question will not appear on the November 2008 statewide ballot.

According to their spokesman Fred Marcks, the petitioners had gathered over 70,000 signatures, but apparently many were not accepted, possibly due to the state's "stray mark rule," which can invalidate a whole sheet of 14 signatures if any stray marks, coffee stains or corrections are found on a page. Details of the state's signature count were not immediately disclosed.

The wording of the petition had been certified as legal by the Attorney General in September, allowing the coalition to start collecting signatures. All signatures submitted to the Secretary of State had already been validated by local Boards of Registrars.

"Although we wish we could have given the embattled residents of Massachusetts a chance to vote to eliminate this failed law," said Coalition to Repeal 40B chairman John Belskis, of Arlington, "we are pleased with the foundation we have built going forward."

Chapter 40B, enacted in 1969, requires 10% of housing stock in every town and city in the state to be affordable. In communities below the 10% level, like Carlisle, developers can seek a comprehensive permit to build higher density housing than permitted by local zoning, as long as 20 to 25% of the units are affordable. If the local Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) denies the permit, or grants it with conditions that make the housing uneconomic to build or to operate, the applicant may appeal to the state Housing Appeals Committee (HAC). In the past the HAC has frequently sided with the developer.

Opponents of 40B argue that the law gives developers too much power, resulting in poorly sited developments that consume scarce land and open space, and burden communities with large increases in population and market-rate housing that strain local services and schools. Moreover, most 40B housing is open to a narrow economic group of buyers. Most community employees earn too much; low-income elderly are disqualified if they have $50,000 in assets; the poor cannot afford the housing. It is the developers, they believe, who profit most from 40B.

While dozens of proposals to amend or repeal 40B have been filed in the Legislature (with little success) this is the first time in two decades that the law faced a major citizen push-back. "We continue to build support from the ground up because it's clear that control over this issue on Beacon Hill is held by developers and special interest groups," Belskis said. "Legislators should know that they stand to receive more support by fixing or eliminating this failed law, than if they continue to side with developers."

Currently less than 1% of Carlisle housing is affordable. Two units in the four-acre, eight-unit Laurel Hollow condominium complex on Lowell Street are affordable, and constitute the first 40B housing in town. The comprehensive permit for the Coventry Woods project, for more than 40 units on 21 acres on Concord Street, is in dispute. In September the Carlisle Housing Authority voted to build 26 affordable units under a town-sponsored 40B on the town-owned Benfield Land on South Street.

2007 The Carlisle Mosquito