Lead Sponsor: Senator Jamie Eldridge
Summary: This bill is a re-file of the Comprehensive Land Use Reform and Partnership Act (CLURPA). It proposes the first comprehensive update of the Commonwealth’s zoning and subdivision control laws in over thirty five years. This bill will promote healthy features for communities, such as mixed commercial-residential districts that encourage walking and biking and the preservation of open space that promotes active recreation, conservation, and agriculture.
The bill offers clarity and updates the entirety of Chapter 40A (The Zoning Act), and Section 81D of Chapter 41 (the master plan), as well as portions of Chapter 41 (The Subdivision Control Law). The Healthy Communities Act also offers additional powers, practices, and preferences to communities that “opt-in” to certain additional performance standards consistent with the state’s sustainable development principles. The bill promotes local master planning as a basis for consistent zoning, subdivision control, and permitting — and provides zoning reform benefits to all communities in the areas of grandfathering, Approval Not Required (ANR) plans, and impact fees. In addition, the Healthy Communities Act encourages municipalities to require multi-modal transportation analyses, in assessing pedestrian, bicycle, and transit travel as well as motor vehicle traffic impacts and mitigation required of a proposal or development. The act would encourage cities and towns to utilize Health Impact Assessments for proposed projects so that permit granting authorities may be fully informed of the public health impacts of a proposal and can pursue appropriate mitigation as needed.
Why This Matters: In Massachusetts, the responsibility for land use planning and the regulation of development is largely a local matter. However, the state laws which set the framework for this municipal control contain unclear or restrictive provisions that effectively deprive our cities and towns of authority consistent with their responsibilities. These impediments make local planning difficult. The current planning, zoning and subdivision control statutes actually work to subvert local planning by laying down a minefield of exemptions, prohibitions and zoning freezes in the way of plan implementation. The realization of local land use plans is so hindered by the state’s disabling statutory framework that no one is well-served – neither advocates for fair housing nor those interested in environmental and resource protection.
What this Bill Would Do:
The Healthy Communities bill:
- provides clearly written and better organized statutory language
- streamlines the local master planning process
- encourages consistency between local plans and land use regulations
- encourages regional and state interests in planning
- provides incentives to plan according to state sustainable development principles
- includes $11,000,000 in municipal and regional planning assistance
- closes loopholes and ends restrictions which undermine local planning (for example, “grandfathering” protections and ANR land divisions)
- fosters housing affordability and diversity, and environmental protection
- increases flexibility in zoning and permitting (for example, newly crafted variance and special permit language)
- provides communities with new plan implementation tools (for example, impact fees, inclusionary zoning, form-based codes, and natural resource protection zoning)
- improves and streamlines local regulatory procedures (time frames, site plan review)
- encourages more focus on health, safety, and environmental impacts of land use planning
View the full text of the bill and track its history here.