MWDN: Sen. Eldridge files bill to overhaul state zoning laws

May 19, 2011

BOSTON — The Joint Committee on Municipalities yesterday discussed a bill filed by state Sen. Jamie Eldridge that would overhaul state zoning laws.

The “Comprehensive Land Use Reform and Partnership Act” would be the first major update of the state’s zoning laws in more than 35 years, according to Eldridge’s office. The bill encourages communities to adopt or update their local master plans and provides them tools to implement zoning regulations to reach planning goals.

“This bill will make it easier for cities and towns to plan and build the kind of communities they want to have,” said Eldridge, D-Acton. “By updating our zoning laws, we can make it easier for cities and towns to proactively invigorate our downtowns and residential areas, promote sustainable and responsible development, create diverse and affordable housing, protect open space and agricultural land, and create healthier, more pedestrian- and bike-friendly communities.”

The state’s zoning laws are unclear and restrictive, laying down a series of impediments that discourage local planning, Eldridge’s office said. The zoning reform bill would reframe the existing laws into more understandable language.

“Our communities’ goals and needs have changed dramatically over the past few decades, as have planning best practices – and yet none of this is reflected in our current zoning laws, which haven’t been updated in over 35 years,” Eldridge said.

The bill is based on the work of many groups, including regional planning agencies, municipalities and public health organizations.

The bill would provide incentives and tools to plan, improve and streamline local regulatory procedures, increase flexibility in zoning and permitting and include $11 million in municipal and regional planning assistance, according to Eldridge’s office.

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