Today’s Boston Globe editorializes against a ballot measure that would repeal Chapter 40B, the state’s so-called anti-snob-zoning law. The law allows developers to circumvent local zoning ordinances in order to build affordable housing.
Frankly, I’m inclined to vote in favor of repeal. My impression — and here’s where I hope the media, especially the Globe, will do their job — is that the law simply hasn’t worked. In return for setting aside a fairly small percentage of units for affordable housing, developers are able to ram through ugly condo developments that enhance no one’s quality of life.
I’m all for greater density, smaller lot sizes and smaller houses in the suburbs. But with 40B, it seems that what you end up with are a few monstrous developments on the periphery of town, with no real change to overall zoning patterns.
The Globe observes that 40B developments could be built along commuter-rail lines. True, and pigs could fly if they had wings. What I’ve seen is that 40B developments are built along highways, dumping more cars and SUVs onto already-congested roadways.
Finally, 40B encourages overdevelopment in communities that just can’t handle it. Here in Danvers, we are under a perpetual drought watch. This summer was very hot and dry, so the current drought is real. But year after year, the water warnings here never let up, no matter how wet the weather is. That leads to a common-sense observation: we don’t have a water shortage; we have too much development. And 40B means that town officials are limited in their ability to stop things from getting worse.
Over the next few weeks, as we move closer to Election Day, I hope news organizations will take a good, hard look at Chapter 40B and whether it really deserves to be retained. What are the success stories? What are the failures? How could it be improved?
I would just as soon not vote against affordable housing, but right now I don’t see any reason to keep this law on the books.