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What is zoning? 

Zoning is the division of a town’s land area into districts with different requirements.  There are rules for each district  that specify what types of uses are allowed, what the minimum size of a parcel must be, the density or number of units allowed per unit of area, where buildings may be placed on the parcel (i.e. setbacks or yards), and other dimensional requirements.

What is the MBTA Communities Law?

 This law was passed by the Legislature in 2021 to address the statewide housing crisis. It added Section 3A to Section 3 of Chapter 40A (the Zoning statute) of the Massachusetts General Laws. Its primary provision is to require all municipalities in the MBTA district to have at least one zoning district of reasonable size where multifamily housing is allowed as-of- right and to locate such district, where applicable, within ½ mile of a transit station or other eligible location. It also authorizes the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities to establish guidelines for implementing the law.

What is affordable housing? 

Generally, “affordable housing” refers to housing units that are affordable to persons in households with an income of 80% of the median household income of the Greater Boston metropolitan region using no more than 30% of their income for housing costs. The 30% of income for housing is also a reference point for determining if housing is affordable to those with incomes above 80% of the regional median household income.

What is 40B? 

Chapter 40B is a law passed by the Legislature in 1969, also with the intent of addressing affordable housing. Its provisions are very specific and somewhat complicated, but in essence, it allows developers to bypass local zoning requirements and development regulations if a minimum of 25% of the housing units in a project are “affordable” (that is, require no more than 30% of income) to persons whose income is less than 80% of the median household income of the metropolitan region (for Franklin, it’s the Boston metro area).

What is “as-of-right” or “by-right”? 

These terms mean that a certain use is allowed in the zoning district without the need for further approval by the town. It only applies to the use and any as-of-right development must still follow all zoning bylaw requirements and development regulations. As-of-right uses usually must go through site plan review by the Planning Board to ensure that the development complies with the bylaw and regulations.

What is a special permit?

Zoning bylaws may specify that certain uses are allowed in a district but only by meeting certain specific criteria and after undergoing more scrutiny by either the Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals. Unlike as-of-right uses, special permits may be denied if the applicable Board believes the proposed use will have unreasonable impacts.

What are parking minimums?

 Most zoning bylaws specify that each use must have a minimum number of parking spaces associated with that use. It is usually based on the square footage of buildings but can also be based on expected number of employees or seats at a restaurant. While parking is essential in areas lacking transit and density, the minimums are sometimes excessive resulting in extra costs for more land and construction of the spaces or reduced development on the subject parcel. A trend that is gaining in popularity is to reduce or eliminate parking minimums (and sometimes to impose maximums) and let economic forces determine the correct number.

How do we make Franklin more affordable?

The law of supply and demand indicates that the greater the supply, the lower the cost and vice versa. Franklin can be more affordable by increasing the supply of housing. This can be done primarily in two interrelated ways. First, by encouraging and approving more housing projects and, two, by increasing density by allowing more housing on less land. The high cost of land works against lowering the cost of housing so increasing density spreads the cost of land over more units.

How do we make Franklin more walkable? 

Walkability is an important component of affordability. Higher density puts more people close to amenities   and services so that many trips can be made without a car which could result in eliminating the need for a second or third car. However, proximity is not sufficient. Pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure need to be convenient and safe and building locations on lots and site features need to be located to create  human-scale routes among and between destinations.