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Swampscott zones in on housing

A proposed zoning change would change residential (A-3) districts, which allow for multi-family units by special permit, to residential (A-2) districts, which would only allow single-family units in certain areas.


SWAMPSCOTT — Three zoning bylaw changes are up for approval at Town Meeting in May, with one aimed at increasing Swampscott’s affordable housing stock.

Town Meeting will be asked to amend the zoning bylaw by adding affordable housing regulations, or inclusionary housing regulations.

“The purpose of these regulations is to encourage the development of affordable housing in Swampscott,” reads the Town Meeting warrant article. “This bylaw is a direct recommendation that came out of the “Swampscott 2025: The Master Plan” and “Swampscott Housing Production Plan 2015.” Swampscott is significantly below the Commonwealth-required amount of affordable housing units (we’re at 3.75 percent where 10 percent of all units are required to meet the affordable housing definition).

“That percentage will drop significantly when the 2020 census numbers come out, due to the large amount of market- and luxury-rate housing units that have been built since 2010. This bylaw will help to ensure that developments of a certain size or larger contribute their fair share to the affordable housing inventory.”

Peter Kane, director of community development, said if a new project, or development, is a certain size, or more based on housing units, it triggers the requirement that at least 15 percent of its units be contributed as affordable. That would apply to a new multi-family development, with 10 units or more; a new subdivision, with six units or more; and an assisted living or independent living facility, with five units or more, he said.

Kane said if the zoning change is approved at Town Meeting, the requirement would only apply to developments proposed after that time. Developers can also pay a fee in lieu of offering affordable housing, which would go toward the town’s affordable housing trust.

He said many communities have adopted inclusionary housing regulations, because of the 10 percent state requirement. If a municipality is below that goal, it has to make efforts to reach it, and one is the inclusionary requirement.

Kane said there were 5,795 housing units in Swampscott, at the most recent census in 2010. There are 212 affordable housing units in town, and reaching 10 percent would require a total of 580 units. But, he said, those numbers will change in the upcoming census, as there have been lots of housing production in town in the past 10 years.

One of the major recent developments is Hanover Vinnin Square, which features 184 luxury apartments.

Another zoning change would change residential (A-3) districts, which allow up to eight multi-family units through a special permit process, to residential (A-2) districts, which would only allow single-family homes by right, in certain areas, Kane said.

Kane said the down-zoning includes fewer than 80 properties, which includes the neighborhood of Rockland Street, King Street and Redington Street. The other section is the waterfront properties from the Fish House to Sandy Beach on Puritan Road. If the properties happen to be two-family or multi-family now, they would be grandfathered in and would not be required to switch to single-family, he added.

The down-zoning would allow property owners to tear down and build a single-family home again, Kane said. If the current property owner or future buyer wanted to tear down a single-family home or convert that to a two-family home, they wouldn’t be able to by changing the zoning, he added.

Kane said the reason the change is being proposed for those specific areas is that particular street network those properties are on is small, wouldn’t accommodate multi-family, and should be zoned for single-family use.

Town Meeting members will also be asked to amend zoning bylaws that would create a tourist lodging overlay district, and modify where hotels, motels, inns and a bed and breakfast are allowed by special permit. The overlay district identifies more areas where the lodgings are possible, and the purpose is to make Swampscott more of a tourist destination again, as reported previously in The Item. The current zoning bylaw has significant restrictions in place, making the creation of tourist lodging difficult in Swampscott, according to town documents.

The changed tourist lodging overlay district now includes properties in three small areas. The first one is the portion of Humphrey Street from the Lynn line to the monument. There are the properties on the east side of Puritan Road opposite Sandy Beach, and the properties from Phillips Beach to Preston Beach, Kane said.

There is currently only one bed and breakfast in town on Humphrey Street and there are no hotels, motels or inns. Swampscott has had hotels in its history, but the two largest ones, New Ocean House Hotel, and Hotel Preston, burned down in 1969 and 1957 respectively. A motel built where Hotel Preston used to be was wrecked in the blizzard of 1978, according to town historian Lou Gallo.

Informational meetings on the proposed zoning changes will be tonight at Swampscott High School at 7 and Thursday, April 27 at 7 p.m.  

Gayla Cawley can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.


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