Why Massachusetts’ Outdated Zoning Act Has To Go | Cognoscenti

  • Wed, Jul 09, 2014
  • by Joseph A. Curtatone and André Leroux

 

Curtatone and Leroux: The state’s 40-year-old zoning act favors sprawl over sustainable development. Pictured: Housing construction in North Andover, Mass., March 21, 2014. (Elise Amendola, File/AP)

Our cities and towns deserve a modern set of tools to plan ahead for growth. We must be able to ensure that development takes place wisely, spares tax dollars from waste and protects our environment. Development proposals should be based upon community values and local planning priorities. But in too many communities, smart, community-minded development proposals are subject to legal wrangling and costly delays. Meanwhile, lower-quality proposals speed through, abetted by outdated regulations.

The status quo threatens Massachusetts’ economic future and our quality of life. Our state’s outdated zoning, planning and permitting laws mean that it’s cheaper and easier to build in haphazard locations that may waste taxpayer dollars. The resulting sprawl costs up to twice as much in public infrastructure, costs 10 percent more to maintain in services and produces environmentally unsustainable growth.

Our state’s outdated zoning, planning and permitting laws mean that it’s cheaper and easier to build in haphazard locations that may waste taxpayer dollars.

It is time for sensible reform. While local communities like Somerville are making progress by implementing comprehensive planning and overhauling local codes, all of our communities could do much more with a strategic reform to our state’s development laws. Massachusetts laws governing development, including our state zoning act, have not been updated in 40 years.

Fortunately, there is a bill pending on Beacon Hill that begins to fix this. House Bill No. 1859, An Act Promoting the Planning and Development of Sustainable Communities, is practical legislation that gives Massachusetts cities and towns clear authority and flexible tools to plan, develop and protect our communities.

…(read more).

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