- One of the 14 cities and towns that initially hosted MBTA service;
- One of the 51 cities and towns that also host MBTA service but joined later;
- Other “served communities” that abuts a city or town that hosts MBTA service;
- A municipality that has been added to the MBTA under G.L. c. 161A, sec. 6 or in accordance with any special law relative to the area constituting the authority.
Hopkinton is classified as a “served community” because of its proximity to the Southborough commuter rail station.
What this means for Hopkinton
To be compliant with the MBTA Communities multi-family zoning requirements, the Town of Hopkinton will be required to establish zoning district(s) or overlay(s) that allows for multi-family units; however, it does not require the units to be constructed. The zoning must allow for multi-family residential development with no special permits or other discretionary approval needed. This means that the zoning district regulations cannot impose age restrictions within the MBTA Communities district(s).
Through the process, the Town of Hopkinton must establish zoning district(s) of at least 50 acres, and the district(s) must allow a minimum density of 15 units per acre. The law does not require municipalities to upgrade or install new infrastructure to support the development of sites within the MBTA Communities zoning district.
The multi-family district(s) may include land areas within a half-mile of the Southborough MBTA Commuter Rail Station, or areas that are farther than a half-mile from the transit station provided the areas are easily accessible to the transit station based on existing street patterns and pedestrian connections.
The deadline for zoning compliance is Dec. 31, 2024.
What if Hopkinton does not comply?
Communities that do not comply with the zoning requirement will not be eligible for certain state funding and, as the Attorney General’s Office advised in March, “Communities that fail to comply with the law’s requirements also risk liability under federal and state fair housing laws.”
Since 2014, the Town of Hopkinton has received more than $8 million in MassWorks Funding for road safety and infrastructure improvements. The projects that received MassWorks funding include Legacy Farms North and the Main Street Corridor.
Projects that qualify and could be at risk include a potential future Massachusetts Water Resources Authority water connection and potential future infrastructure improvements related to affordable housing.
If Hopkinton does not comply with Section 3A’s requirements, the town risks losing eligibility to receive MassWorks funding, as well as any funding through the Housing Choice Initiative and Local Capital Projects fund. Additionally, as of August 2023, the law has been amended to add 13 discretionary grant programs that will consider compliance with Section 3A in making grant awards.
What are Hopkinton’s next steps?
The town is in the preliminary stages of evaluating potential areas that could be zoned to help meet these requirements. The town plans to make opportunities for public input available as the work progresses.
The next opportunity for public input will take place at the Zoning Advisory Committee meeting on Sept. 18, virtually via Zoom. To confirm meeting details, check the Town’s online calendar or contact Gelcich at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The MBTA Communities zoning district that is ultimately identified by the town will need to be approved at Annual Town Meeting in May 2024 in order to meet the state’s compliance deadline of Dec. 31, 2024.