NEWS

MassDOT to release draft Massachusetts State Rail Plan!

The State Rail Plan is a vision for a rail system that is safe, secure, resilient, efficient, reliable, and sustainable.  The Plan is also intended to catalyze economic development while supporting the Commonwealth’s continued competitiveness.    It is an update to the 2010 State Rail Plan that documents existing infrastructure and services while outlining the Commonwealth’s 20-year vision, specific improvements, and projected activities during the next four years.  The Plan will comply with Federal Railroad Administration mandates for states to develop individual rail plans.

As noted at left, MassDOT will be releasing the draft Plan and scheduling a public information meeting soon.

For more information on the Massachusetts State Rail Plan, contact:

Jennifer Slesinger
MassDOT Office of Transportation Planning
Phone: 857-368-9800
Email:Planning@dot.state.ma.us

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Baker-Polito Administration Announces New Housing Choice Initiative

On December 11, 2017 the Baker-Polito Administration announced a comprehensive new initiative to substantially increase housing production across the Commonwealth. The Administration’s Housing Choice Initiative creates a new system of incentives and rewards for municipalities that deliver sustainable housing growth; creates a new technical assistance toolbox, to empower cities and towns to plan for new housing production; and proposes legislative changes, through An Act to Promote Housing Choices, to deliver smart, effective zoning at the local level.

Modeled after Massachusetts’ successful Green Communities program, The Housing Choice Initiative will provide a powerful new set of incentive-based tools for local governments. The Housing Choice Initiative will reward communities that are producing new housing units and have adopted best practices to promote sustainable housing development, use land efficiently, protect natural resources and conserve energy, with a new Housing Choice designation. The Housing Choice Designation is designed to be simple, flexible and achievable for municipalities. Cities and towns that receive the Housing Choice Designation will be eligible for new financial resources, including exclusive access to new Housing Choice Capital Grants, and preferential treatment for many state grant and capital funding programs, including MassWorks, Complete Streets, MassDOT capital projects and PARC and LAND grants.

As part of the Housing Choice Initiative, the Administration is proposing legislation that will remove barriers to improved land use and new housing, by promoting the adoption of local zoning best practices. This legislative proposal, An Act to Promote Housing Choices, would allow cities and towns to adopt certain zoning best practices by a simple majority vote, rather than the current two-thirds supermajority. Massachusetts is currently one of only ten states to require a supermajority to change local zoning; all other northeastern states rezone through simple majority votes.

Zoning changes that promote best practices that would qualify for the simple majority threshold include:

  • Building mixed-use, multi-family, and starter homes, and adopting 40R “Smart Growth” zoning in town centers and near transit;
  • Allowing the development of accessory dwelling units, or “in-law” apartments;
  • Granting increased density through a special permit process;
  • Allowing for the transfer of development rights and enacting natural resource protection zoning; and
  • Reducing parking requirements and dimensional requirements, such as minimum lot sizes.

Click here to view the complete Program announcement and related information, or click on the link below to view the Housing Choices Bill, updated December 18, 2017

FINAL-Housing-Choices-Bill-FORMATTED 121817

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Making Great Communities Happen

SNEAPA 2017 

October 26-27 at the Rhode Island Convention Center, Providence, RI

SNEAPA – the Southern New England American Planning Association – is the Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts chapters of APA.  SNEAPA hosted its 2017 planning conference in Providence, RI on October 26-27  at the RI Convention Center.  As always, this event was well attended and featured a wide variety of topics and speakers.

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