Shopping Cart
Your Cart is Empty
There was an error with PayPalClick here to try again
CelebrateThank you for your business!You should be receiving an order confirmation from Paypal shortly.Exit Shopping Cart

City Council Presentation on 40B and Safe Harbor

Good evening and thank you for this opportunity to speak on 40B development and the upcoming 40B project at 4000 Mystic Valley Parkway.

Time is limited, so I will keep it simple and brief.

A 40B is a state statue that developers use to maximize their project size.  In exchange for 20-25% affordable housing, a 40B development is able to sidestep zoning ordinances and municipal requirements. 

What this means is that a 40B project can override zoning districts within our zoning ordinance (SF,GR, COMM, essentially all defined districts). They are not required to comply with- height limitations, required distances from property boundaries, how much green space must be left on a parcel, how many parking spaces must be provided, and many other criteria. They are even allowed certain latitudes with building ordinances such as solar and net zero requirements.

This is what we see happening on Mystic Valley Parkway. Currently a commercial parcel, located within an industrial zone; Modera has submitted a Comprehensive Permit Application to build a high-rise residential building on this location- removing *more* of our commercial tax base. 

Preliminary Architectural and Site Layout Plans show us that this project will be 8 stories, 85 ft tall. A total of 400 units, 100 of them “affordable”, and 300 luxury units.  The first 2 levels and half of the third level will be for parking- a total of 476 spots for 400 units.

The remainder of floors 3-8 will be apartments- rental only, no opportunity for homeownership.

The structure and the exterior parking lot, will cover majority of the parcel, there will be 4.6% open space, and the sidewalks around it will be 4 ft wide.

This is an overview, but you can review the project documents in detail on the city website.

40B procedure affords a community 30 days to respond to a 40B application and we could have raised our objections and stopped this project if we had the proper protections in place; but unfortunately we don’t have this ability. We can not invoke safe harbor to stop these types of oversized projects.

“Safe Harbor” is a term used to describe the protections a city enjoys when in compliance with the state requirement of 10% affordable housing stock.  With safe harbor the city can deny any 40 B project.

Medford needs to work to meet the legal requirements to allow us to invoke safe harbor and protect us from developments that circumvent our zoning, overrule community requirements and forever change the character of our neighborhoods.

You may think that we need to achieve the necessary 10% affordable housing stock to arrive at safe harbor, however we actually do not.

With almost 1/3 of Medford’s acreage contained within the Middlesex Fells and our open spaces, and considering that we have several miles of state and federal roads within our city boundaries, we can submit a request to review our General Land Area Minimums (G.L.A.M) calculations to the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development.

These GLAM calculations factor in and adjust our required housing level to account for these non-buildable areas, and can and should decrease our “affordable” requirement from 10% to roughly 7.3%. The last report I read indicates that we are currently at 7.1%.

Additionally, as a city we can submit for Certification to the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) a Comprehensive Housing Plan, or our strategy to achieve the 10% requirement, or value adjusted for GLAM.

Either a Certified Housing Plan or GLAM adjustment could bring us to safe harbor and protect us from 40B developments thus assuring that Medford is leading the way to our future, not the developers

Without the ability to invoke safe harbor, a developer could essentially propose a 40B project, and sidestep zoning anywhere in the city.

It is crucial that we begin the process to gather our documentation and make our request to DHCD for GLAM calculation and an adjusted affordable requirement.

We got lucky here, although we are losing commercial taxes, this 40B while inconvenient and oversized is not encroaching on an established residential area. We may not be so lucky the next time around.