Frequently Asked Questions 2024 Annual Town Meeting
Questions and answers will be added as they become available and will be organized numerically from Article 1 to Article 54. You can submit a question here.
Due to formatting restrictions, the entire text of some questions will be included in the answer section of the individual FAQ, and other questions will be split into multiple entries.
- Regarding the electric charging station that will primarily be available for town employees, will this charging station include a payment system?
The charging station will have the same payment system in place as all of the other public charging stations. Town Fleet vehicles will be able to charge at no cost to the driver of the vehicle. The station will be available for public use on the weekends and between the hours of 7 pm and 7 am Monday – Friday.
- Will the charging station be available to the public when not in use by town employees?
See Question #1, Regarding the electric charging station that will primarily be available for town employees, will this charging station include a payment system?
- Why is this Fund still active? (Full question included below)
Full Question: Revolving Funds: Refuse and Recycling Collection. $0. There was a fair amount of confusion last year concerning fees for these services. Why is this Fund still active? Just in case there is another shortfall in the trash collection budget? Or, are there revenues from sources other than fees that could be deposited into the Fund?
Answer: The 2023 Annual Town Meeting voted to establish a Refuse and Recycling Revolving fund for the collection and disposal of mattresses, white and bulky goods. After the Fund was established by Town Meeting the Select Board had the authority to set fees for this service. In further discussion after the 2023 Annual Town Meeting the Select Board declined to establish fees for this purpose. For FY2024 the cost of this service was absorbed into the General Fund operating budget under the Department of Public Works. The FY2025 Budget was developed and balanced without this fee revenue and therefore the amount requested for FY2025 is zero. There are currently no other fees to be deposited into this fund. Staff will continue to monitor the cost of this service and its impact on the General Fund for the next few fiscal years before recommending further action, either to establish a fee, or to dissolve the fund.
- Is there any data available (observation data, survey of people on the path, etc.) on how often the fitness equipment on the Teresa and Roberta Lee path at Lincoln Park is actually used?
Please see the presentation video for Article 10 (d), prepared by Wei Wie Li, a member of the Recreation Committee.
- Has there been effort to look into alternative funding options for new equipment - like private donations, grants, or money from Trusts specifically earmarked for maintaining the equipment?
Please see the presentation video for Article 10 (d), prepared by Wei Wie Li, a member of the Recreation Committee.
- Why does the Select Board need the ability to accept easements without involving Town Meeting members?
During a public hearing with the planning board. Developers sometimes offer easements for trails, sidewalks, and roads for the public to pass on private property. And sometimes during those public hearings or other projects in town – either private or town, the Town requests easements from private land owners for utility crossings such as water and sewer and for sidewalks. Authorizing the Select Board to accept easements on behalf of the Town can expedite projects. Often certificates of occupancy are not issued until the easements are accepted. In cases where developers are not required to grant easements, we do not want the delay of a Town Meeting vote to be a reason for a landowner to rescind the easement offer. Examples are a utility easement for water connection from Kay Tiffany Way to Essex Street, a drainage easement for the Minuteman Bikeway, trail easement connecting Cart Path Lane to existing trail network off Walnut Street.
This is an authorization request that we do annually - it helps to make Town government more efficient.
- Why is there an urgent need for housing that is affordable?
The first goal of the LexingtonNEXT Comprehensive Plan dated September 28, 2022, is “to promote the diversity, equity, and inclusion of people visiting, living, and working in Lexington” and furthermore, to “[r]emove barriers to live in Lexington.” The second goal of LexingtonNEXT addresses Lexington’s need “to provide a range of housing options to enable more diversity in age, income, physical ability, race, religion, and ethnicity.” https://www.lexingtonma.gov/816/Lexington-Next---Comprehensive-Plan
The demand by residents throughout Massachusetts, regionally and locally to live in housing that is affordable far surpasses the supply. The Town of Lexington Community 2023 Community Preservation Plan Needs Assessment dated December 2023 details how “[t]he effort in Lexington to maintain a range of affordability’ is increasingly difficult.” The demand is evidenced in the multi-year-long waiting lists for the Lexington Housing Authority Villages, the Lexington Housing Authority single-family units, LexHAB’s multiple waiting lists, the average number of applicants for LexHAB’s Fairview and Farmview properties, applicants for first-time homebuyer units and the Commonwealth’s 7500 “families who are either homeless or at risk of being homeless.” For instance,“[t]he most recent lottery for the SHI general wait list was held in October of 2021. There were ninety-six applicants on this list; as of this writing, LexHAB has only been able to place one of those applicants in a home.” (p.17-19)
In Lexington, 21% of all Lexington households make below 80% of the area median income, which is considered by HUD to be low income (Source: HUD Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy (CHAS) 2016-2020; HUD Income Limits 2020). 65% of low income renters and 76% of low income owners pay more than 30% of their income for housing which is considered to be cost burdened (Source: 2016-2020 American Community Survey; DHCD Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI); US Census 2020).
- Who lives in affordable housing?
People who need housing that is affordable could be your children, young families just starting out, town employees, teachers, your server at a restaurant in town, or people working at local businesses. A rent increase, divorce, loss of a spouse, job loss, or other adverse circumstances may create additional needs for housing that is affordable as well.
People often look at a community’s Subsidized Housing Inventory or SHI as an indication of the acceptable number of affordable homes and for determining a community's compliance with Chapter 40B, Massachusetts' comprehensive permit law. Lexington’s subsidized housing inventory percentage of 10.95% has been trending down since 2020 (Source: Metropolitan Area Planning Council 8.2023 Report).
The SHI percentage includes market-rate units that are part of a development if at least 20% of the units are occupied by households earning less than 50% of area median income or if at least 25% of the units are occupied by households earning less than 80% of area median income. In actuality, only 684 out of 12,252 (Source: 2016-2020 American Community Survey; DHCD Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI); US Census 2020). Lexington households are truly affordable for lower-income households or only 5.5% of the total housing stock in Lexington.
- What are the benefits for Lexington as a community of approving Article 33?
In recent years, tight standards for mortgage loans and high home prices have made it impossible for many people to buy homes, causing more people to become renters. Rental prices are out of reach for many, due to large numbers of renters and the scarcity of rental inventory. Homes with rents that are affordable will enable residents to pay less for housing, go beyond basic necessities and buy healthy food, have better access to health care, spend more at their local businesses, and live where they work. In turn, this creates opportunities for investing in Lexington’s future through the creation of jobs, improved mobility, and payments-in-lieu or tax revenue to the Town. Communities that are diverse and inclusive are more likely to form bonds and create a sense of belonging for all residents. Creating housing that is affordable is consistent with LexingtonNext, the Community Preservation Committee’s 2023 Needs Assessment, the Select Board’s Housing Goals and Priorities, and why the Affordable Housing Trust was created. Housing that is affordable affects all of us.
- What is Article 33 asking Town Meeting to do?
Article 33 asks Town Meeting to allow Parcel 68-44 (town-owned land) to be designated for use as affordable housing. The Article authorizes the Select Board to start the process to explore affordable housing on the Parcel 68-44 and to enter into a land disposition agreement or lease for use of Parcel 68-44 for purposes of affordable housing. The Article does not seek to approve a specific proposal or number of apartments. This is the first step in a multi-year endeavor to develop affordable housing on a parcel of underutilized Town-owned land.
- What is Parcel 68-44?
Parcel 68-44 is approximately 3.1 acres of land which was a gift of land from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to the Town of Lexington, which the Town accepted in 1978 for the purpose of conservation, recreation, or housing. It has not been used or designated to be used since its gift to Lexington 46 years ago. It is currently zoned Government Civic. The Parcel is not identified as a priority site in the Open Space and Recreation Plan. The Parcel is not designated as conservation land. Additionally, the Recreation Committee unanimously supports Article 33.
- Why are the Select Board and the Affordable Housing Trust considering Parcel 68-44 for affordable housing?
Lexington needs ”to produce a range of housing types in a variety of locations throughout Town” which includes developing housing that meets “the town’s housing goals, such as subsidized housing, on underutilized municipal properties.” LexingtonNEXT, Objective 2.1. The urgency of this need cannot be overstated (See Question #1.) https://www.lexingtonma.gov/816/Lexington-Next---Comprehensive-Plan
After reviewing approximately 300 Town-owned properties, the Affordable Housing Trust has determined that the Lowell Street and North Street site is the only Town-owned property currently available and feasible for a multi-family development of all affordable housing in Lexington. The other Town-owned properties are too small or otherwise unbuildable, are designated or planned to be used for other purposes, or are landlocked among other reasons.
All affordable housing as envisioned for the Lowell Street parcel presents a rare chance to build a meaningful number of all affordable homes
- Is the Parcel feasible to develop?
The Affordable Housing Trust commissioned a title search, a Phase 1 21E Environmental Assessment, a wetlands delineation, an engineering survey, and a soil type and groundwater investigation. The Affordable Housing Trust also attended a Development Review Team (DRT) meeting with members of the Planning Department, the Fire Department, the Police Department, the Building Department, the Health Department, the Town Engineering Department, the Sustainability and Resilience Officer, the Zoning Department, the Land Use Department, and the Economic Development Department.
Based on the information obtained, the land was determined to be developable.
- What are the goals for this parcel?
Early on, the Affordable Housing Trust established its Values. These values demonstrate a commitment to provide affordable housing prioritizing a diversity of lower incomes and to create high-quality, sustainable housing that is well integrated into the community, that will remain affordable for future generations, and that supports diversity, equity, and inclusion. The AHT’s goal for Parcel 68-44 is to leverage CPA funds to create an all-affordable, family-oriented rental housing that is respectful of and well-integrated into the community. This housing will be for income-eligible (see Question #31) households with a mix that will include one-, two-, and three-bedroom units. The number of units and other aspects of the design will be determined during the development process with ample opportunity for community input.
- Why all affordable?
A town-owned parcel is a unique opportunity to provide all affordable apartments by highly leveraging the Town’s resources with federal and state funding to deliver the most affordable housing apartments per dollar of Town funds. Affordable housing on privately owned land envisioned under the MBTA Multi-Family and SRD Zoning Articles usually includes a mix of market rate and affordable housing typically resulting in only 1 affordable apartment for every 8-10 market-rate apartments.
- What comes next?
If Town Meeting approves Warrant Article 33, the Town will issue an RFP for affordable housing. Similar to the process previously used by the Town to evaluate RFPS, the Town will review any proposals received, evaluating the affordability levels, number of apartments, site plan, building design, parking and other criteria. If a proposal meets Town goals and is approved by the Select Board, the Select Board will enter into a land disposition agreement or long term lease with the successful proponent. The proponent will be required to secure permits, Zoning Board of Appeals approval, federal and state approval, complete site plan reviews, proceed with the LIP 40B process (which is described in Question #16), and secure financing before commencing construction. There will be many opportunities for community input throughout the process.
- Will there be a red-lined version of the proposed changes to Article 52 available prior to Town Meeting?
All of the material and redlined versions are on the Planning Board’s 2024 Town Meeting webpage. It is recommended everyone attend the Planning Board’s Public Hearing on Wednesday, February 7th on Zoom, at 6:00 PM. Future meeting dates can be found here. The agenda is posted on the public meeting calendar and the packet will be published the afternoon on the Friday before.