Consistency is focus of zoning group

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A group convened by the Patrick administration to explore zoning reform is continuing its work toward a legislative proposal.

The chair of the group, Greg Bialecki, assistant secretary for Housing and Economic Development, met with the MMA’s Policy Committee on Municipal and Regional Administration early last month to discuss the Patrick administration’s goals.

Bialecki is proposing reforms that would reward cities and towns that opt for planning that is consistent with the state’s sustainable development principles. These communities, he said, would be in line to receive certain relief under the Zoning Act.

Members of the MMA policy committee, meanwhile, called for more permanent solutions under the Zoning Act for all municipalities, but they did not dismiss Bialecki’s consistency concept.

Bialecki circulated a proposed framework that has served as the premise of recent discussions of the zoning group, in which the MMA participates.

Under the framework, municipalities would receive relief from certain provisions of Chapter 40A, such as “approval not required,” if they prepare a master plan consistent with local zoning and the state’s sustainable development principles, as determined by an as-yet-unnamed state agency.

Last November, the MMA Board of Directors voted to support the proposed Community Planning Act (CPA II), which was developed over several years by the Zoning Reform Working Group, in which the MMA participated. CPA II would make several amendments to 40A to provide new tools and relief to cities and towns. In return, CPA II would require that local master plans be consistent with local zoning within five years.

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