MBTA housing requirements scaled back for Rochester

Aug 16, 2022

ROCHESTER — As the state scales back requirements for multifamily zoning requirements for communities adjacent to MBTA stations, Rochester will now be on the hook for zoning for 105 units instead of the initially proposed 750.

The requirements are part of new state legislation that affects communities in or near MBTA transportation lines.

The legislation requires communities to provide housing in communities near MBTA stops, both the Commuter Rail and Greater Boston stops. Concerns have been raised that this would affect Rochester, which abuts Middleboro, the site of an MBTA stop.

Communities that don’t comply with the state’s zoning guidelines would miss out on certain buckets of infrastructure funding in the future, like MassWorks grants.

Previously, the requirements asked for Rochester to zone for — not develop — 750 additional units of multifamily housing. Updated guidelines released on Aug. 10 added an “adjacent small town” classification for towns with populations of less than 7,000.

Rochester falls under this classification, as most recent census data puts the town at just under 6,000 residents. The new classification is the reason for the change in Rochester’s regulations.

This change comes after an outcry from small towns similar in size to Rochester, like Hamilton and Plympton. Many of these towns sent letters of concern to the state, some asking to be exempt from the requirements entirely.

Town Administrator Glenn Cannon described the original requirement as “literally crushing” for a town like Rochester in a previous Select Board meeting.

Town Planner Nancy Durfee said that Rochester would be able to meet the adjusted zoning requirements if the state were to allow them to count the Rochester Crossroads development as part of the zoning, which will fall under Chapter 40R — a regulation which promotes the construction of affordable housing.

However, she said that at this time, the state will not count the development toward the required zoning for MBTA-adjacent small towns.