Dear Neighbor,

Many of you have called or written to me about Rolling Hills, the 40B project being proposed in West Newbury.  The vast majority of people I’ve heard from are very much opposed to it and I agree entirely. It is too large in scope and would absolutely have an impact on the character of our town.  My family moved to West Newbury in the early eighties and when it was time to raise my own children I built a house there because I wanted them to grow up in a small town with a great school system.  We very much want future generations to be able to do this as well.

I’ve had a lot of experience with 40B projects in my district and while they can be difficult to stop it is not impossible.  We should keep in mind that while Chapter 40B allows a developer the ability to ignore local zoning laws they are still bound by environmental laws, including the Wetlands Protection Act.  Mass Audubon has some very good information here:

https://www.massaudubon.org/our-conservation-work/advocacy/shaping-the-future-of-your-community/publications-community-resources/guidebook-to-involvement-in-your-community/chapter-6-project-review-and-permitting

Also please keep in mind that a developer will often work with residents in reducing the size of a project and/or the number of units.  The  MIT Center for Real Estate has a very good analysis on this and you can read it here:

The town can also deny certain waivers if a project creates unacceptable risks to public health and safety.  In looking at the plans I’m very concerned about the size and location of the septic system.  This could release large levels of nitrogen which could put local wells at risk and it’s something the town should consider during the approval process.  An attorney writes about this in a letter about a 40B project in Shrewsbury:

https://shrewsburyma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/1672/Letter-from-Dan-Hill-December-14-2015

Something else to consider is the fact that courts have ruled that 40B laws do not include alteration of property rights, so things like restrictive covenants cannot be waived.  This came up in a 40B case in Newton and you can read about it here:

https://bostonbarjournal.com/2018/02/02/zbas-broad-powers-under-chapter-40b-do-not-include-alteration-of-property-rights/

If you would like to look into the percentage of affordable units in other cities and towns throughout Massachusetts, you can find the most recent list here: 

https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2017/10/10/shiinventory_0.pdf

Lastly, you can find a PowerPoint presentation on how to gain safe harbor from unfriendly 40B projects here: 

https://www.chapa.org/sites/default/files/Phil%20DeMartino%20-%20DHCD.pdf

If you or anyone you know has any additional questions or concerns about this or any other issue please do contact me.  My staff and I would be more than happy to help.

Sincerely,
Lenny Mirra
State Representative2nd Essex District