Zoning to allow for the creation of new housing units in Turners Falls



Tuesday April 12, 2022 6:30 PM

The Montague Planning Board will hold a public hearing to consider a petition to amend the Montague Zoning Bylaws to adopt a Smart Growth Overlay District pursuant to MGL Ch40R. The district is intended to incentivize the creation of new housing units in Turners Falls by permitting dense development wherein at least 25% of units are affordable. The district includes two subdistricts: A) Griswold Mill, comprising 11 and 15 Power Street parcels 03-0-027 and 03-0-089 and B) First Street comprising parcels 04-0-0031 and 04-0-0024. The meeting will be held at the Town Hall second floor meeting room One Avenue A Turners Falls, MA with a remote participation option. Meeting login instruction as well as the map and text of the proposed zoning amendment is available for review at www.montague-ma.gov/calendar. Ron Sicard, Chair

Zoom Login: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82237714865

Meeting ID: 822 3771 4865

Passcode: 068043

Dial-in: 1 646 558 8656

Smart Growth Overlay District FAQs

What is a Smart Growth Overlay District?

  • An optional zoning program developed by the State to help municipalities plan for dense residential or mixed-use area in town centers by permitting them “as-of right” in designated areas, subject to strict design standards.
  • Requires at least 25% of residential units constructed in the district be “Affordable” under the state definition.
  • The district does not change the underlying zoning. A developer may choose to build a project under either Smart Growth or underlying zoning.

Why is the Planning Board recommending this?

  • To proactively plan for housing growth by targeting it to certain locations that have been determined by the Planning Board to be highly suitable for housing development.
  • To maintain control over the character and quality of affordable and mixed-income housing developments.
  • Adopting a 40R Smart Growth District has been recommended in both the Downtown Turners Falls Livability Plan and the Montague Housing Plan.
  • Montague has not been keeping up with its affordable housing production requirements. Currently about 9% of Montague’s housing stock is affordable, whereas 10% is the minimum required under MGL 40B.

Where is the Montague Smart Growth Overlay District?

  • Griswold Mill Sub district (AKA Railroad Salvage)- 2.8 acres. Site was cleared for development by the EPA in 2021. A replacement of the 6th Street Bridge is programmed for 2026. Enjoys proximity to downtown, bike path, and river. Potential for 76+ rental units. Municipality owns a 2.3 parcel that would be offered for development.
  • First Street Subdistrict- 1.1 acres Potential for up to 20 units between Ave A and L Street. Likely owner occupied single or two household units. Adjacent to bike path, Unity Park, and downtown. Municipality owns a 0.65 acre parcel that would be offered for development.
  • The district could be expanded in the future by Town Meeting vote.

Does Montague need more Affordable Housing?

  • Montague, like our neighbors needs more housing that is affordable at every level (including rentals and homeownership). This has been a slow burning issue for years but has been highlighted by the pandemic and the hot real estate market.
  • Over 30% of homeowners and 50% of renters in Montague are cost-burdened by housing, paying more than 30% of monthly income on housing expenses.
  • Montague has not had an “Affordable” housing unit built in over 10 years, while over a hundred market rate units have been added during that time and Montague currently sites about 30 units shy of its state mandated affordable housing requirement under MGL 40B.

How does the bylaw define Affordable Housing?

This bylaw refers to the State’s definition of Affordable Housing. Affordable units have a deed restriction on the rent or sale price for at least 30 years and are eligible to households with income less than 80% of the Area Median Income. These units are typically built or operated with state or federal subsidies and are counted on the Town’s Subsidized Housing Inventory to track against 40B requirements. In Montague, a family of four making up to $67,300 per year could qualify for an Affordable unit. Certain housing subsidies and programs can serve lower income households.

How will this bylaw promote mixed-income housing?

Only 25% of the units in a project are required to be Affordable. This means that market rate units can be incorporated into a housing project. All units in a project would have to be substantially similar in terms of appearance and amenities. There is no maximum limit on the percentage of affordable units in a project, however, the Selectboard may elect to set their own criteria when a municipal property in the district is sold for development.

What are the potential fiscal impacts of adopting and developing the 40R district?

  • The Town will receive incentive payments from the state
    • Upfront incentive payment of $75,000 for adopting the bylaw
    • Payment of $3,000 per unit that is developed in the district
    • Annual Payment to offset the fiscal cost of any new students
    • State grant programs favor communities that have adopted 40R
  • The Town will receive tax benefits
    • The district represents an opportunity to develop millions of dollars of taxable assets for the community on what is primarily vacant municipal land.
    • The addition of 80-100 new units in downtown will provide patrons+employees to help sustain the local economy.

Why is the bylaw 18 pages long?

By opting into the 40R program, the Town is agreeing to use the model bylaw provided by the Department of Housing and Community Development. The model has been adopted by over 45 other communities and it is meant to be a standalone section of the zoning bylaws. The bylaw is prescriptive because the development is allowed “as-of-right”.

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