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Zoning Push In Salem Sparks Response from Governor Baker

5.13.19

Changes in zoning policy meant to support increased housing in Salem, which failed in the City Council last winter, are being reconsidered. On May 9th, the Salem City Council took another look at a proposal to create a "Municipal and Religious Overlay District" (MROD), drafted as a response to calls to develop two Archdiocese-owned properties and a former senior center and turn them into homes.

The proposal received a 7-4 vote in favor in February, but failed lacking the required supermajority. Two weeks later, a second vote also failed for the same reason, meaning the proposal could not be considered again until the following calendar year.

The proposal presented on May 9th was different enough from prior plans to circumvent the rules barring further consideration, presenting a plan to allow “special permits” allowing developers to get around the zoning restrictions previously preventing the development of the properties in question. The City Council voted with no apparent votes in opposition to send it to the Planning Board to schedule the hearing.

Governor Charlie Baker stated in response to the debate in Salem that he believes that the housing crisis is due to an insufficient amount of housing production in Massachusetts. He is backing a bill that will allow towns to switch to a majority vote for zoning changes, which doesn’t specifically require any affordable housing be included in a project, but the Governor believes more housing at any price point will solve the inventory problem and bring prices down.

Read more about the zoning changes in Salem here. Learn more about Governor Baker’s push to ease efforts to make zoning changes here.

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