The Municipal Law Unit approved a Pembroke zoning bylaw amendment intended to comply with zoning requirements for MBTA Communities imposed by G.L. c. 40A, § 3A, which requires that the Town have a district in which multifamily housing is “permitted as of right” and is “suitable for families with children.” While approving the bylaw, the MLU advised Pembroke to consider adopting “clarifying amendments” to ensure that these two requirements are implemented in fact.
The MLU raised the concern about whether the bylaw permitted multifamily housing as of right because the use requires site plan review. Pembroke’s site plan review requires that the approval consider “community needs,” including protection for abutting landowners, traffic safety and access, adequate waste disposal, drainage, parking, and environmental protection. While noting that one- and two-family homes are not required to be reviewed for “community needs,” the MLU noted that site plan review for a use allowed by right is limited to imposing reasonable terms and conditions and cannot be used to deny the use. It urged the Town to adopt amendments clarifying as much.
The MLU also addressed the requirement that multifamily housing required by G.L. c. 40A, § 3A be “suitable for families with children.” The MLU was concerned that, while technically satisfying the definition of “suitable for families” in terms of number of bedrooms and lack of restrictions on number of bedrooms and occupants, the new multifamily housing district was located in an industrial area where adult uses, marijuana dispensaries, and solid waste disposal facilities would also be allowed, and would potentially run afoul of the suitability for children requirement. On the other hand, the industrial districts are located convenient to a state highway and to neighborhoods with the amenities attractive to families and children. The MLU, while recognizing that its review of bylaws does not constitute approval or disapproval under § 3A, nevertheless urged Pembroke to consider whether the districts’ other permitted uses were compatible with Section 3A.