Bourne is the only Cape Cod town impacted by a state law mandating more multifamily zoning

·2 min read

BUZZARDS BAY – Bourne is one of dozens of communities in Massachusetts being impacted by a new state law requiring more multifamily zoning because they are next door to communities with commuter rail stations.

Bourne borders Plymouth with its Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) rail stop at Cordage Park, so the Cape town must adhere to the new state law to create a special multifamily zone for up to 15 units per acre.

Bourne Planning Board members will study the idea and draft a bylaw for voters to consider at the October special town meeting.

Bourne is one of dozens of communities in Massachusetts being impacted by a new state law requiring more multifamily zoning because they have or border towns with train stations.
Bourne is one of dozens of communities in Massachusetts being impacted by a new state law requiring more multifamily zoning because they have or border towns with train stations.

MBTA communities urged to add multifamily housing

Passed in January 2021, the law requires every MBTA community to create at least a 50-acre zoning district that allows multifamily housing by right. That means a developer or a property owner would not need to ask for permission to build a multifamily building in the designated area.

Municipalities which don’t create the zoning will lose access to state grant money through MassWorks, Housing Choice funding and the Local Capital Projects fund.

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Planning Board members agree current downtown zoning around Main Street is dense enough to accommodate what state transportation planners and  the "T" think might be suitable for housing opportunities near a rail hub; ostensibly attracting people who hope that commuter rail service returns to the village someday.

Planning Board Chair Dan Doucette said on June 23 that areas north of the Buzzards Bay Bypass might prove suitable. Any area across the canal would not be considered, he said, nor would properties directly to the west across the Cohasset Narrows at Wareham.

Zoning proposal does not signal added rail service

Board member Chris Farrell emphasized a commuter-rail return point.

“To be clear, this is not because the MBTA is possibly coming to Buzzards Bay as much as it involves Bourne being a border community to Plymouth,” he said.

Commuter trains have long been a dream in top Bourne executive and planning circles, with all concerned following the unfolding restoration of daily rail service between New Bedford and Boston’s South Station, via Middleborough.

It is hoped the Middleborough stop could also provide a conduit for service in and out of Bourne.

In late 2020 and early 2021, the Mass. Department of Transportation studied the feasibility of extending commuter rail service from Middleboro to Bourne. Two alternatives for service were presented, one of which would terminate at Bourne station.

The last commuter trains departed Buzzards Bay in the early 1960s. The rail-switching yard and adjacent oil tanks decades later were converted to a canal-side playground and park.

This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Bourne must add multifamily zoning due to proximity to Plymouth, MA