Town Meeting voters will consider MBTA Communities by-right multifamily housing zoning article

152 Shipyard Dr, Avalon at the Hingham Shipyard

April 3, 2024 By Carol Meyer

Voters at the April 24 Annual Town Meeting will decide whether to rezone certain parcels of land to meet the new state MBTA Communities requirement for cities and towns with bus, ferry, train, or subway service to create by-right multifamily housing zoning within one-half mile of these modes of transportation.

While Hingham and other affected communities won’t be required to actually build that many units, they must have the potential to do so or risk losing certain significant state grants.

Under the MBTA Compliance legislation — enacted as part of the Jan. 2021 economic development bill signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker as a way to address the state’s growing housing crisis — Hingham and other MBTA Communities are required to adopt by-right multifamily zoning within one or more overlay districts and/or sub-districts consisting of a minimum of 50 acres — with a zoning capacity of 1,490 units in Hingham.

Much of the proposed overlay district is located in the Hingham Shipyard ferry terminal area, where a large number of multifamily housing units have already been permitted.

While these developments were approved either by special permit or a 40B comprehensive permit (which allows developers to bypass certain local regulations in exchange for an affordable housing component), and not by-right, they are located near public transit and other public amenities — including retail services, restaurants, and recreational opportunities, according to the Town Meeting warrant.

Proposed overlay district
The parcels located within on-half mile of the ferry are: Hewitts Landing Condominium, 319 Lincoln Street; 111 Fitzroy Drive; 152 Shipyard Drive; and The Cove residential development at 350 Beal Street.

A small portion of the proposed overlay district is located off of French Street between the East Weymouth and West Hingham commuter rail stations on a parcel of land that is currently being used as a nonconforming contractors yard zoned as Residence B District.

This property qualifies under the 25% allowed non-station area, even though it is situated approximately .6 miles from the East Weymouth commuter rail station and the Jackson Square commercial district and adjacent to the More-Brewer Park.

It’s noted in the Town Meeting warrant that on March 15, 2023, Massachusetts’ Attorney General Andrea Campbell issued an advisory concerning the enforcement of the requirements imposed on cities and towns by this new state legislation and accompanying guidelines.

The advisory warns that failure to comply will result in a loss of eligibility for that community or communities for certain funding programs.

According to Hingham’s Planning Department, as much as $10 million in state funding that the town intends to seek next year may be at risk if the town does not comply.

The advisory also cautions that communities that fail to comply with the law  “may be subject to civil enforcement action” and that cities and towns that fail to comply with the law’s requirements “also risk liability under federal and state fair housing laws.”

The Advisory Committee and also the Planning Board (as revised through an extensive public hearing process) voted unanimously in favor of this article.

Approval of the article at Town Meeting requires a simple majority vote.

For full details, refer to Zoning Article 34 on pages 112-114 of the Town Meeting warrant that is mailed to every Hingham household and also beginning on page 74.

Watch for a full Town Meeting preview.

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