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Wu To Overhaul Boston’s Arcane Zoning Code

Wu to overhaul Boston’s arcane zoning code

Boston’s Mayor Wu has proposed a wholesale overhaul of the city’s complex zoning bylaws. She announced it a Chamber of Commerce speech, signaling that she believes the changes will be helpful to business. The news was reported in the Boston Globe.

Rather that the current neighborhood-based model, the new zoning will focus on “squares and streets,” making mixed-use hubs along main corridors near transit – sometimes straddling two neighborhood.

The BPDA will look at reforming zoning by-laws so that fewer projects would require a variance and would instead be granted by right.

A Cornell professor who consulted on the review and will work on the revision called Boston’s current zoning “bloated, outdated, inconsistent and inequitable” and says Boston’s code – at 4,000+ pages long – is too much. Nashville’s zoning bylaw is 349 pages long and Portland, Oregon’s is 1,830 pages.

Neighborhood groups and individual owners are concerned. Right now they can kill a project they don’t like or at least stall it with complaints to the Development Review Board. With more uses provided by-right, they will lose that veto power and with it, the power to have a say in how their neighborhood develops.


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