Clurpa Summary 5.18

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Commonwealth of Massachusetts Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government Comprehensive Land Use Reform and Partnership Act Description of Sections May 18, 2010 Overview of the bill: The bill proposes changes to three existing sections of Massachusetts General Law and creates one new chapter. Offers clarity and updating of Chapter 40A (The Zoning Act), Section 81D of Chapter 41(the master plan) and portions of Chapter 41 (The Subdivision Control Law). Creates a new statute in the
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  1 Comprehensive Land Use Reform and Partnership Act Description of SectionsMay 18, 2010 Overview of the bill: The bill proposes changes to three existing sections of Massachusetts General Law and creates one newchapter.Offers clarity and updating of Chapter 40A (The Zoning Act), Section 81D of Chapter 41(the masterplan) and portions of Chapter 41 (The Subdivision Control Law).Creates a new statute in the Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 40U, that offers additional powers,practices, and pr eferences to communities that “opt  - in” to certain additional performance standardsconsistent with the state’s sustainable development principles   Specific Provisions For All Communities.Section 1. The Zoning Act (Chapter 40A) The bill reorganizes and consolidates Chapter 40A (the Zoning Act) going from 17 to 11 sections. Liketopics are grouped for easier access. Presentation is in outline format with the use of reader-friendly headings. The bill leaves significant portions of the state’s zoning laws intact, while also providingsubstantive zoning updates to all communities. Among these changes are: o   Construction and Purposes. The bill adds new language to clarify the construction andpurposes of zoning in Massachusetts. The bill clearly reiterates the home rule powers of cities and towns -- while recognizing the legislature’s role in limiting the exercise of home rule authority in order to promote overriding state interests. The bill recognizes that legitimate property rights and constitutional principles should not be violated by local landuse regulations. o   Consistency. The bill requires that zoning ordinances and by-laws not be inconsistent withan adopted master plan under c. 41, § 81D. A seven year grace period is available to comply,and a city or town without a plan may instead adopt an existing regional plan. o   Mansionization. Eliminates the prohibition on the regulation of maximum interior area of asingle family dwelling o   Exclusionary practices. A bar on exclusionary zoning practices has been added. o   Vesting. The complete zoning freeze for subdivision plans has been modified to also includebuilding and special permits, and standardized so all three approvals are treated similarly.Thus, a development project proposed in a building permit, special permit, or definitive Commonwealth of Massachusetts Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government    2 subdivision plan duly applied for prior to the date of adoption of a zoning change will begoverned by the zoning then in effect for a period of 2, 3, or 8 years, respectively. A minorsubdivision will be treated as a definitive subdivision plan under this section, but with a 3year zoning protection period. o   Adoption of zoning bylaws. The two-thirds super majority vote remains the default to adopt or amend zoning ordinances or by-laws, but a lesser majority vote now may be prescribed ina zoning ordinance or by-law. Such a reduction in vote majority must itself be adopted by atwo-thirds vote of the local legislative body, and the change shall not become effective until 6months have elapsed after the vote. o   Special Permits. The required vote majority necessary to approve a special permit now maybe reduced by ordinance or by-law. The effective duration of a special permit is set at noshorter than three years (which matches the period of vested rights for a special permit described above). Finally, a process for the extension of a special permit is established. o   Site Plan Review. A new sub-section places this common zoning approval within the ZoningAct for the first time, affirming that site plan review is a process for uses allowed by-right,distinct from discretionary uses subject to a special permit. A time limit of 95 days is set forthe review, subject to mutually-agreed-upon extensions. Public hearings are optional. A siteplan shall be approved if it meets the three stated criteria, although reasonable conditionsand limitations may be imposed. An approved site plan shall have an effective duration of noshorter than two years. Consultant fees to assist the board in its review may be assessed of an applicant. A site plan, when required in conjunction with a discretionary review, such asspecial permit, shall be integrated into the processing of the application for the specialpermit and not made the subject of a separate proceeding. o   Variances. The criteria for granting variances under the old statute were so narrowly drawnthat a lawful variance was difficult to grant in Massachusetts. Consequently, somecommunities that adhered to the statute granted few if any variances, while others, ignoringthe statute out of perceived necessity, granted many variances according to no set standards.This subsection seeks to find a middle ground by setting reasonable criteria for variances while still maintaining a community’s discretion to condition or deny a variance. Theeffective life of a variance is extended from one to two years before it lapses if not used, andthe permissible extension increases from six months to one year. o   Standard Procedures. Standard procedures for zoning applications, hearings, and decisionswere organized and clarified from various sections of the old c. 40A. Unless otherwiseindicated elsewhere in the Zoning Act these are the default procedures to be followed. o   Inclusionary Zoning. The bill provides parameters for zoning measures that require thecreation of affordable housing in development projects. It encompasses the wide array of such techniques used currently in the state. Subject to granting authority approval, off-siteunits, land dedication, or funds may also be provided in lieu of on-site dwelling units.Dedicated accounts may be set up for this purpose. Any dwelling units created under thisstatute must be price-restricted for no less than 30 years. Inclusionary zoning ordinances orby-laws may require all or a portion of the units created be eligible for inclusion on the community’s Subsidized Housing Inventory.   o   Development impact fee. The bill establishes that development impact fees are permissibleif in accordance with this subsection, which is based upon a number of in-state and out-of-state models. Communities following the requirements of this subsection will havedefensible impact fee ordnances or by-laws that are less prone to being overturned. Publiccapital facilities for which impact fees may be assessed are listed. Municipal expensesineligible for the application of impact fees, such as maintenance or salaries, are also listed.  3 Affordable housing subject to a restriction on sale price or rent is exempt from beingassessed an impact fee. The planning and study prerequisites to the adoption of an impact fee ordinance or bylaw are detailed, as is fiscal administration of an impact fee program. o   Dispute Resolution. This new subsection sets out the procedure for a voluntary land usedispute resolution process utilizing a neutral facilitator to help resolve conflicts stemmingfrom an application for a land use permit. o   Mediation of land use appeals. A voluntary mediation process is allowed which stays anappeal for at least 180 days, and longer if extended. Section 2. Master Plans (amends Chapter 41 Section 81D) The bill proposes significant amendments to the section of law that requires municipalities to plan for their community’s future. Specifically, the revised Section:   o   Reiterates the existing requirement for communities to create a master plan, and states that plans should be updated or extended every ten years. o   Reduces the number of required planning elements from nine to five as follows: goals andpolicies, housing, natural resources and energy, land use and zoning, and implementation. o   Articulates six other, optional elements which may be added at the community’s discretion; certain of which are required in order to adopt a development impact fee ordinance or bylawor to opt-in to the provisions of Chapter 40U (see below). o   Requires a self assessment of consistency with an adopted regional plan.   o   Authorizes “partnership plans” described in n ew Section 40U. o   Requires final adoption of a master plan and component by the local legislative body by asimple majority vote . o   Requires a public hearing prior to vote on the master plan. o   Encourages, but does not require certification by the regional planning agencies, unless themaster plan includes a partnership plan, in which case certification is required. Sections 3-18. Subdivision Control Law (amends Chapter 41) The bill makes selected amendments to the Subdivision Control Law: o   Minor subdivisions. Allows, by local option, the replacement of approval not required (“ANR”) with a carefully crafted minor s ubdivision law. o   Minor Lot Line Changes. Establishes a new, streamlined method for making minor lot linechanges. o   Parks and Playgrounds. Allows towns to require that parks and playgrounds not exceeding5% of the su bdivision’s area within the new neighborhood. o   Consistency. Requires subdivision regulations not be inconsistent with master plans. o   Roadway Width. Establishes a presumption that requirements for roadway widths of greaterthan 24 feet are excessive.  4 o   Appeals. Introduces standards for appellants of a decision by the planning board onsubdivision approval. o   Submittal of Plans. Establishes new submittal requirements for subdivision plans Provisions for Partnership Communities (Communities that “Opt In”)  Section 19. Land Use Partnership Act (New Chapter 40U) The bill creates a new statute in the Massachusetts General Laws -- Chapter 40U, The Land UsePartnership Act -- tha t offers additional powers to “partnership communities” that, by local option, adopt a partnership plan and implementing regulations to satisfy additional performance standards consistent  with the state’s sustainable development principles. o   A process is established through wh ich municipalities can become “p artnership communities” by adopting partnership plans and implementing regulations that meet not only the basic requirements of Chapter 41 Section 81D but also additional performancestandards. o   The partnership plans and implementing regulations must receive certification of theregional planning agency, determining that they meet minimum standards and consistency. o   For the first five years of the program, certification will be met if the municipality adopts apartnership plan and implementing regulations that satisfy the following. Subsequently,certification requirements may be set forth in regulations promulgated by an InteragencyPlanning Board.    Prompt and predictable permitting of commercial and industrial development within one or more economic development districts    Prompt and predictable permitting of residential development within one or moreresidential development districts that collectively can accommodate a number of new housing units equal to a housing target number equal to five percent of the totalnumber of year round housing units in the community.    Prompt and predictable permitting of renewable or alternative energy generatingfacilities, renewable or alternative energy research and development facilities, orrenewable and alternative energy manufacturing facilities within one or morezoning districts that are eligible locations.    A requirement for use of open space residential design for any development of 5 ormore housing units in districts where the minimum lot area exceeds 40,000 squarefeet.    A requirement for low impact development techniques for any development that disturbs more than one acre of land o   Once a city or town becomes a Partnership Community, that community shall enjoy, inaddition to those powers enumerated to all cities and towns in Chapter 40A, the followingadditional powers:    Rate of development. The power to regulate the rate of development 
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