Things That Make You Say “Hunh?”: MBTA Communities
Yesterday, the Owl attended a webinar hosted by the Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Community Development, Michael Kennealy [note: a previous version of this story misspelled Mr. Kennealy’s name– apologies]. The subject was the January 2021 state law (Section 3A of MGL c. 40A) that “requires that an MBTA community shall have at least one zoning district of reasonable size in which multi-family housing is permitted as of right and meets other criteria set forth in the statute:
- Minimum gross density of 15 units per acre
- Not more than ½ miles from a commuter rail station, subway station, ferry terminal or bus station, if applicable.
- No age restrictions
- Suitable for families with children.”
You can find that exact wording on the state website here.
Now, let’s cut to the chase. Weston is a MBTA Community because we “host” an MBTA service. We are not alone–you can see on this map that we have quite a few friends (174 others to be exact). By the way, to see any of the images I am using here, please go to this link, then scroll to the bottom of the page where you can view the webinar and download the presentation.
Anything bother you about this map? Ah yes, here’s what bothers me. Weston is “served” by subway or light rail according to our dark blue shading. Knock me down with a feather! We have a subway here in Weston? Where? Light rail? Where? Last time I checked Riverside T-station was not in the town of Weston–though I suppose about 20 Westonians are within walking distance if they don’t mind crossing 8 lanes of I-95 oh and the Charles River. I think it’s time to invite Governor Baker to take the “T” out to Weston and see how that works out for him. Wait, I’ll send him an email now. Here from our town website are Weston’s transportation options:
You may wonder why it’s important to define light rail/subway versus commuter rail: “All communities served by the MBTA need to zone to allow for multifamily housing by-right, with a greater obligation for communities with higher levels of transit service.” As defined by the state, a community serviced by light rail/subway must have a designated district with 25% of its housing stock as multi-family. Or about 1,011 units in the multi-family district for Weston. If we were designated as a commuter rail community, which is what I believe we are (please feel free to correct me if you know where the T station is in Weston), that would be 15%.
In addition, all MBTA Communities must designate multi-family districts that have a minimum land area of at least 50 acres (or 1/20 of the land area within a half-mile of a transit station) with a minimum density of 15 units per acre.
Want to see what a half-mile radius from Kendal Green looks like? Well, check out my excellent map-making skills. Kendal Green parking more or less where the dashed red line radius is.
Now, in an effort to alleviate everyone’s worries (and guess what? they took ZERO questions), they also included a slide of these multi-family districts in some Massachusetts communities. Here you go:
This brings up another list of questions. Like, Silver Hill and Hastings stations are not “online” at the moment. Is that going to change now? Kendal Green also seem to be reduced schedules but I could be making that up as I never take the train–they closed my neighborhood station. Someone tell me. Also, there has long been rumored to be a Waltham Mega Master Blaster Transportation Hub in the future which would shut down the Weston stations. And finally, every time I go over to the Fitchburg line website, there is a huge list of delays, track problems, buses instead of trains, etc. Can we vote to no longer have a train stop here? What is actually going on, MBTA? I can only be in your Community if you tell me what is going on.
Okay, sorry, I went off the rails a bit (haha) but here is what I took out of this. Someone in Weston needs to fill out some community info by May 2 and send it in, and we need to consider this new zoning district, and if we decide not to comply as a town, then we give up state money for something. Oh here’s the officialese: “An MBTA community that fails to comply with this section shall not be eligible for funds from: (i) the Housing Choice Initiative as described by the governor in a message to the general court dated December 11, 2017; (ii) the Local Capital Projects Fund established in section 2EEEE of chapter 29; or (iii) the MassWorks infrastructure program established in section 63 of chapter 23A.” Do I know if Weston cares about this? I don’t.
If you feel this is not all crystal clear, well, I have a webinar for you. Stick a fork in me, I’m done.