Sudbury Vision

The Place for Sudbury's Citizen Reporters

The 495/MetroWest Development Compact and Sudbury

Did you read about the 495/MetroWest Development Compact in the November 27 Globe?  The Compact fosters development, reduces sprawl, and preserves open space.  What's not to love?

The item not mentioned in the article is the desire to build (or "need of", as the presentation put it) 60,000 units of new housing in the region--of which about 30,000 could be built in the PDAs (Priority Development Areas--see "Background" below for further discussion).  The requirement is for "workforce housing", costing no more than 30% of income for a household earning 80% of area median income, so existing single family housing is generally unsuitable.  The other 30,000 units of new workforce housing must be erected around the region.  In order to minimize sprawl and preserve open space, the units should be built in clustered dense developments.  Given 37 municipalities in the Compact area and 30,000 units, Sudbury's "share" would be about 810 units. 

Why the region needs 60,000 units of "workforce housing" to accommodate a projected additional 52,000 jobs was not addressed in the presentation.

The Compact is completely silent on the subject of municipal services.  While jobs and sprawl and congestion are extensively discussed, the costs simply to educate the children housed in the 60,000 new units is left as an exercise for the municipalities.  Further, municipalities like Sudbury--which are encouraged to support development in their own local PDAs as long as they build housing there--will not receive tax receipts from regional PDAs in other towns.  Sudbury will be encouraged to build workforce housing, and shoulder the costs of supplying services to those residents.  Of course, the region or the state could chip in to subsidize these costs--the way they do on education costs now.  Another article in the Globe noted the state currently underfunds public schools by about $2 billion a year statewide, so we might not want to rely on that.

So now--if you've read this far--you know that this issue exists.  

1) You can comment on the Compact until Tuesday, November 29.  Send comments to info@495partnership.org.  More information on the Compact is posted at www.495partnership.org/compact.

2) Follow the route 20 re-zoning carefully.  Development including sewers on Route 20 in Sudbury is not a regional priority, and we should not assume that state or federal money will be available to fund it, but there will be a significant push for workforce housing.  

3) Follow regional planning priorities carefully.  Make your views and concerns known to your elected representatives--Selectmen, State Representative, State Senator, Governor.  What are their priorities regarding regionalization and the effect upon our community?

As a last resort, you can vote your convictions.  However, you can't do that unless you know what you believe and what is at stake.

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Link to November 27 2011 Globe West story on the I-495 Study (aka the 495/MetroWest Development Compact)

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/regionals/west/2011/11/27/study-fo...

Link to slides from the November 15 forum (discussed in the Globe article)--includes the presentation of housing needs and projected employment increases:

http://www.495partnership.org/assets/Compact/Fall/finalpresentation...

Link to November 27 2011 Globe article on public school funding here:

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2011/11/27/schools-costs-top-estim...

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Background:

Essentially, the 37 municipalities (including Sudbury) in the route 495 corridor individually designate local PDAs (Priority Development Areas) and PPAs (Priority Preservation Areas).  Sudbury has a number of PPAs, and has a PDA along route 20 in the sewer district.  The region--Mass EOHCD, MAPC, and the 495/Metrowest Partnership (a public-private advocacy organization), Mass Audobon, and other groups--then designates regional PDAs and PPAs, a subset of the local ones.  These are state and federal agencies, which have the power to target funding to support preferred projects via assistance for Significant Transportation Investments and Significant Infrastructure Investments.  A number of regional PPAs are located in Sudbury; no PDAs are.

EOHCD - Mass Executive Office of Housing and Community Development

MAPC -- Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the greater Boston regional planning agency

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Comment by Bulldog Friday on December 27, 2011 at 4:19pm

Sorry, all.

"Workforce housing" income limits are 80% to 120% of Area Median Income.  "Affordable housing" limits are 80% of AMI.

Comment by Bulldog Friday on December 8, 2011 at 1:25pm

Thanks for commenting, Sio.  It's nice to know that someone's listening.

I think a PAC, or whatever type of citizens' association would follow planning efforts is a great idea.

Generally, we'd like to live our lives and leave regional land use planning to some cadre of technical experts, who will of course use their powers only for "good".  The devil is getting consensus on what "good" is. In the absence of some strongly voiced feedback the planners define good for us non-planners who pay for and live with the results.  Should we disagree, as we frequently do, then it takes a tremendous amount of effort to re-direct the planning effort even if we manage that.  Generally, by the time the project is designed it's too late to stop.

Any effort--the route 20 re-zoning effort, the 495/MetroWest Development Compact, the Sudbury Housing Production Plan, the Sudbury Master Plan, you name it--solicits citizen input as a checklist item for project approval.  We need to know what the projects are and what they actually entail, and supply that input.  We need to know that when the projects are still under discussion, not later when the effort finally garners headlines and the project is pretty much a done deal.  This involves attending meetings, reading documents, and formulating responses over a period of years.  It's hard work.  It takes a group of people, not a single voice crying in the wilderness.

The term "planner" does not single out the Sudbury Town Planner, but extends to the Central Transportation Planning Staff, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the 495/MetroWest Growth Partnership, and probably other organizations.  These are staffed by intelligent and well trained professionals who are seriously trying to help, but who lack a citizen's perspective.  We need to supply that perspective or it simply won't be considered.

If you'll sign on, and I do, that's two.  Who else?

Comment by Sio on December 8, 2011 at 5:35am

Thanks BD.  I feel like it's time to start a PAC specifically to change these initiatives as well as any initiatives related to 40B and the like, to include current inventory.  Sudbury, off the top of my head, would have met their obligations.  I realize I am grouping BUT current inventory is never included anywhere therefore the taxpayer and each town is unfairly and unjustly saddled with new development it simply cannot afford.

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