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GA Blog: Zoning

Showing blogs: 16 of 9

9.13.19 Salem's Municipal and Religious Building Re-Use Zoning Ordinance Passes

With a vote from the City Council of 9-2 the Municipal and Religious Building Re-Use Zoning Ordinance recieved final passage at the City Council meeting on September 12th.

This ends the long journey for the ordiance that started in 2018 with the identification of municipal and religious buildings that were no longer serving thier prior use.  Without the overlay the identified buildings in current city zoning could only be redeveloped into single family or two-family housing.  

The approved ordiance increases the number of approvable units through special permit and also contains an affordable housing requirement.  These developements as they now move forward will bring much needed housing the to the city.

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9.11.19 Former State Housing Officials Show Support for Governor’s Housing Production Bill


On September 4th, six former state housing officials (spanning 3 administrations) stood alongside Governor Charlie Baker in support of Baker's Housing Choice Initiative, a bill supported by REALTORS® since it's proposal. This comes a day after the last four Secretaries of Housing and Economic Development wrote an open letter in the Boston Business Journal in support.

An Act to Promote Housing Choices

Potential zoning changes that would be affected by the bill include:  adopting 40R Smart Growth zoning, reduction of minimum lot sizes, the allowing of accessory dwelling units by right, granting of a density increase through a special permit, and more.      

Executive Director of MassHousing and former Undersecretary for Housing and Community Development Chrystal Kornegay said during the event, “Massachusetts has a housing production crisis, but without the Governor’s Housing Choice legislation, cities and towns that want to be part of the solution cannot follow through.”

Governor Baker notes that time is critical heading into next spring's local town meetings where zoning ordinances will be voted upon.

You can find the State House's official press release here.


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9.10.19 Municipal and religious overlay district moves to City Council

On September 5th in Salem, the Municipal and Religious Overlay District ordinance progressed through the Ordinance, Licenses, and Legal Affairs (OLLA) subcommittee to be back on the City Council’s agenda. This is the next step of forward progress for the ordinance. 

NSAR has been following this issue in support since its proposal last year.  Passage of the Overlay District will clear the way for development of much needed additional housing units now and in the future.  Development proposals already have even been held in wait until the passage of the ordinance. 

The next City Council’s meeting is September 12th, just in time before the ordinance’s deadline of September 15th.

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8.29.19 The Impact of Zoning


“Eliminating Exclusionary Land Use Regulations Should be the Civil Rights Issue of our Time” by Michael Stegman, published under the the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University recently, examines the impact of zoning on socioeconomic factors across the nation. 

While the paper focuses its view on potential national policy to address the housing crisis, it also dives into what has been successful, and not successful, at the local level.  Here on the North Shore, some of the local policies mentioned have been seen firsthand.  In a recent Topsfield Town Meeting a vote passed to increase minimum lot sizes from 1 to 2 acres. Data from Glaeser and Ward shows “that each additional acre in minimum lot size decreases new construction by roughly 40 percent and increases housing prices by roughly 10 percent.”  Among Stegman’s “Promising local practices” are included Transit-oriented development and by-right development. NSAR has seen municipalities implement Transit-oriented development especially around the commuter rail and by-right development has been increasingly seen in new Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinances.


Stegman continues the discussion back on the national level stating, “While this patchwork of local innovations is welcome and important, without a national response, it is hard to see them adding up to the kind of systemic reforms necessary to tackle the problem.” With the presidential election fast approaching, zoning could become a national conversation as the housing crisis continues.



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8.16.19 Salem Talks Affordability with Accessory Dwelling Units

Last night, the Salem City Council in conjunction with the Planning Board held their second public hearing on the topic of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).

The main topic of the night was affordability and specifically if an affordability restriction should be added to the ordinance.  On the subject Mayor Driscoll remarked: “It’s going to be tough for us to put an affordability requirement on an ADU” adding further “the affordability restriction would frankly be difficult for the city to enforce” and the ADUs “don’t really lend themselves to super high rents.”  Public voices echoed these feelings as comments favoring an affordability restriction were in the minority opposed to the units being an avenue to create affordable housing in and of themselves.

Discussion also centered around the cost to create such a unit.  Residents with experience discussed how much it had cost them as well as our own David Friedberg who noted the availability of loans and the ability to generate wealth through equity because of the improvement in the property.

Christine Madore of Ward 2 said that by her count the public sentiment for the ordinance between the two meetings had been overwhelming positive at 77% speaking in favor.

The ordinance will now head to the Planning Board for their review.

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8.15.19 Salem Continues Public Hearings On Accessory Dwelling Units

Tonight, Salem continues public hearings on the topic of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).  The proposal, being heard in public for a second time, would expand the current ordinance to no longer require a special permit (if compliant), no longer be restricted by residential zone, no longer have tenant restrictions, prohibit short-term rentals, and require owner occupancy for a minimum of 2 years.

Allowing ADUs by right (as in not requiring a special permit) has been a growing trend within Massachusetts, including Rockport who has adopted it.  ADUs provide units that can be integrated into existing single family neighborhoods to provide low priced housing alternatives that have little or no negative impact on the character of the neighborhood.

The meeting is set to begin at 7:00pm in City Council Chambers at City Hall, 93 Washington Street 2nd Floor in Salem.

Further updates will be reported as discussions progress.

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