The Residential Policy Committee
- Richard Canale
- Jeri Foutter
- Tom Harden
- Ginna Johnson
- Michael Leon
An ad-hoc subcommittee of the Lexington Planning Board, the Residential Policy Committee (RPC) will assist the Board in its review and analysis of residential development and zoning by:
- synthesizing public comments and facilitating the public process
- analyzing residential development trends in Lexington
- conducting research and analysis on residential policy precedents and proposals
- soliciting insight from the various Town Boards and Committees with an interest in residential policy
- drafting a report to the Planning Board along with any potential regulations and Town Meeting articles that might be proposed
Preliminary recommendations are due to the Board by September 2015, with final recommendations by December 2015. The RPC will receive staffing from the Planning Department.
To reach the RPC, please email the Planning Department or call them at 781-698-4560.
RPC Initiative Areas
Beginning with the comments received at the Planning Board's May 20, 2015 listening session, the RPC has been investigating several topics. The following is a listing of each of the principal initiative areas with the relevant descriptions, documents, and links.
Neighborhood Conservation Districts (NCD)
A neighborhood conservation district (NCD) is a tool used to preserve, protect, and enhance significant areas within a community beyond what is specified in the zoning bylaw. The conservation regulations are applied in addition to standard zoning regulations and will usually take precedence. NCD regulations will differ from neighborhood to neighborhood depending on the area's character and needs. Because they do not regulate as strictly as historic districts, NCDs are typically used as an alternative to them in areas where alterations have already occurred but protection of the overall scale, streetscape, and significant buildings is necessary. Communities with NCDs include Brookline, Cambridge, Ipswich, Lincoln, North Andover, Northampton, Wellesley, and Winchester.
Non-Conforming Lot Regulations
The RPC has noted that Lexington's dimensional controls for non-conforming lots appear to be one of the region's most permissive set of rules it can identify. Communities like Winchester, Weston, Wellesley, Lincoln, and Concord have all instituted some sort of Site Plan Review to regulate large-scale houses; the RPC is exploring the possibility of requiring site plan review for non-conforming lots. Site Plan Review would have the advantage of eliminating non-conformities while providing a public process where residents could have some say about the character of their neighborhood.
The RPC is also investigating restrictions that would limit the mass of additions and new construction proportional to the size of the lot. Dimensional controls being reviewed include floor area requirements, setbacks, lot coverage requirements, and making height a function of setback width.
At the May 20th listening session, many residents expressed their desire to preserve neighborhood character, existing trees, and a greater variety of housing types, as well as preserve attainable housing. The RPC will be analyzing teardowns and what is reconstructed to better characterize the problem. Suggestions for creating disincentives for teardowns may be forthcoming.
Affordable & Attainable Housing
The RPC has discussed the scope of the regional housing crisis and LexHAB's and the Housing Partnership's initiatives to combat it. Currently, the gap between what a qualified applicant can pay and what is available on the market equates to about a $450,000 to $500,000 gap. Town Meeting has regularly appropriated funds from CPA to fund local projects, but the RPC is investigating how to ensure that this is done annually. With a lack of buildable land in Lexington for specific projects, the RPC also discussed a tax deferral, tax abatement, and reverse mortgages options; real estate donations or tax advantages for sales to a land trust/non-profit; and conversions of owner-occupied housing to 2-family units with an affordable or other community benefit inclusionary requirement.
Senior Housing Opportunities
Similar to the discussion of affordable housing, the lack of buildable land for specific projects hampers what the community can do. Further work in this regard is expected.
The RPC intends to discuss the Town's special permit residential development bylaw and other policy areas, such as the variance process and other regulatory practices that should be reviewed as part of the RPC's charge.