May 25, 2023
• The Town of Needham is looking for volunteers for the newly formed Housing Needham Advisory Group to help the town meet the MBTA Zoning requirements.
The Town of Needham is actively seeking members to form an advisory group responsible for leading the community engagement process in creating multi-family zoning that complies with the MBTA Communities Act. The group will advise the Select Board and Planning Board on proposed zoning regulations to be presented at Town Meeting in 2024.
Earlier this year, the Town submitted an action plan to the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, or DHCD, outlaying strategies to establish by-right multifamily zoning areas near transit as mandated by the MBTA Communities Act. Many of these strategies focus on rezoning parcels along the Highland Avenue and Chestnut Street corridor. These areas were selected because they’re within the half mile radius of MBTA stations and already have relatively dense development. The Housing Needham Advisory Group will use the action plan as a foundation for their work.
Assistant Town Manager Katie King elaborated on the group’s role during the Select Board meeting on Tuesday, May 23rd. “The thinking behind this is, really, there is a lot of legwork to be done to get to actual zoning language that goes to Town Meeting. A lot of that is a community engagement process to do visioning and planning, and making sure we’re getting a lot of voices into this process. So the advisory group is intended to be that group, to do the legwork in a coordinated fashion, over the next year and a half.”
The group will be comprised of a total of nine members, including five elected officials and four residents. The Select Board and the Planning Board will appoint four resident members, aiming to include one architect, one real estate developer, one renter, and one community member at large.
The formation of the group is expected to be completed before the end of the summer. They will spend approximately six months crafting a draft zoning law based on feedback solicited from the public. The Town will submit the draft zoning to the DHCD for a 90-day review process, taking place from April to June, 2024 before presenting it for approval at Town Meeting in October.
Explains King, “If DHCD were to have feedback for us, that we need to make some changes to what we are proposing, we still have July to September, which is the Planning Board’s kind-of standard regulatory time of year, where they would be finalizing the zoning to put in the article, having a public hearing noticed around that final language. And so if changes did need to be made, we still have one last opportunity to do that.”
Residents interested in joining the advisory group and contributing their expertise are encouraged to contact the Select Board at firstname.lastname@example.org and the Planning Board at email@example.com.