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Town Meeting Part 2: Zoning Changes

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This article is part of a continuing series on the Hopkinton Annual Town Meeting scheduled for May 1, 2023 at 7:00 PM. There are 48 articles to discuss at the 2023 Town Meeting; what follows are the most important agenda items for Hopkinton residents to consider. Each of these articles requires a Yes or No vote from registered voters in attendance.

>> RELATED: Town Meeting Part 1: Short term rentals, gun clubs and public safety

Article 25: Inclusionary Development Bylaw

Despite its confusing name, this is probably the most consequential article on the entire agenda for many residents. If approved, it will likely lead to far fewer subdivisions being developed in the future.

To understand the impact of this article it is helpful to have a grasp of the foundational elements of affordable housing in our community. 

By Massachusetts law, Hopkinton must maintain 10% of its housing stock as “affordable”. Housing is generally considered affordable if the household pays less than 30% of its monthly income to secure the housing.

If our percentage of housing stock falls below 10%, a developer could file an Unfriendly 40B, which would bypass Hopkinton’s zoning laws, allowing them to build something that would otherwise not conform. A large apartment building in a neighborhood of single family homes, for example.

Current town bylaws require a developer to build one affordable house for every 10 houses built. In theory this maintains the ratio. But developers have circumvented this rule by building only 9 homes on a site (see Whisper Way). Over time this reduces Hopkinton’s housing stock below the 10% threshold.

A developer can satisfy the current requirement in one of three ways, at their discretion: 

  1. Build one of the units as affordable.
  2. Build an affordable unit somewhere else in town.
  3. Make a payment to the Affordable Housing Authority in lieu of building a unit.

The proposed change to the bylaw would do three things:

  1. Expands the definition of houses that can be deemed as affordable. Currently only houses that are permitted as affordable can be counted as such, and this increases the eligible number of units that qualify as affordable. 
  2. Decreases the minimum threshold from 10 units to 5 units. 
  3. Removes the developer’s choice of meeting the requirement. Building on another site or making a payment in lieu of building will only be allowed by special permit of the Planning Board.

Why this matters: Most residents want to preserve the character of Hopkinton and would not welcome a large multifamily unit in their neighborhood. Many residents would also like to see slower growth. Because this amendment will affect the cost structure and potentially make subdivision development less profitable, it is very likely that this will deter developers targeting Hopkinton for large high-priced subdivisions.

Opponents of this measure will claim that adopting this measure will make the development of affordable housing more likely in Hopkinton. Historically speaking this claim is without merit.

Article 29: Zoning District Change – South Street and Hayward Street

This zoning change would convert the corners of Hayward and South Streets from Residential Lake Front to Rural Business District. 

This warrant article was added on January 31, 2023, the last day of the public acceptance period, infuriating residents of Hayward Street. It was signed by 30 residents ostensibly on behalf of Marguerite Concrete. Marguerite proposes to build a 24,000 square foot, 35-foot tall building on the lot to house 50 employees. It also included an amendment to build a private road that would be used for commercial traffic.

Why this matters: Residents that do not live on Hayward may shrug their shoulders at this, but they’d likely feel differently if it was in their backyard.

Article 28: Zoning District Change – West Elm

The lots at 0 West Elm and 2 West Elm are owned by Community Covenant Church. Unfortunately, after 48 years of service, the church is closing its doors. When the owners decided to sell the property they realized it is currently zoned Residential B, even though it is across from the Price Chopper, which is zoned Business District. Similarly, the buildings on South Street are zoned Industrial. This amendment will rezone this lot to Business District, making the property more attractive to a buyer.

Why this matters: The church has a point; the land should have been rezoned years ago. Because of the proximity to I-495 and West Main Street, it is unlikely anyone would want to build a house there, and the nearest neighbor to the church is more than 300 feet away, so there would be minimal impact on them.

Article 26: Electric Vehicle Parking Spaces

The Planning Board puts this article forward in anticipation of the continued growth of electrical vehicle sales in the coming years. This amendment would require new parking lots with 5 or more spaces to have the necessary infrastructure to support EV charging stations.

Why this matters: This is a forward-looking initiative to ensure that as more EV’s are sold Hopkinton’s infrastructure is ready. The Planning Board is acknowledging the trend in EV sales and they’re getting ahead of it.

>> Town Meeting Part 3: Schools and Green Initiatives

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