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Somerville Reforms Zoning and Massachusetts Can Too

In his Boston Globe column today, Paul McMorrow praises the updated and “sane” zoning laws the city of Somerville is set to roll out. The new laws will make it easier for everyday citizens to make modest changes to the triple-decker homes that have been emblematic of Somerville for generations. Somerville Director of Planning George Proakis tells McMorrow, “In residential neighborhoods, it’s a lower threshold to build a new eight-unit building than it is to finish a basement.” Our Great Neighborhoods team has supported the efforts of community partners like Somerville Community Corporation to participate in reforming zoning in Somerville and we applaud the Boston Globe for drawing attention to this important issue.

Somerville’s zoning laws are 20 years old. But our state’s zoning laws have gone nearly twice as long without substantive changes. In most areas of the Commonwealth, it’s easier to build a sprawling subdivision than it is to build vibrant, walkable communities like the much-lauded Assembly Square that McMorrow mentions in his column. That’s why we’re advocating for Zoning Reform legislation at the state level.

An Act Promoting the Planning and Development of Sustainable Communities” (House Bill 1859) will modernize and streamline the zoning and permitting process across the Commonwealth. It also creates incentives for communities to plan ahead for growth in a way that will attract and retain the residents who will keep Massachusetts thriving for years to come. Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone has voiced his support for this bill, writing, “All of our communities could do much more with a strategic reform to our state’s development laws.”

Somerville didn’t wait for new investment, housing, and jobs to fall out of the sky. The City and its citizen activists embarked on a hard-fought course of smart planning and zoning years ago. But you can make it easier for cities and towns throughout the state to get better neighborhoods by passing House Bill 4065 right now. Learn more and email your legislators to voice your support for sensible reform.