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The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Town Meeting agrees on measure for Brookline’s compliance with MBTA Communities Act

The purpose of the MBTA Communities Act is to rezone multiple different areas around the town in order to create more affordable housing near public transportation. The act was passed by the Brookline Town Meeting with an 84 percent majority.

Brookline Town Meeting passed a measure with an 84 percent majority to comply with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Communities Act (MBTA-CA) on Nov. 14, 2023. The act rezones Harvard St. and several other areas.

The MBTA-CA Consensus Warrant article was dubbed the “Consensus Plan” for short. According to Select Board Member Paul Warren, the plan details a rezoning of Harvard Street along with the zoning of a Brookline Housing Authority property, the Emerald Island and existing multifamily housing within half a mile of T-stops.

In Jan. 2021, Massachusetts passed the MBTA Communities Act. Town meeting members and advocacy groups who support the Consensus Plan said requiring 15 percent of new development on Harvard Street to be deed-restricted affordable was going to increase the number of affordable housing units in Brookline. This means the cost or rent of the unit remains affordable for those who are income-qualified. Someone who is income qualified is someone whose yearly income is less than a certain amount which changes depending on the Area Median Income, according to the Inclusionary Zoning FAQ.

Yes! in Brookline is an advocacy group formed by a coalition of several groups and individuals with the goal of making Brookline not only comply with the MBTA-CA but also create long-term changes in the community. Brookline by Design is another land-use group in Brookline comprised of residents who seek an informed and comprehensive approach to zoning and land use in Brookline. Brookline by Design has been historically opposed to new housing development in the town, according to English teacher Eric Colburn. Colburn has long been an advocate for denser housing in the town.

For the past couple of years, these groups have proposed multiple different solutions and there has been no agreement and therefore no progress. However, after many negotiations, the two groups managed to compromise and agreed to support the Consensus Plan, according to Warren. Warren said the Town Meeting recently passed this plan with a 201-33 vote and with seven voters abstaining.

“The politics of Town Meeting for quite some time now have been pretty divisive. There hasn’t been a lot of agreement, especially around land use. We were able to bring [to the table] two competing land use groups that typically wouldn’t sit down and talk with each other,” Warren said. “To have them be able to sit down across the table from each other, exchange ideas, propose solutions and compromise on something is remarkable.”

Colburn said he felt positive about the compromise.

“I was really happy that some of the different groups in the town managed to reach a compromise and move forward with something that I think will make a big improvement to the life of the town,” Colburn said.

Warren said there were many reservations surrounding early proposals to only rezone Harvard Street, all to comply with the MBTA-CA. Concerns brought by various individuals and groups, like Brookline by Design, were based upon worry that rapid action was being taken without enough thought being paid to the impact on the town.

“A decision to undertake such a major zoning change requires much more analysis, community dialogue and consideration of alternatives before making such an irreversible commitment,” according to the Brookline by Design website.

According to Warren, many hope the agreement and passage of the Consensus Plan is only the first step to finally creating a more affordable and diverse Brookline.

“I think we certainly are making progress,” Warren said. “However, we still have a lot of work to do.”

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