Mansfield Town Council members received an update on proposed changes to multi-unit housing zoning regulations at a town council meeting Monday night.
The greater Mansfield community provided feedback on the proposed changes at a public information session in January. The Regulatory Review Committee of the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission considered this feedback in reworking the proposed regulation changes.
The proposed changes aim to redirect multi-unit housing development to particular areas in town, according to Mansfield director of planning and development Linda Painter.
“The overall concepts were really to direct the highest intensity multi-unit housing to some of our planned business districts, primarily the Four Corners area, the Route 195, Route 6 area, with the highest intensity being proposed for the King Hill Road, North Eagleville Road area and also looking at the institutional zone,” Painter said. “They also prepared some concepts for ways in which multi-unit housing could be considered in some of the more residential areas of the community that do have infrastructure, such as sewer and water.”
The proposed regulation changes have not yet been officially written, according to Town Manager Matthew Hart.
“We’re at an initial point where you’ve presented some concepts. There’s no text to any regulations yet. And once that comes out, there will be a whole new review and public comment process,” Hart said.
The affordability of multi-unit housing was a pressing concern at Planning and Zoning Commission, Regulatory Review committee and public meetings, Painter said.
“The proposal is to create a new overlay zone for what would be called a housing opportunity development. And the concept here is that in this overlay zone, which could either be applied by the commission in certain areas or could be available by petition for rezoning, that a developer would have the ability to do smaller lot sizes for single-family homes, two-family homes, but also have the ability to do multi-unit housing if they met certain criteria, such as having a dedicated percentage of the units affordable to people with area median incomes of 80% or less,” Painter said.
According to a Jan. 19 draft of proposed changes to multi-unit housing zoning regulations from the Town of Mansfield’s Regulatory Review Committee, the proposed changes suggest that the definition of boarding house, rooming house and fraternity/sorority house shift to “group residence.”
“This new term eliminates the stigma associated with the more dated boarding house and rooming house terms and addresses living situations that are more commonly found in this era. Group Residences will not be an allowable use in single-family residential zones,” the proposed changes draft reads.
Council member Denise Keane said the term’s redefinition might be counterproductive in restricting group residencies to certain parts of the town, as residents of group homes such as recovery homes are different from fraternity and sorority house residents.
“Because this is a fluid document, I think the newest term we’re using is ‘group quarters.’ We’re trying to find the best term for that,” Painter responded.
The proposed changes draft aimed to improve landscaping, parking, recreational spaces and sustainability initiatives as well.
“I’m encouraged that there is and continues to be significant multi-unit housing development here, especially in the King Hill Zone but also in the proposed business zones,” council member Ben Shaiken said. “We…experience a lot on a daily basis with student rentals in town but putting them somewhere outside of neighborhoods or giving them somewhere to live outside of neighborhoods is the answer, in my opinion.”
Mayor Paul Shapiro said that multi-unit housing development is a “partial solution that might ameliorate the problem” often associated with student rentals.
Painter said the proposed changes will soon be finalized in writing and presented at a public hearing.
“I think we’ll be moving at this point from concepts to actual regulations,” Painter said.
Alexandra Retter is staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.