A trolley on the MBTA's Mattapan Line rolls down tracks in Milton. Photo by Derek Yu | CC BY-SA 2.0

Milton voters rejected a rezoning plan that would have encouraged multifamily development, becoming the first Boston suburb to defy the state’s MBTA Communities law, which is designed to encourage housing production and ease Massachusetts’ affordability crisis.

The 5,115-4,356 referendum result overturned a December town meeting vote. Healey administration officials and Attorney General Andrea Campbell quickly responded, vowing to enforce penalties that make non-compliant communities ineligible for various state programs and funding.

“The Healey-Driscoll administration is deeply disappointed that Milton’s zoning plan was rejected. This is not only a loss for Milton but for our entire state, as we desperately need more housing near transit to lower costs,” Housing and Livable Communities Secretary Ed Augustus said in a statement.

Milton’s median single-family home price in 2023 was $925,000, according to data compiled by The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman.

Campbell reiterated earlier comments that she will take action to enforce the law, signed into law by former Gov. Charlie Baker in 2021.

Milton is among 12 towns with rapid transit service that were required to meet a Dec. 31 deadline to allow dense multifamily development by-right under the MBTA Communities law.

The overturned plan would have allowed multifamily development near the intersection of Granite Avenue and the Southeast Expressway, and parcels near the Mattapan line stations for buildings ranging from 4.5 to 6 stories. The changes also included rezoning for 2.5-story residential buildings in East Milton Square by special permit.

Opponents questioned the town’s classification in the rapid transit category due to the limited service provided by the MBTA’s Mattapan line, and criticized the law for infringing on local control and encouraging overdevelopment.

Abundant Housing Massachusetts, which lobbies for higher-density residential development, said the Milton result has been an outlier in the local debates.

“It is disappointing to see the results from Milton where a margin of just a few hundred voters in a town of 27,000 residents overturned a thoughtful, thoroughly debated zoning package that represents the community’s broader housing policies,” Executive Director Jesse Kanson-Benanav posted on social media. “However, with dozens of cities and towns having affirmed zoning compliant with the MBTA Communities Act, we remain confident that more communities will hold fast to the value of creating more housing for all.”

Thus far, the state Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities has certified rezoning plans in Lexington and Salem and is reviewing the plans in other communities that approved changes last year.

The Worcester suburb of Holden is also noncompliant with the law. In December, a Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit brought against the town by the Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance for its refusal to comply, according to the Telegram & Gazette.

The next battleground moves to 130 communities that have MBTA commuter rail stations or are adjacent to towns with service, which are required to submit their versions by Dec. 31.

In other towns that approved rezoning last fall, real estate brokers say they’ve seen limited interest in development sites located within the new districts thus far. Small existing lots and multiple ownership make it hard to assemble sites suitable for large-scale projects, developers say.

Material from the State House News Service was included in this report.

Milton Vote Derails MBTA Communities Compliance

by Steve Adams time to read: 2 min