Friday, February 13, 2009
Selectmen look at proposed 40B reform bill
Last Tuesday, February 10, the Board of Selectmen discussed an urgent request from 40B attorney Dan Hill to pressure Carlisle’s representatives in the legislature to co-sponsor and support a new Chapter 40 reform bill. While the Selectmen were receptive to the proposal, Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie pointed out that the deadline is tomorrow (February 11), leaving little time to gather information or build consensus.
Currently the state mandates that a minimum of 10% of housing in every city and town must be affordable. Chapter 40B is a state statute which permits developers to build higher density housing than allowed under local zoning bylaws if at least 25% of the units have long-term affordability restrictions. Also known as the Comprehensive Permit Law, Chapter 40B was enacted in 1969 to help address the shortage of affordable housing statewide.
Hill’s analysis argues that the law has resulted in “haphazard siting of new construction and the arbitrary waiving of protective bylaws [but has] done very little to improve accessibility to housing.”
“40B doesn’t work in communities like ours,” agreed Selectman John Williams. He summarized attractive key points of the proposed reform bill:
The bill encourages regionalization, so that neighboring cities and towns can pool their resources and develop regional housing plans. This will allow housing to be sited close to transportation and employment and away from environmentally sensitive areas.
Most communities can’t afford to build 40B housing, he said. The bill proposes the establishment of a state trust funded by a surcharge applied to the fees of the registers of deeds, as well as private donations.
The bill envisions an Integrity Study Commission to oversee projects and assure, among other provisions, that developers are not earning profits in excess of limits under Chapter 40B.
Selectman Alan Carpenito pointed out that one member of the commission would be an elected representative from a small community. “Now we are left out.”
Selectman Tim Hult expressed concern that the ZBA has not had a chance to comment on the reform bill. However, given the short deadline, he favored providing some support.
Chair Doug Stevenson proposed that the Selectmen try to contact State Senator Susan Fargo and Representative Cory Atkins the following day to discuss the proposed legislation. Stevenson volunteered to call Fargo. Williams said he would contact Atkins and agreed that the board should contact the ZBA. “At a later date we could send a letter urging support,” said Stevenson. ∆
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