Town Council approves zoning overlay for multi-family housing

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Kelley Boulevard. File photo

abass@northstarreporter.com

A zoning measure that calls for multi-family housing in MBTA communities has been approved.

The council voted 8-1 at its meeting on Nov. 21 to approve the installation of a Smart Growth Overlay District at 582 Kelley Blvd. through Massachusetts General Law Chapter 40R–which encourages communities to create dense residential or mixed-use smart growth zoning districts—including a high percentage of affordable housing units—located near transit stations in areas of concentrated development.  A site plan review will be conducted in December.

The overlay is approximately 13.7 acres in total, located off Kelley Boulevard and George Leven Road. The compact size in design is due to North Attleborough being an MBTA transit adjacent community–meaning the town is required to have at least one zoning district of reasonable size in which multi-family housing is permitted. This requirement is part of the MBTA Communities Act of 2021, a law promoting the development of multi-family housing.

The proposal was reviewed and passed unanimously by the Planning Board. Mari Clarner, the board’s chair, told the council the overlay is not just to entice interest in developers, but those wanting to move to North Attleborough.

“I see this as an opportunity for those who go down Kelley Boulevard to look and say, oh this is different,” Clarner said. “It’s not what I am used to but, gee, it’s really interesting,”

Clarner suggested the overlay could attract businesses and give them the incentive to invest in North Attleborough.

Marcus Partners, a commercial real estate agency in Boston, has proposed building a 300-apartment complex on the site, though a contract for development has not yet been submitted or approved.

A concern for many living near the site is the potential increase in traffic. In response, Massworks awarded the town $3.9 million in grants for a revitalization project on Kelley Blvd, which includes the installation of new lighting and road signals.

Councilor Mark Gould Jr, who voted to approve the proposal, asked if there would be a plan to increase lanes on the street and how the grants would be distributed.

Councilor Andrew Shanahan said while he could not go into further detail at that time, assured Gould that a plan would be approved to distribute the funding for improvements.

“It’s a whole can of worms right now,” said Shanahan. “That said, rest assured that there is a plan, we just need to focus on this bylaw first.”

Councilor Daniel Donovan was the sole member to vote no that night. He said North Attleborough should be the body that encourages new construction rather than independent contractors.

“I can see the benefits, I can see the future in favor of this,” he said. “But I cannot, in good faith, vote for this.”