Zoning Board of Appeals
The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) is the appeals board for zoning issues that arise in Franklin. The ZBA also has the power to grant variances from the Town’s Zoning Bylaws for projects based on hardships. The ZBA is appointed by the Town Council and is the highest authority to handle zoning matters before going to court. The ZBA currently consists of three (3) members and one (1) associate member appointed by the Town Administrator, subject to the confirmation by the Town Council, for terms length arranged so the term of one member expires each year. One associate member will be appointed this year.
The ZBA holds Public Hearings for variance requests, special permits (including gravel removal) and Chapter 40B applications. The Board also makes determinations on land use and zoning issues.
- Town of Franklin Zoning Board of Appeals – https://www.franklinma.gov/zoning-board-appeals
Variance: A variance is an exemption for zoning bylaws that stay with the property from owner to owner, although they do expire if the property owner doesn’t exercise the right.
Chapter 40B: state law that requires that 10 percent of the year-round housing stock in Franklin be affordable to low- and moderate-income households. If Franklin falls short of the 10 percent threshold, developers can bypass local zoning and seek a “comprehensive permit” from the local Zoning Board of Appeals for projects in which 20 to 25 percent of the dwelling units are under long-term affordability restrictions.
Affordable Housing – Housing targeted to be affordable to households earning below 80% of Franklin’s median income . According to Zillow in January 2021 the median price of a single family home in Franklin was $549,000, compared to $531,000 state-wide, and $310,000 country-wide. “Affordable housing” refers to the cost to the buyer, not the design, type, or method of construction of a housing unit or development. Housing is generally considered affordable if the household pays less than 30 percent of its monthly income to secure the housing.
Housing Production Plan (HPP) is a community's strategy for planning and developing affordable housing. The Plan includes strategies that a community uses to enable it to meet its affordable housing needs in a manner consistent with 40B and related regulations. Here is a link to Franklin’s HPP.
How is it important to the town?
According to the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), the “combination of a shortage in rental housing, rising development costs and stagnant incomes are driving the growing housing affordability crisis affecting U.S. cities...To help meet this demand, federal, state and local governments must come together to reduce barriers to developing more rental housing”.
Many cities and towns look to proactively create policies and programs to help them meet their affordable housing goals to avoid long-scale developments that don’t need to conform to local zoning bylaws. Cities and Towns that fail to make town-wide investments and trade-offs to conform to 40B requirements are left to react and try to mitigate potential damage caused by large-scale development.
If you are concerned with affordable housing, the makeup of the Zoning Board of Appeals is important as they review 40B applications. Additionally, if there is concern about overdevelopment or variances being given to developers, the Zoning Board of Appeals would be responsible for that as well.