A recap of our Great Neighborhoods bill hearing

The Great Neighborhoods bill took another step forward in the Massachusetts Legislature Thursday, Sept. 28, at a hearing before the Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Business. André Leroux, executive director of the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, said, “The Great Neighborhoods bill represents a major reform of Massachusetts planning, zoning, and permitting laws. In addition to helping families stay in the communities where they live, it would also encourage more walkable and vibrant places while protecting the environment.” Residents, advocates, and officials from around the state testified in favor of the bill. Highlights from the hearing:

  • Sen. Harriette Chandler, the bill’s sponsor, said she wants to work with local officials and business groups to build support for the campaign. “We haven't changed our zoning laws in a long, long time. With home prices on the rise, now is the time. Improved planning and permitting will help small businesses and property owners alike make investments to keep our economy strong and improve municipal budgets,” said Chandler.

  • "When we make zoning decisions about what gets built in cities and towns, we are making decisions about who can live there. Are we allowing teachers and young professionals to be permanent parts of the community?" said Bryan Bryson, a professor who was priced out of his Cambridge home.

  • The bill calls for clustering of residential development, which is a win-win for developers, said Anne Mazar, a resident of Mendon and chair of the town's Land Use Committee. "The benefits to the developer include the cost savings from installing fewer roads and driveways, which can be very costly, and the increased the value of the homes in the subdivision having it surrounded by beautiful open space," she said.

  • "It's no secret that our brainpower and diversity in general is what fuels our economy. The high cost of housing in Massachusetts poses a serious threat to our future," said Bianca Sigh Ward, vice president for partnerships at The Alliance for Business Leadership.

  • Massachusetts is very racially divided, said Henry Korman, a civil rights attorney in Boston, and the inclusionary zoning piece of the Great Neighborhoods bill would protect many who are not protected by federal law.

  • "We were desperate and running out of options (for housing)," said Brian Madrigal, a software coder and East Boston native. "My family had worked hard to contribute to the community my sisters and I grew up in, and it was painful to feel we weren’t welcome anywhere."

  • Although many towns are afraid of development, the status quo is not working, said Dottie Fulginiti, a selectwoman from the Town of Easton, and Massachusetts needs to change.

To join the effort for Great Neighborhoods, sign the petition.

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