Skip to main content

Norfolk/Wrentham - Local Town Pages

MBTA Zoning Law Passes at Town Meeting

By Grace Allen
The controversial MBTA Communities Zoning act was approved by a majority of voters at Norfolk’s Town Meeting, held on May 15. 
The law’s goal is to increase zoning for multi-family housing in towns served by or adjacent to MBTA stops. Nearly half of the state’s 177 applicable cities and towns have complied with the law, but others are refusing to rezone or have delayed a decision.
Communities that do not comply with the law by the end of 2024 may face the loss of certain state funding or grant money.
Proponents of the act say increased housing density near public transportation will help alleviate the state’s housing crisis by removing discretionary processes such as special permits, zoning variances, or age restrictions. The law calls for zoning with a minimum density of 15 units per acre, 10% of which must be affordable.
It’s important to note that the law does not mandate new housing, just new zoning.
The Norfolk Planning Board chose to use overlay districts, where the new districts are laid on top of existing districts which already have their own zoning regulations. The existing districts already allow multi-family housing, and overlaying the new districts on top allows Norfolk to meet the requirements of the new law. While the new districts will permit high-density housing to be built, additional hurdles, such as preserving wetlands and the lack of public sewer in both districts, will likely either dampen developers’ interest in taking on the projects or cause whatever projects are proposed to be smaller in scale.