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Milton Residents Approve MBTA Communities Plan To Allow More Than 2,500 Units

The town of Milton approved its most significant rezoning plan in almost a century under the state's controversial housing law.

Milton town meeting members voted in favor of its MBTA Communities plan, the most significant rezoning for the town in almost a century.

Over the course of two special meetings, elected town meeting members voted 158-78 in favor of the measure, which would allow 2,586 units to be created by right in six subdistricts along the town's four trolley stops. 

The MBTA Communities Law was enacted by former Gov. Charlie Baker as a way to push for more housing production to battle the state's growing housing crisis. Greater Boston home prices have skyrocketed since the 1980s, with a median single-family home in Milton priced at $928K this summer, according to the Boston Globe.

"If you're looking for a positive reason, think of the common good. But if you're looking for a less positive reason, think about the rule of law," Town Meeting Member Chris Hart said at the meeting before voting to approve the measure. "I want to be a town that cares about its reputation and the rule of law."

The zoning plan includes six subdistricts on Eliot Street, Blue Hills Parkway, East Milton and Granite Avenue. The town also approved a second article that would create mandatory mixed-use districts in the Milton and Central Avenue Station subdistricts, according to Milton town officials.

Those opposed to the guidelines argued that the ordinance was rushed and that the town needed more time to write the zoning code.  

"Currently, this article does not meet the objectives set out to meet," Town Meeting Member Denny Swenson said. "I urge a 'no' vote on this article. I'm not saying never. I'm saying we can and should do better for the citizens of Milton."

Swenson said she will begin to rally residents to trigger a ballot vote on the zoning ordinance, for which she must collect at least 1,062 signatures, or 5% of registered voters in the town, the Globe reported

The 2021 law mandates 177 communities in the state that have at least one transit stop or are within a half-mile radius of one to zone for more by right housing. The law aims to address the state's housing crisis, especially in communities that have historically barred new multifamily development. Any communities that don't comply with the law will risk legal action and lose state funding opportunities.

Milton is just one of 12 communities classified as rapid transit communities because they have one or more subway stops. These communities need to comply with the law by the end of this year.

In August, the Milton Select Board sent a letter to the MBTA asking for clarification on why it was considered a rapid transit community since it deemed its trolley service not up to par with the state's subway system. The state pushed back, saying that the trolley was classified as part of rapid transit.

Milton becomes the fourth community — along with BrooklineNewton and Somerville — to approve of its rezoning plan before the Dec. 31 rapid transit deadline.