The next stop will be the Select Board and Planning Board
Residents are invited to a workshop at the Tewksbury Senior Center on Thursday, Oct. 12, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The goal: Finalize two potential locations for an overlay district compliant with M.G.L. 40A, Section 3A, better known as “MBTA Communities Zoning.”
This will be the fourth outreach activity to solicit resident feedback. First, a survey conducted in July 2023 asked residents to rank six potential sites. At a virtual feedback session on Aug. 15, Community/Economic Development Planner Alexandra Lowder presented overall district requirements and a summary of survey results.
An in-person workshop held on Sept. 13 asked participants to note advantages and disadvantages of each of the six proposed sites, to help narrow the options down to three.
At the live feedback session scheduled for Oct. 12, participants will consider three potential districts that emerged from previous sessions as the most advantageous: Main A, Heath Brook Plaza to Oakdale Plaza; Main B, which runs from St. Williams to Colonial Drive; and North B, which includes the Trull Brook Golf Course.
Update: As of Oct. 2, the Town Manager’s office asked for the Town Center district to be considered as a potential siting for the MBTA Communities Overlay District. This district includes the Archstone and Emerald Court parcels.
If you’re looking for previous presentations, see the Zoning Information landing page.
To inform the discussion, Lowder solicited input from the town’s public safety and public works departments related to emergency response and resources as well as infrastructure capabilities and potential challenges for the three sites under consideration. This information will be presented along with data on district features such as density, building height and open space requirements.
The intention for the Oct. 12 workshop is to finalize two viable options for consideration.
Following this feedback session, the two potential districts will be presented to the Select Board and Planning Board, likely in late October. From there, the final district is submitted to the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC) for a compliance review before it comes to Town Meeting in May 2024.
As an MBTA adjacent community, Tewksbury must adopt a zoning district of a minimum of 50 acres to allow housing density of at least 15 units per acre by right. Eligible acreage must be free of wetlands, environmentally sensitive areas and other excludable land as defined by law. However, Lowder pointed out that the overlay is not a mandate to build. It simply means that should land in the designated district be offered for sale or be redeveloped, the owner may decide to build housing in line with the bylaw.
In addition, noncompliance is not a viable option. In March, Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Campbell notified cities and towns that failing to designate a suitable zone will not only make them ineligible to receive certain state funding and grants, such as Housing Authority funds, they may face civil enforcement actions and liability under federal and state fair housing laws. There have already been actions taken by the state to penalize towns, like Westwood, that have fallen short on interim compliance.
The selection process is supported by the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments (NMCOG) District Local Technical Assistance grant funded by EOHLC.
Registration is not required for the session but is encouraged. Register using this link.