HomeNews"Not in My Back Yard" say Voters at Town Meeting

“Not in My Back Yard” say Voters at Town Meeting

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20th Century Homes

Much to the relief of attendees, the third and final night of Annual Town Meeting concluded Wednesday, with voters debating but narrowly rejecting a state-mandated zoning bylaw change.

The most controversial article on the agenda was a bylaw change that would have rezoned 50 acres of land across three separate parcels to comply with the state’s MBTA Communities Act. The new zoning would have potentially allowed 750 additional housing units to be built.

The three parcels selected were the Carbone’s property, located at 280 Cedar Street, and just 0.3 miles from the Southborough MBTA station. The second was a parcel across the street, known as The Preserve, which currently holds 40 condos. This third area was a section of downtown Hopkinton, that stretches from the Hopkinton Fire Department to just beyond the Post Office and to the Masonic Lodge.

The penalties for not complying with the law are potentially severe. Municipalities risk ineligibility for more than 15 state grant opportunities, including Community Planning Grants, Land Use Grants and Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Planning and Project Grants. Hopkinton receives several million dollars from the state each year, which supplements the town’s operating budget. Additionally, State Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell has stated that her office intends to aggressively enforce the law. “Communities cannot opt out of or avoid their obligations by choosing to forego state funding. Failure to comply may result in civil enforcement action or liability under federal and state fair housing laws,” she wrote in March.  

Much of the opposition to the change came from owners in The Preserve.

“We are strongly opposed to having our property rezoned…the current article has modifications made by our town officials to include high density housing be walking distance to the train in Southborough. This is not what the law states, as its intent is not a requirement for adjacent communities such as Hopkinton,” said resident Cathy Hamacher.

Referring to Monday night’s school presentation, Hamacher added: “The Superintendent confirmed that the student growth numbers did not include this high density housing.”

“Just find a different spot for it,” said Forest Lane resident Ali Zadeh.

“We should vote no on this. I think we’re going by scare tactics from the state,” said resident Barbara Burnham.

Other residents, including several from the Planning Board, spoke in favor of the article. Ultimately the discussion was concluded and a vote was called for, and the measure failed by a narrow margin of 51%, with just 8 voters toppling the Planning Board’s effort.

Presumably this sets the stage for a Fall Special Town Meeting, where the town will again appeal to the voters to adopt the bylaw change.

Sunnyside Gardens

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21 COMMENTS

  1. The state owns almost 800 acres off rt 85 less than 1.5 miles from the station. If they feel we need to have it, let them donate it.

  2. Why is it if something is voted on and if outcome is not whats wanted they just keep bringing it up till the results they want are gotten. I feel there should be a time limit before it can be brought up again like at least a year

  3. The proposal called for putting most of the zoned units (~500) in the immediate vicinity of the Southborough train station. That part of town is not served by municipal water or sewage services and putting 500 more units on wells will impact water supplies for everyone nearby. Even the sidewalk barely extends from the station to Carbone’s – it’s walking distance from the station but good luck doing it at 5:30pm in December! In ZAC meetings the committee was clear that they were trying to zone for unbuildable units – but what if the units get built anyway? Who pays for extending services? Is it the developer, the neighbors or the whole town?

    • Town water is brought in from Hopkinton wells. It’s wrong for the planning board to assume that a development near the train station requires town services. There are 2 Hopkinton condo developments in and around this area on wells. So I see any new development could also be served by wells, not necessarily town services.

      • 500 units need a lot of water. How will the town ensure that new wells to serve these developments don’t adversely affect current residents? At the ZAC they kicked the can down the road…

  4. If this is going to cost us millions in state grants and the legal costs to defend ourselves against AG Andrea Joy Campbell, then maybe we need to revisit the millions in spending that was just approved at TM in order to balance the budget.

  5. If the ZAC was trying to create an overlay for unbuildable units, what would the implications of placing the overlay on top of the DCR land (aka Hopkinton State Park)? Would that comply with the law?

  6. I watched many of the planning board meetings around this topic, and it seemed that the concerns of the residents of the Preserve were dismissed. I hope that when this comes back to us in the Fall, the planning board listens and picks different parcels. That being said, the thing I don’t like about this zoning mandate is that it seems zero consideration was given to towns like Hopkinton that have added hundreds of new apartments and condos (Legacy Farms, Winsor, etc) in recent years. Haven’t we done our fair share of helping with the housing shortage?

      • Do you and the residents of The Preserve know that adding “uses by right” puts ZERO obligation on the landowner and if anything increases property value? Land will always be worth the highest value use – any developer knows that which is why they always push to add broader zoning. Shifting the proposed zoning on the preserve would have either decreased the likelihood of being compliant with the law on increased the likelihood of more homes being built. The Planning Board acted in the best interest of the Town, as the are charged to do. Sadly, the only impact of the failed vote will be additional work by the volunteers that step up to do this work and additional expense incurred by the town as they work to find a way to comply with the law or fight it in court.

  7. My issue or question with this is that the rezoning of the downtown seems to be both unnecessary and not required under chapter 3A section 40A for Hopkinton to implement as an MBTA community. The law requires an MBTA community to have 1 district of reasonable size of by right multi-family house that is located not more than 0.5 miles from a commuter rail station. The purpose is to create housing closer to MBTA transit – similar to the Cirrus Apartments in Ashland. Forest Lane/Carbone’s site meets the proximity requirements (I do not know enough about the law and proposal to know if this site by itself would meet the requirements of “reasonable size” under the law.) But it seems as if that the Town is using the MBTA zoning bylaw as an opportunity to rezone the downtown. If the goal is to rezone the downtown area, it should be presented to the Town in an honest way and not piggybacked on the MBTA community requirement with the scare tactics of loss of funding if it is not allowed. I do not think the rezoning of the downtown even qualifies by itself because I do not believe it is within the 0.5 mile radius. I would be interested in seeing two separate proposals: this one, and one that meets the minimum requirements under the MBTA Communities Act.

  8. Only host towns are required to have housing 1/2 mile or closer. Hopkinton is an adjacent town. Hopkinton can select parcels anywhere in the town.

  9. So, we’ve got one camp that says put it on undeveloped property that would result in an increased number of houses. We have another camp that says apply it to existing developments. The third camp says screw the state and fight it in court. Sorry folks, but you can’t have all three. The reality is that the Planning Board proposal struck a balance that complied with the law, would have ZERO impact on the preserve unless 75% of owners chose to sell, and would have added very few units, not because of water supply, but because of no sewer. (dense housing doesn’t work with septic).

    As for downtown, current zoning already allows for denser housing than what the proposed MBTA zoning allowed for – have you seen a surge of apartment complexes going in downtown? (the current zoning has been in place for years)

    Bottom line: The proposed zoning minimized risk to the town and insured compliance with the law.

    • Hello…isn’t the owner of hop drug trying to put in a higher density complex on his land? Also the state would be on charge of the land in the overlay and it is has been doing could change the rules. What if they decided things weren’t being built fast enough and forced the build. Who wants to live with that hanging over their head…this is our home

    • Gary, can’t you show them that we JUST added significant high density housing off of Lumber Street (windsor) and Legacy Farms which has caused a huge burden to our schools and further development would need to add additions on to all schools. I guess the question is, which town or state land do you wa to o part w for this development that you ARE in control of?

      I disagree w you that high density development is not possible in rural areas that don’t have town water and sewer services. We have high density condos on well and septic systems already near the train station as well as legacy farms; which created their own sewer disposal system (red barn in Clinton St) for thousands of people living in South Legacy including the mid rise apartments.

    • Gary, how about you just Rezone all of Lumber St commercial areas including the already high density housing that we have near 1 Lumber as well as the high density rentals that we have in Legacy South? And any other land owned along 495 and 90?

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