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Zoning up for debate

by | Mar 20, 2019 | Business, News

Voters to decide on restricting town growth

For more than a decade, keeping up with the increasing growth in Hopkinton population has been a major concern for town government.

While the recent increase in school population has been dramatic, it is only one example. Other services like the fire department also are beginning to feel the strain.

Which is why Town Meeting voters this year may have the opportunity to try to limit that growth by amending the town zoning bylaws.

Normally zoning amendments are generated by the Zoning Advisory Committee or the town Planning Board.

However, this year Planning Board member Amy Ritterbusch has decided to subvert that process with two proposed zoning amendments generated by citizen petitions.

Ritterbusch said the topic of zoning articles to shape growth was brought up at both Zoning Advisory Committee and Planning Board meetings this year, and she previously expressed her concern at the ZAC public hearing the fall.

“Neither board seemed to have the will to move forward with any articles to shape growth for Town Meeting 2019. So I think a citizen’s petition was really the only way to bring the discussion forward this year,” Ritterbusch explained. “In talking to residents over the past two years, the topic of managing the town’s fast-paced growth is one of their top concerns, however, not everyone necessarily agrees on the best way to do that. Residents seem eager for public conservation about shaping growth, and I look forward to a good discussion on these topics at Town Meeting. The zoning bylaw changes may or may not pass, but at least people will have a chance to speak for or against them, or even to suggest amendments.”

One amendment would impose a “One-Year Growth Restriction, as follows:

“The purpose of this section is to implement a reasonable and temporary cap, until July 1, 2020, on construction of new dwelling units in the Town.”

Specific details of the restrictions include the following.

“A. A town-wide total of not more than twelve (12) building permits for new dwelling units shall be authorized by the Town during the period that this Section is in effect.

“B. General Applicants. Not more than two (2) dwelling units shall be authorized via a Building Permit(s) for any one applicant during the period that this Section is in effect. Pass any vote or take any action relative thereto.”

Ritterbusch’s other petition-generated amendment entitled “Subdivision, Garden Apartments, and Village Housing Phasing” would impose a three-year moratorium on larger developments and requires, among other restrictions:

“No more than 10 building permits for the construction of new residential dwelling units which are situated within any subdivision, Garden Apartment development or Village Housing development as referred to above or which obtain their legal frontage on streets shown on any of the subdivision plans as defined above, shall be issued in any twelve-month period.”

Both of these proposed amendments will be discussed at the Planning Board public hearing on March 25.

Planning Board Chair Muriel Kramer said she hopes that a public discussion of the proposals among Planning Board members and members of the public will generate a better understanding of how to move forward on the subject of town growth.

Also joining that discussion will be members of the Hopkinton Chamber of Commerce, some of whom have already expressed a more skeptical view of the proposals to restrict growth.

“Such an all-encompassing issue for our town should go through the normal planning process to understand the true repercussions and impact to Hopkinton,” said Nick Slottje, who is the Chamber of Commerce’s economic development council chairman, as well as a resident. “The concept of limiting growth needs to be vetted before voters can be asked to have an educated opinion on these articles at Town Meeting.

“From an economic standpoint I am concerned that there is not enough attention being paid to the fact that responsible and prudent growth in the right areas of town has allowed for tremendous upgrades to our schools and infrastructure.”

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