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Housing Watch: Adaptive Reuse Zoning Proposal Defeated in Salem; Up for Reconsideration at March 14th City Council Meeting

3.1.19

Last night, the proposed Municipal & Religious Adaptive Reuse Zoning Ordinance was defeated in a 7-4 vote before the Salem City Council. Eight votes, or a super majority of the Council as required by state law to enact local zoning changes, were needed for passage. This ordinance would provide a permitting pathway for the reuse and redevelopment of underutilized municipal and religious properties in Salem for potential housing opportunities.

Amendments to the ordinance to increase the affordability requirement from 10% to 20% and to reserve housing exclusively for Salem residents were voted down, while the Area Medium Income (AMI) requirement was lowered from 80% to 60%. Despite that change, the ordinance was voted down after 9 months of debate. 

Prior to adjournment, a motion to reconsider was filed by Ward 6 Councillor Beth Gerard. That means the ordinance will be placed back on the agenda for a vote at the next Salem City Council Meeting on Thursday, March 14th at 7:00 P.M. at Salem City Hall. 

Click here to read NSAR's letter of support for the Municipal & Religious Zoning Overlay District. NSAR Salem Town Monitors David Friedberg and Cynthia Nina-Soto along with other NSAR members from Salem have attended and spoken at many of the public hearings on this ordinance.

In the meantime, a Salem Community Housing Forum is scheduled for next Tuesday, March 5th from 7:00 - 8:30pm at the Community Life Center (401 Bridge St) in Salem which will feature a community discussion on inclusionary zoning, housing needs and affordability in Salem, hosted by Mayor Kim Driscoll and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC). 

In a related note, Governor Charlie Baker's proposed Housing Choice Initiative before the State Legislature, which is supported by the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, would lower the requirement for local zoning changes to a simple majority for municipalities. Governor Baker reiterated his support for the housing production bill earlier this week.

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