DEVENS — Rep. Robert Hargraves (R-Groton) has filed a bill to strike four sections of the state’s Chapter 40B “affordable housing” legislation.
The four sections allow developers to bypass much of the local building review process, including the zoning bylaws, and allows an appeal of a negative local decision to the Department of Housing and Community Development.
The bill would remove Sections 20 through 23, summarized as follows:
* Section 20 defines phrases such as “low and moderate income housing,” “uneconomic,” “consistent with local needs,” and “local board.”
* Section 21 allows a public agency, limited dividend, or non-profit organization to submit plans to build low- or moderate-income housing with a single application to the Zoning Board of Appeals rather than separate applications to all applicable town boards.
The appeals boards may request input from other boards and may request their presence at hearings, prior to making a decision that must consider their recommendations and be completed within 40 days of the close of hearings.
If a decision is not reached within that period, the comprehensive permit is considered approved, unless there is mutual agreement for an extension.
* Section 22 allows an applicant the right to appeal, to the housing appeals committee within the Department of Housing and Community Development, any denied application or one granted with conditions that render the project uneconomic. The appeal must be taken up within 20 days and action must be taken within 10 days of receipt.
* Section 23 stipulates that hearings by the housing appeals committee are limited to the issue of “whether, in the case of the denial of an application, the decision of the board of appeals was reasonable and consistent with local needs.”
In the case of an application’s approval, whether the decision carries reasonable and consistent conditions and requirements may be grounds for an appeal.
Hearings must determine if requirements make construction or operation of affordable housing uneconomic. The committee can vacate a local decision that is deemed unreasonable or not consistent with local needs. It can order a comprehensive permit be granted.
The housing appeals committee or the petitioner has the power to enforce the orders of the committee at law or in equity in Superior Court. A local board has 30 days in which to carry out the order. — Don Eriksson