I was recently asked to break down some of the information about 40B and an in flight application for Prentice Place

Note I serve on Planning Board, I do not serve on the ZBA so my knowledge of it may not be 100% accurate, I post based on my understanding of it and welcome any ZBA member to message me any correction necessary

* If you ask me a 40B application may be the most complicated thing that comes in front of a town board. It is tough to go complete plain English as it is a complicated part of the law
* Chapter 40B is a part of state law regarding Affordable Housing Units. 
* A developer has come forward seeking a comprehensive permit from the local zoning board of appeals (a 40B application)
* The developers application includes requests for waivers from local bylaws. Such waivers allow for example, a more dense development than would be allowed by right. 
* 40B empowers the town zoning board to waive certain bylaws, restrictions, regulation etc
* Zoning boards must weigh the need for affordable housing against the need to protect the environmental, public health, safety and planning interests. 
* If the town has less than the 10% affordable housing inventory, the state considers there to be a need for affordable housing and this need weighs very heavily in favor of the developer when compared to the needs of other local interests.
* A frequently heard local concern is the impact oon our schools that a proposal will have. In the yes of the state, the impact on the schools does not outweigh the need for affordable housing. The states opinoin would be that if you need to build more schools, so be it because you need to have more affordable housing. 
* The state puts out benchmarks of affordable housing inventory that a town must have. (10% of units - which I above said seems ridiculous and insurmountable). There are other ways around this but are even more complex. 

* An interesting component of the affordable housing inventory calculation is that if a rental property contains 25% affordable units, then 100% of the units count towards a towns affordable housing inventory. For this reason cities (and towns close to cities) with their large inventory of rental properties easily meet the 10% requirement. So 40B impacts suburbs far more than it impacts the cities. This is problematic and should be addressed. 
* The zoning board conducts a public hearing (to collect facts and evidence
* Then the zoning board decides if the project presents any concerns about public health, safety, environmental or planning concerns and if they are bad enough to issue a denial or if they can work with the developer and mitigate through conditions. 
* 40B developers can get waivers to build more units but must set aside a certain percentage of the housing as affordable. 
* Profits of a developer under this chapter are also limited. 
* If a developer is denied by the ZBA, the developer can appeal to the Housing Appeals Committee (HAC) in Boston. HAC is known for ruling in favor of the developers, but more importantly once an application goes to HAC, the town loses all control over the process. 

* Comprehensive Permits (40B) - M.G.L. Chapter 40B enables the local Zoning Board of Appeals, in consultation with other local boards and officials, to grant a single permit to an eligible developer proposing state or federally subsidized low or moderate income housing at a density greater than allowed by local zoning. The Board may override local requirements and regulations that are inconsistent with affordable housing needs if environmental and planning concerns have been addressed.

* 48 apartment units proposed on 2.5 acres, 25% to be affordable
* There are significant concerns about traffic and safety.
* That many units in a single entrance/exit location would likely be a emergency bottleneck. Getting emergency fire, police and ambulance apparatus in there could be challenging. Adding buildings that are hard to get out of in a parcel that is too small and have all of those people trying to evacuate simultaneously should the propane terminal ever spring a leak would be extremely problematic. 
* In progress since August of last year
* ZBA is doing a good job reviewing this. 
* Project / Application Details can be found here: https://www.grafton-ma.gov/.../prentice-place-23-prentice...
* Public comment can be submitted here: https://www.grafton-ma.gov/.../webforms/public-comment-form