Town officials meet with state to discuss MBTA housing regulations

May 25, 2023

MIDDLEBORO — Representatives of the Town of Middleboro and the state met Wednesday in Boston to discuss options for the town to comply with a housing mandate required of communities near the MBTA station.

The State House meeting gave the town an opportunity to “present and discuss options that will be agreeable to all parties,’’ Select Board Chair Mark Germain said.

He did not cite specifics that were discussed, opting to wait until the entire select board can weigh in. But Germain described the meeting as “positive’’ and thanked state officials for agreeing to discuss the issue.

The meeting was attended by Germain, Town Manager James McGrail, Town Planner Leeann Bradley on behalf of the town and State Reps. Kathleen LaNatra; Norman Orrall and Susan Gifford. 

The town has balked at state calls for denser zoning near MBTA stations. 

To comply, Middleboro would have to establish at least one zoning district that would total 50 acres and have the capacity for 1,471 units, Bradley has said.

Middleboro lacks the infrastructure for such changes, town officials have argued.

The town has drawn statewide attention for its refusal to submit an action plan on how to best address the state’s requirement.

Any agreement considered at the Wednesday meeting needs to be discussed with the full select board, which Germain said he would like to see done “sooner rather than later.’’ 

The select board is next scheduled to meet June 5, although it is not known whether the issue will be on the agenda for that meeting. 

“Any decision would have to come from the full board,’’ Germain said.

A Boston-based legal group sent a letter in February demanding Middleboro comply with state MBTA community zoning requirements that town officials have said could add 1,500 housing units in town. 
“Greater Boston is mired in an affordable housing crisis and remains highly racially segregated,’’ the letter, signed by three attorneys, Jacob M. Love, Owen M. Sellstrom and Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, reads in part. “Towns that decline to increase their multi-family housing are perpetuating both of these problems.’’

Middleboro officials have countered that the town is aware of the need for increased housing and continues to focus on providing affordable options.