Groundbreaking Developments Blog

MBTA Communities Act – Update on Zoning Adoption

March 28, 2024

By Ann Sobolewski

Here’s an update on the progress of the new required zoning under the MBTA Communities Act.

As of the end of the year, all 12 of the rapid transit communities (Braintree, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Milton, Newton, Quincy, Revere, and Somerville) either had adopted compliant zoning, or had zoning already in place that complied with the legal requirements. But on February 14th, voters in Milton rescinded a zoning plan previously adopted by its representative town meeting (by a vote of 158-78) to comply with the requirements of the MBTA Communities Act. The February referendum was the result of a petition signed by the requisite number of registered voters to trigger a special town election and put the question on the ballot.  Of approximately 20,700 registered voters, 9,466 participated int eh February election, and 54% voted against the zoning changes (5,115 to 4,346).  With these results, Milton is now non-compliant with the requirements of the Act and will forfeit its right to grants and funding.

If you are involved in local politics, you know how (comparatively) easy it can be to get a positive vote at town meeting on a Prop 2 1/2 override where everyone has to sit and listen to both sides of an argument . . . which is then defeated in the ballot portion. This seems to be on par with what happened here. It will be interesting to watch this play out, particularly where the State is committed to enforcing the requirements of the Act and through the lawsuit filed by the Attorney general against the town, is using Milton to set an example to deter other communities from attempting to shirk the requirements of the Act.

As it stands now, 11 of the 12 rapid transit communities met their deadline to adopt compliant zoning.  Of the municipalities in the next tier, cities and towns with commuter rail stops and adjacent communities, which must adopt compliant zoning by the end of 2024, several have already met the requirements well in advance of the deadline.  Littleton, a town with a commuter rail stop, failed to pass a warrant article to adopt complaint zoning at its last town meeting, but its Planning Board is moving forward with a new proposal that will hopefully secure the necessary votes. Finally, small towns adjacent to communities with commuter rail stops will need to adopt complaint zoning by the end of 2025.


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