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Clarifying claim about walking distance to Alewife

A letter by Patricia Worden of Arlington notes, "Arlington’s now-voted plan excludes the area, required by the law itself, within walking distance to Alewife." A reader doubted that, so YourArlington asked Steve Revilak, who served on the MBTA Communities Working Group. He responded that he believes the statement is incorrect. He provided this explanation:

MBTA Communities logo

The MBTA Communities Act (a k a Mass General Law Chapter 40A Section 3A) requires 177 cities and towns to create zoning districts where multifamily housing is allowed by-right [1].  Section 3A(a)(1) says that the district "shall ... (ii) be located not more than 0.5 miles from a commuter rail station, subway station, ferry terminal or bus station, if applicable." [2] The words "if applicable" are germane here, and I think they offer two important considerations:

 1. Some of the 177 cities and towns have no land within 0.5 miles of  a train, bus, or ferry station; and

 2. a community might have land within 0.5 of a train, bus, or ferry station, but the characteristics of that land might make it less than ideal for future multifamily development. I believe that (2) applies to Arlington: We don't have a great deal of developable land around the Alewife T station, and portions of it are flood prone.

The MBTA Communities Act requires the state Department of Housing and Community Development (now the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities) to create guidelines regarding what constitutes a compliant district and its guidelines consider the amount of developable land near transit stations [3].

Section 8A of the guidance says the EOHLC will consider the statute's location requirement to be "applicable" to a particular MBTA community only if that community has within its borders at least 100 acres of developable station area. The EOHLC will require more or less of the multifamily zoning district to be located within transit-station areas depending on how much total developable station area is in that community.

According to the state's calculations [4], Arlington has 58 acres of developable land within 0.5 miles of transit stations. Since we don't meet the threshold of 100 acres, we were able to place the district anywhere in town (Arlington is one of 94 communities with this degree of freedom).

For these reasons, I believe the location of Arlington's multifamily districts complies both with the state law (Section 3A), as well as the associated guidance.


[2] Mass. General Laws, Chapter40A, Section 3A">



This response to a letter was published Friday, Dec. 15, 2023. 

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Thursday, 13 June 2024

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