Multi-Family Building Moratorium To Be Delayed

Because there was no public hearing regarding the proposed building moratorium on multi-family dwelling units with three or more units, known now as the Millbury Town Meeting Warrant Article 27, may be “dismissed” on the Millbury Town Meeting floor on May 3, 2022, according to one of the proponents, who helped place the article into the warrant.

The submitted citizens’ petitions read “To see if the Town will vote to enact a building moratorium on multi-family dwellings, specifically: 1. That no new building permits shall be issued for the construction of multi-family dwellings consisting of three or more dwelling units in any zoning district in the Town. 2. Further, that the Town conduct a comprehensive study to determine the impact of said construction on: municipal services, public schools, emergency public safety resources including police and fire departments, sewer, roadway infrastructures, motor vehicle traffic and a plan for additional source of drinking water as well as the environmental impact of such construction. This includes the relation of the timing of residential development to the Town’s ability to pay under the financial limitations of Proposition 2 ½. 3. Further, that the Town update its Housing Production Plan, Zoning Bylaws, Subdivision Rules and Regulations, and created specific zoning regulations for multi-family, condominiums, and apartments with more detailed special permit and site plan criteria and required findings. 4. This provision shall expire June 30, 2023.”

The Town Manager felt that the citizens’ petition was unclear as to what the Town was being asked to do and whether the Town could do what was being asked of the Town; and therefore, the Town did not proceed with scheduling and providing a 14-day notice of the public hearing for a zoning bylaw change; and therefore, the Millbury Planning Board was unable to conduct a public hearing on the citizens’ petition.

If only the Town Manager had authorized the steps necessary to schedule the public hearing, then any concerns could have been discussed, resolved, and the Town Warrant Article could have been amended on the floor of the Town Meeting that may have been necessary. In our opinion, the Town Manager took that opportunity away from Millbury’s citizens, which is quite disappointment to all involved.

A conversation with the Massachusetts Attorney General determined that the Attorney General’s office would have no course of action other than to reject the zoning bylaw change due to the deficiency of not holding the public hearing, irrespective of the legality of the zoning bylaw itself or its content. Therefore, one of the proponents of the citizens’ petition will likely make a motion to “dismiss” Article 27 at the Town Meeting on May 3, 2022.

While this initial outcome is disappointing, this is not the end of the citizens’ petition, residents have already created a new citizens’ petition and plan to bring a revised building moratorium for multi-family dwelling units, that mirrors another municipality’s zoning bylaw, before the residents of Millbury at either a Special Town Meeting or the next Town Meeting for the town’s people to decide to implement multi-family zoning bylaws to regulate multi-family development in the Town of Millbury or not.

To be clear, this citizens’ petition is not to stop multi-family dwelling units. It is to press a “pause” for about one year to put proper controls in place to properly regulate and site these types of projects so that multi-families can be an asset, not a liability. It is that simple. This is not targeting any one potential and not submitted project. This is for the overall future of multi-family developments in the Town of Millbury, which many people have opinions about. Collectively, we can affect positive change as a Town.