2023 Annual Town Meeting Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Special Notice on Voting Thresholds: Simple Majority vs 2/3 Supermajority

Q: What kinds of zoning ordinance or bylaw can be enacted with a simple majority vote? 

A: Under the newly amended section 5 of the Zoning Act, a zoning ordinance or bylaw can be enacted by a simple majority vote, rather than the 2/3 supermajority that applies to other zoning amendments, if that ordinance or bylaw does any of the following:

  • Allows for multi-family housing or mixed-use developments “as of right” in an eligible location.
  • Allows for open space residential development as of right.
  • Allows accessory dwelling units, either within the principal dwelling or within a detached structure on the same lot, as-of-right.
  • Allows by special permit accessory dwelling units in a detached structure on the same lot.
  • Reduces the parking requirements for residential or mixed-use development under a special permit.
  • Permits an increase in the permissible density of population or intensity of a particular use in a proposed multi-family or mixed-use development that requires a special permit.
  • Changes dimensional standards such as lot coverage or floor area ratio, height, setbacks, minimum open space coverage, parking, building coverage to allow for the construction of additional residential units on a particular parcel or parcels of land.
  • Provides for the transfer of development rights or natural resource protection zoning in instances where the adoption of such zoning promotes concentration of development in areas that the municipality deems most appropriate for such development, but will not result in a diminution in the maximum number of housing units that could be developed within the municipality.
  • Adopts a smart growth or starter home districts in accordance with section 3 of Chapter 40R of the General Laws.

Key terms such as “multi-family housing,” “mixed-use development,” “accessory dwelling unit,” “transfer of development rights,” “natural resource protection zoning,” and “eligible location” are now defined in section 1A of the Zoning Act.  (February 26, 2021)

Article 4

Q: Page I-5 of the Brown Book does not show a projected deposit in FY24 into the Capital Stabilization Fund. Why is that? Are we waiting to see how much arrives from new projects on Bedford Street and Hartwell Ave?

A: The Town does many “off-budget” financial transactions and the transfer to the Capital Stabilization Fund can actually be found in Article 19(b) in which $1,733,137 is being transferred to the Capital Stabilization Fund.

Q: What is the current balance of the capital stabilization fund? And are those funds invested or held in cash/cash equivalents?

A: The Capital Stabilization Fund Balance as of the end of FY22 was $21,730,961 and the funds are deposited into the Massachusetts Municipal Depository Trust (MMDT) cash portfolio which is currently yielding approximately 4.75%.

Q: What is the projected annual debt service for the new LHS construction (assuming a $400M cost and a 25% state match)? What interest rate is used for this projection? How frequently does the town update this projection given the rising interest rate environment that we find ourselves in today?

A: The estimated debt service on the high school debt is $18,046,585.  This is based on a 30-year debt issuance with an equal payment, 25% MSBA reimbursement at 4.0% interest.  We review the interest rates every time we issue debt, which we just did (and are still below 4.0% therefore this remains a conservative estimate).

Q: How much is the projected annual debt service projected to be offset by the CSF?

A: Right now its $1,733,137 but we’re estimating it to grow substantially to approximately $11,994,000 based on three additional projects that have been approved.

Q: What is the remaining balance to be financed by resident tax-payers per household (based on an average SFH)?

A: The balance of total debt service is estimated to be $6,051,823.  The estimates on the impact to the average single family home can be found on slide 15 of the Town Manager’s presentation but is $1,544 if there is no Capital Stabilization Fund; $1,396 with the current funds being transferred to the Capital Stabilization Fund; and $518 estimated with the additional three projects mentioned above.

Q: Each year the Capital plan requests $390K for culvert replacement. Could you share the actual costs expended in culvert replacement in FY21 and FY22?

A: Funds expended on culverts (note this spending is against accumulated authorizations from multiple years):

  • FY2021: $177,547
  • FY2022: $733,938

You can refer to the Open Articles Report (PDF) for actual spending and encumbrances by authorization year: 

Q: Each year $265K in funding is requested for Public Facilities to do school paving and sidewalks and $800K or more for Public Works to do Sidewalk Improvements. Could you please share the actual amounts spent in these two line items for the last 2 fiscal years? 

A: The amount budgeted for school paving/sidewalks varies in each fiscal year ($125,000 in FY2021 and $145,000 in FY2022). In FY2023 and prior fiscal years the town voted one aggregate amount for school paving/sidewalks and building flooring.  

Funds expended on school paving/sidewalks and flooring (this spending is against accumulated authorizations from multiple years):

  • FY2021: $231,625
  • FY2022: $376,658

For FY2024 paving/sidewalks are being separately voted from flooring/interior finishes.

Funds expended on replacement and repair of existing sidewalks (note this spending is against accumulated authorizations from multiple years):

  • FY2021: $605,699
  • FY2022: $127,526

You can refer to the Open Articles Report (PDF) for spending and encumbrances as noted above.

Q: Is the BETA Group also being considered to develop any plans for FY24 to push out work or reduce annual scope as the Town's capital needs increase with major projects?

A: We will continue to utilize BETA as well as other consultants as needs arise to ensure we are properly maintaining and improving the Town’s horizontal assets.

Article 8

Q: Can you describe how other towns have used the results of their survey? Of the list of other towns mentioned in the presentation, I’m not sure if Newton is the best example, but that’s the one I was looking at as maybe the analog. Are they using their survey results to inform town decisions such as permitting, historical preservation and so forth?

A: Exactly how Towns implemented by-laws resides with specific individuals within commissions within each town whose contact info is difficult to ascertain... or, at least, time consuming. The MHC does have a sample bylaw but I am very reluctant to share it as, a) it is not on the warrant, and b) I do not want the discussion to devolve into the merits of a bylaw before there is evidence on the table. It would definitely put the cart before the horse!

I can tell you that the towns of Aquinnah and Acton have both implemented bylaws protecting archaeological resources. My source in Acton informs me that since this past summer, they have little action, as Acton is not under heavy developer pressure.

As to what towns have considered archaeological bylaws but have chosen not to enact them is a difficult question. I am unaware of any specific source of this information, but I will inquire of my contact at the MHC to see if he knows of any.

Article 10

Q: Does CPC maintain a multi-year plan for possible future year project requests? Specifically I am curious if CPC is budgeting/saving/planning for money to fund new or reconstructed recreational playing fields that will be needed as part of the High School building project. For instance - a recent School Committee presentation showed a preference to relocate the Central Office (CO) from the Harrington site to 173 Bedford and to demo the current building and construct two multi-use fields with lights at the existing site. Costs are projected to be $3.6 - 6.1 million for field construction and $15 million to demo the current CO building, New recreation fields here seems in scope for CPA funds - is CPC planning and budgeting to possibly fund this?

The High School project timeline also indicates ball field reconstruction at the current LHS site starting in 2029 and I wonder if CPC is or should be "saving up" to defray some of the costs for this work (assuming this falls in the recreation scope of CPA too).

A: The short answer is that we don't, and really can't, "budget" for future years, as the writer suggests: we only act on the current year's applications, based on our expected funding in the next fiscal year. To deny timely and worthy requests based on speculation that something else might be coming in the future would be unfair to the current year project applicants, and possibly misleading due to the uncertainty of funding to be received and project timelines. Moreover, even when we are aware of future requests -- the CPC application form (for non-town projects and the CIP form (for town projects) have boxes to detail upcoming needs - we are very clear in our discussions with the applicants that our recommendation of the current year's request is no guarantee that future requests for similar projects or subsequent phases of the current project will be recommended as well.

Article 10(b)

Q: Is the Town the landlord for the Monroe Center for the Arts?

A: Yes

Q. If the Town is the Landlord, what is the current annual rent and lease term? Where is that income shown in the Brown Book?

A: $24,000 annual rent, with 10-year lease having 2 extensions. The rental income from the Munroe Center Lease Agreement rolls up under Local Receipts-Rentals in the Revenue section of the Brown Book (Page II-6).

Q: If the Town is the Landlord, then under the lease, does the town require the Tenant to maintain the building systems OR is the Town required to pay for the building operations and maintenance of base building systems and landscape? (Electric, Water, HVAC, stairs, building envelope, grounds)? Or how are the O&M costs shared?

A: The Town requires the Tenant to maintain the building systems (electric, landscaping, etc.)

Q: Where on the past 5 years of 5-year Capital Plans is this request for material improvements to the Monroe Building? Noted?

 A: This project work has only been more recently defined, and is not on the 5-year Capital Plan.

Q: If this is a new need, did these material issues show up on the Town Facility Master Plan/Inventory that I think was done in 2021? Could you show Town Meeting where those needs were identified?

A: The Town only performs this assessment on buildings that DPF maintains. Since this building is maintained by the Munroe Center for the Arts, it was not included in the 2021 VFA assessment. However, The LexingtonNEXT Comprehensive Plan issued in 2022 states: “The Munroe Center for the Arts, built in 1904 as a public school, now serves as a cultural hub. Retrofits are needed to make the building fully accessible.”

Q: In the CPA funding request by the Monroe Center, they note the Comprehensive Plan draws attention to the services that the Monroe Center for the Arts as a valuable community contribution. We all value the importance of the Arts Center, If this is a town educational asset, has any analysis been done for if there is a more impactful way to curate this service within the community? another site? complete renovation of the building and its ability to deliver services for the 21st century?

A: The Munroe School Building is 21K SF, with 12K SF available for arts programming in the center of Lexington. No similar facility has been identified to provide the same range of local space for large rooms for group classes/events alongside smaller rooms for smaller lessons and offices. More specifically, there is no other available town owned building large enough that could house the program if the building suffered a catastrophic loss of services. Nor is there a facility that could integrate this arts programming into their existing program.

Q: Has the Town engaged the Permanent Building Committee as we have with other major capital projects (some that are much cheaper) to vet, review, and assess the plan for this type of major renovation?

A:  At present, this project has been in front of the Design Review Team, Capital Expenditures, Appropriations, and Historic Districts Committees. It will be part of the DPF process, and yes it will be monitored by the PBC (at the time of this writing this project is in contact with both the Permanent Building and the Design Advisory Committees).

Q: Could you provide an FCI [Facility Condition Index] rating for the Munroe building? My concern about article 10b is that we are spending money on a building that simply isn't worth the investment. Should we just rebuild it from scratch?

A: While the Monroe building is owned by the town, it’s the tenants responsibility to maintain the facility.  We did not do a building assessment of the Monroe building, and therefore there is no FCI.

Article 10(e) and 10(f)

Q: Are the churches named in articles 10e & 10f owned by a private entity or trust or by the town?

A: The town doesn't own any churches. To the actual structure of the churches' ownership, they are their own entity. The clocks are owned by the churches. We had believed, based on the original deed and town counsel statements, that the Follen Church clock was owned by the town, but just last week we were notified that town counsel is now attributing ownership to the church.

Q: Does the CPC have published guidelines that can help clearly differentiate between funds used for religious and non-religious purposes? My concern is that we have a slippery slope here.

A: The CPC evaluates every project that is presented to us, based on the general and area-specific criteria listed in the application form and reproduced in our Report to Town Meeting on pp. 5-6. After at least one interview with each applicant (more if we still have questions), if we decide to recommend a project, we send them all to Town Counsel for their input —  the CPC is not qualified to make legal judgments in any case, and we rely on our Town Counsel to tell us whether any proposed project violates any law. While counsel's opinion is never a guarantee, we feel comfortable in relying on this advice when making our funding recommendations.

For the clock projects specifically, we requested advice on whether the projects violated the Anti Aid Amendment of the Massachusetts Constitution. Per their opinion, delivered to us last fall and based on the Supreme Judicial Court's tests set out in the Caplan v. Town of Acton case from 2018, whether a church can use CPA funds depends on whether the money (1) is “for the purpose[s] of founding, maintaining, or aiding [the] church; (2) “has the effect of substantially aiding the church”; and (3) avoids the risk of corruptive church and state that “prompted the passage” of the Amendment. 

In the case of both of the clocks being proposed for funding, the explicit purpose of the funding is to restore the historic clock, not the church itself: the funds are dedicated to the clock tower - and this would be confirmed in a written contract between the respective churches and the Town. Even if the refurbished clock resulted in some incremental increase in the value of the churches' property, this "aid" would only be incidental, and certainly not "substantial". And finally, there is nothing to suggest that any of the political or economic abuses of church and state that prompted the anti-aid amendment are present here. 

Based on this determination, we placed the projects on the Warrant for Town Meeting approval.

Q: With regard to the "Lexington Men's Club," that no longer exists, is there anything preventing stakeholders from creating a non-profit entity like "Friends of the East Village Clock" (or some such) that would raise private funds to oversee the maintenance and overhaul of the clock on behalf of a grateful town and church community?

A: To my knowledge, there is nothing that would prohibit the creation of a friends group to support the maintenance and overhaul of the the clocks - I think the churches would welcome such fundraising assistance. But this would be a question for the churches, not the CPC.

-Marilyn Fenollosa, Chair, Community Preservation Committee

Article 10(g)

Q: Is the contract for this project expected to be a "Fixed Price" contract to protect the town from additional requests?

A: The project would be bid based on the professionally prepared complete bid package, including the detailed scope of services and approved design plans and specifications, and a contract awarded to the vendor with the lowest total project cost qualified to conduct the work, with the expectation that the contracted project cost would not be exceeded.

Q: With inflationary pressure we have seen other projects costs necessitate additional appropriations from Town Meeting, does the proponent have contractor assurances that all work can be completed for the cost requested?

A: The project cost requested is based on professional expert estimates provided by the Town’s professional design consultant, who has prepared the bid package for the project. We anticipate these estimates to be accurate and to have already taken inflation into account.

Q: If those assurances cannot be contracted for, the CPC process allows for scope to be removed, perhaps held in reserve, to ensure against any cost overruns. Has such scope been identified?

A: The complete bid package can be prepared with alternates built into the scope to proactively identify areas of the proposed project that can be removed if the appropriated project cost exceeded before awarding the contract.  Alternates are currently being identified for inclusion in the complete bid package scope.

Q: If such scope has not been identified or sequencing options reviewed for potential efficiencies, could the Hathaway Street extension serve that 'hedge; purpose because improvements to trail access will be added at Brent Road with available parking thus the overall goal still accomplished within the requested $1.2M?

A: The Hathaway road extension is one option that could be identified as an alternate in the complete bid package scope.

Article 10(i)

Q: Slide 11 of the presentation on article 10(i) says:

“LHS building project lay down area is currently anticipated to impact most fields at the Center Recreation Complex ~ 2026- 2030”

First, what is a “lay down area”? Secondly, in what way specifically does it impact these fields? And finally, is it true that the impact on the fields will extend through the entire four to five year project timeline?

A: A Lay Down area will utilize all the fields (except the center track and the infield) and is the space the construction team will need in order to pile soils, spread out the steel when it arrives, house the construction trailers, staging of materials, construction of roads for material deliveries onsite, basically all the space the construction team will need in order to build the building.  The construction of the new high school will likely cause the fields to be offline for 3-4 years depending on the final design of the new school facility and surrounding areas (parking, new fields, etc)

Article 12(a)

Q: Please describe what efforts the fire department has made to apply for federal state and other grants to secure funding for this piece of equipment.

A: The Fire Department has actively pursued and received grants for purchases over the last few years (Examples self-contained breathing apparatus, portable radios, training equipment).

We continue to search for grants to upgrade equipment in the department whenever possible, currently we have 3 grant applications submitted and are awaiting approval or denial. All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV) are considered low priority for FEMA / MEMA and are not approved. We have looked at Urban Wildland Interface Grants but are not in consideration due to the size of are woodland acres compared to large rural wooded areas (Sq. miles) around the country.

Q: The Town has recently been asked to expend more than $300K in repairing fire access roads so that current fire apparatus and EMS vehicles can gain access to the site. What other gap exists that requires this vehicle?

A: We are very supportive of this request to improve fire access and trails to gain access. Our request is for a piece of equipment that is supportive of our off-road firefighting and rescue incidents. The Town’s wooded area has trail and paths that only allow limited access to the wooded areas, the ATV would be a supportive addition allowing for water and equipment to get to areas that the current off-road brush trucks cannot reach. Having a smaller ATV would allow us to go deeper into the woods beyond the trails that limit the larger apparatus from going without removing trees and other obstructions. Currently the department has to carry a large amount of equipment and layout hundreds of feet of hose into an area to extinguish even a small fire that could be handled with this equipment.

Q: How is this vehicle transported to where it would be used? Does it come with its own trailer?

A: The department has a trailer in its current fleet for moving equipment.

Q: Does the procurement of this vehicle plus the added benefit of the trail access mean that the Off-road fire truck that has been added to the 5-year capital plan would not be needed?

A: Not at all, this ATV is in support of our off-road fleet. The larger apparatus carries larger quantities of water, hose, and equipment.

Article 12(l)

Q: If design work for the municipal parking lot improvements is still underway, what is the source for the $575,000 figure being requested?

A: The type of work is very similar to roadway work that we undertake every construction season. The overall cost is derived from the anticipated quantities and unit costs for those quantities. We do not anticipate any significant changes to our estimated quantity and prices and are therefore comfortable with this estimate in advance of having a completed design.

Q: What is the number of parking spaces that will result from this work?

A: Due to the parking lot configuration and limitations on space, we do not anticipate that the number of spaces will change much, if at all, under the new plan for the parking lot reconstruction. The most significant part of the design effort is the regrading of the parking lot to ensure positive drainage.

Article 12(m)

Q: Where can I find more detailed information on the article, motion and the plan?

A: On page XI-7 of the Brown Book (PDF): 1. New Sidewalk Installations - $1,620,000 (General Fund Debt): This annual request funds the survey, design and installation of new sidewalks in various locations throughout the Town. The request for FY2024 is for design and construction of a sidewalk on Cedar Street, in its entirety, including a roundabout at Paul Revere and Hill Street. This request follows an appropriation of $75,000 for initial survey, design and public outreach for the Cedar St. sidewalk in FY2023.

Q: Could you provide a detailed description of the sidewalk installation, map showing the location and extent of the sidewalk, abutter concerns, factors in the decision to add a roundabout at Paul Revere and Hill, design considerations of the sidewalk, tree removal, etc.? Since Town Meeting approved $75,000 in funding for this project, I would expect more detail than what is in the Brown book. The initial recommendation to the Select Board estimated the construction at $940,000. Besides increased construction costs, are there any design changes that have increased the cost estimate? 

A: If approved, the Cedar St sidewalk is planned to be constructed during the 2024 construction season. The project will include standard sidewalk construction consisting of hot mix asphalt sidewalk surface, cement concrete accessible curb cuts (wheelchair ramps), with asphalt or granite curb. Currently the project is in the design phase, with both physical and financial impacts being assessed. The project was previously presented to the Select Board, resulting in the recommendation to review the full length of Cedar St, from Massachusetts Ave to the Lexington Golf Course entrance for proposed sidewalk. Additionally the Select Board requested analysis of the Cedar St at Hill St and Paul Revere Road for potential safety improvements.

Through our previous public outreach, the project received significant support; the majority of area residents were in favor of constructing the sidewalk. However there were several residents that were not in favor. Their concerns mostly pertained to impacts to their properties or their ability to use the area along the frontage of their lot (generally for parking a vehicle). Some abutters felt there wasn’t a need for a sidewalk; however, the overall support and general observation of pedestrians in the area would differ with that opinion. The final design is expected to avoid the impacts most residents were concerned about and avoid any disturbance to most of the properties along the roadway.

Attached under Article 12(m) materials is the latest concept for the sidewalk. It has also been uploaded to the Transportation Safety Group (TSG) website under “sidewalk requests”. The east side of the street (odd house number side) is the better candidate for the sidewalk. The Engineering Division and our design consultant, CHA, agree that side would result in the least impacts and lower construction cost. The evaluation took into account the presence of the utility poles and several stone walls that would require relocation in order to build the sidewalk on the west side (even house number side). The concept also incorporates some geometric changes to the roadway in order to reduce impacts to properties and avoid unnecessary tree removal.

The concepts for the intersection improvements previously presented have not been evaluated for traffic impacts yet. Design of the intersection safety improvements is ongoing, but in general a roundabout is a typical solution to reduce conflict points and approach speeds at an intersection. Other options include adjusting which approaches have stop control (stop signs) and geometric changes to provide better sight distances and reinforce traffic right-of-way.

The $75,000 previously approved is for the design of the sidewalk. While we anticipated having the design further along, the sidewalk concept plans were well vetted and a close representation of what the final design will be. The $1,620,000 is based on the concept estimate, including new sidewalk for the full length of Cedar St and changes to the Cedar St at Hill St and Paul Revere Rd intersection (i.e., roundabout). Based on current construction pricing and material cost trends, we don’t expect a change to the estimate between this year and when the project would be advertised for bidding in spring of 2024.

Article 16(g)

Q: Given that Lexington has 2 golf courses, what are the economics that indicate the town should make capital investments into the Pine Meadows?

A: There is only one Town of Lexington golf course in Lexington — Pine Meadows Golf Course. The Lexington Golf Club on Hill Street is a private, members-only facility and has no connection to the Town. The Pine Meadows Golf Course is open to the public. The Pine Meadows Golf Course is operated and maintained through the Recreation Enterprise Fund, and the revenues from the golf course fees flow into the Recreation Enterprise Fund and support and subsidize many aspects of the Recreation & Community Programs Department, including the overhead for full-time staff and their benefits and the operational infrastructure to provide many programs, activities, and services year-round to all ages and abilities at nominal fees. Additionally, the Recreation Enterprise Fund, of which the golf course revenues are the greatest source of income, pays for the ongoing annual maintenance and upkeep capital expenditures required to maintain and sustain the operations of the course.

Q: I understand that we get payments from fees and those subsidize other programs. What are the amounts Lexington receives from the golf course, and when is the last time we made a capital investment into the golf club (and how much)?

A: The revenue from the Pine Meadows Golf Course represents approximately 1/3 of the overall revenue into the Recreation Enterprise Fund, from which the operations of the Recreation and Community Programs Department are funded. In FY22, Pine Meadows Golf Course generated $1,099,658 in revenue through the purchase of 42,774 rounds of golf.

Q: How many Lexington residents use the Pine Meadows Golf Course, and how many out-of-town users are there?

A: In FY22, residents purchased 9,952 (discounted) rounds of golf. Non-residents purchased 32,822 full-price rounds of golf. The course also supports the play of the LHS Golf Teams and Minuteman High Golf Teams.

Article 16(i)

Q: Please clarify the reasons for the height of the Solar Canopy, as I have heard discussion of two reasons having been presented publicly:

  1. emergency or utility vehicles need to be able to go under them
  2. the HDC wanted a look-through viewscape

A: There are two reasons the structure is tall:

  • To allow for the visual pass through so folks would be able to see through the open structure to the trees and houses behind it.  
  • Because it gives the perception of being less bulky. If shorter, it gives the impression of being short and squat; when it’s taller it gives the impression of being thin and less bulky. 

Q: To confirm what is shown on the slide 7 view from above: Does the entrance from Fletcher Ave also drive through the solar canopy structure and lead to other surface parking behind Cary Memorial Building and the Town Hall?

A: Yes, driving through the canopy from Fletcher Avenue leads to additional surface parking behind Cary and the Town Office Building.

Q: What is the kilowatt production of the proposed solar panel structure? Is it 200kW? Why is this paired with a 500kW battery system, and where is that battery system located?

A: The proposed size of the system is roughly 315 KW, with an annual consumption by the building of 335 KW. We have proposed a 500 KW battery because we have been informed that smaller batteries are no longer being provided. 500KW is the smallest size available to install.

Article 16(j)

Q: Is the DPF already estimating that replacing a 2 bay fire station with a like facility is $12M?

A: In all capital planning where we don’t know the final plan for the project, we would assume the scope to be the larger project and would communicate to all the financial committees for planning purposes. We would rather plan for a larger number and adjust downward versus budgeting for a smaller project and have to scramble to find funds later.

Q: How is that number being derived?

A: The budget number of $12M came from a similar fire station construction project recently constructed in Burlington. 

Q: What will the feasibility study cover and when will it be estimated to be delivered to Town leaders?

A: We are asking the architects to evaluate the current program, and to use that information to determine if the current site is able to host the program. If the site is insufficient, to look at the area the East Lexington station services and find another plot that would be a suitable location for the new fire station. If the location IS suitable, what the renovation/replacement of the building would look like and ultimately cost. 

Q: Will the feasibility study cover other MA town projects of similar size?

A: The architect will review other communities that recently constructed a fire station and would use them as comparable.

Article 25

Q: Section 19-3A of the bylaw states "Upon receipt of an application for a demolition permit for a significant building the Building Commissioner shall forward a copy thereof to the Commission". For such applications received by the Commission for the years 2018-2022, how many:

  • resulted in a delay NOT being issued (19-3C)
  • resulted in a delay being issued (19-3E)

And of those falling under 19-3E, how many were eventually demolished and how many weren't?

A: From 2018 through 2022 (FYs) the Historical Commission (HC) imposed 16 full demo delays. There were approximately 150 requests for demolition during those years. But note that the 150 includes requests for partial demolition, postponed or repeated hearings, roofline alterations, and so on. I can’t be sure whether any of the 16 were not demolished. My assumption, subject to further research, is that all 16 were demolished. HC members who were on the Commission during those years may know of one or two that were “saved."

Q: What is the process by which a home is added to our inventory of historic structures?


  1. Someone – a Historical Commission (HC) member or other member of the community – “discovers” that an important building is not listed in the Inventory but should be -- because of its historical or architectural significance in terms of period, style, method of building construction, or association with a famous architect or builder. As stated by the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC), the state agency for historic preservation, the Inventory is not limited to the earliest surviving buildings, or properties associated with prominent individuals or groups, or to properties that reflect unusual or outstanding design and construction: the typical buildings, structures, and sites associated with ordinary residents, businesses, or institutions all comprise the historic assets of a town.
  2. The Commission votes to do further study on the building, directing an HC member or outside architectural historian to investigate the building’s history and architecture. This may involve deed research at the Middlesex Registry of Deeds, or local research in the library/town archives/tax records/LHS files and photographs, etc.
  3. The research is written up on a form approved by the MHC. The form is then distributed to HC members for their review at a regularly scheduled public meeting.
  4. The HC votes to hold a public hearing on the proposed Inventory inclusion, to which the owners and abutters are invited and which is advertised in the Minuteman.
  5. After the public hearing, and based on the comments received, the HC votes whether to include the property in the Inventory.
  6. If the HC votes to include the property, it then posts the form on line on its website and sends a copy to the MHC for inclusion in MACRIS, their data base of historic homes in the Commonwealth. All the properties on the Inventory are posted to a Master List on the HC website, accessible at https://www.lexingtonma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/3770/List-of-Historical-Homes-in-Lexington-PDF (PDF).

Q: Is a homeowner necessarily notified when it takes place? I have a neighbor who was unaware their home had been added as part of the 2015 survey.

A: Yes - Section 19-8 of the Demolition Delay bylaw reads as follows:

§ 19-8 Notice of proposed inclusion of building in Cultural Resources Inventory.
[Added 3-27-2013 ATM by Art. 31]
Prior to inclusion of a building or portion thereof in the Cultural Resources Inventory, the Commission shall provide advance written notice of no less than 21 (twenty-one) days, sent to the address of the owner of record of said property, as maintained in the Assessor’s office. Said notice shall include the date of the meeting at which the Commission will deliberate on inclusion of said building in the Cultural Resources Inventory.

Before this requirement was formalized in the Bylaw in 2013, the HC routinely notified homeowners of any planned inclusion of their homes into the Inventory. In an effort to ensure that all homeowners were notified, in 2007, a mailing was sent to every home then listed, then over 1500 properties, providing the applicable Inventory forms and information about the Demolition Delay Bylaw. Another mass mailing occurred in 2015 to the owners of properties newly listed at that time. The Inventory lists almost 2000 homes today, and it is impossible for the Commission to track all transfers of properties to new owners, which is why your neighbor may not have been personally notified. But we rely on the realtors marketing the homes, as well as the information posted on the HC website, to reach as many homeowners as we can.

Q: Can anyone do it, i.e., can I submit my own or someone else's home for inclusion?

A: Yes! The HC welcomes all suggestions for new additions to the Inventory - often the homeowner has information about his/her house that is not otherwise available. But to comply with MHC requirements (see the process above) and its own standards for documentation, the HC then assigns the research and preparation of the Inventory form to one of its members or to a paid architectural historian, incorporating any information provided by the homeowner.

Article 26

Q: Do we know, of the current new house building permits that are pending (i.e. being built right now), how many are over 4000 sq ft and how many are less than 4000 sq ft?

A: 13 permits for GFA of less than 4,000 sq. ft.
111 permits for GFA of greater than 4,000 sq. ft.

Article 33

Q: What is Article 33?

A: Article 33 is a proposed revision of the portion our zoning bylaw that deals with special residential developments. Conventional subdivisions are defined by state law and may be built by right, wherever a builder can find an appropriate parcel of land to subdivide. Market forces have tended to produce conventional subdivisions of large single family homes on individual lots, with large amounts of impervious surface and little protection of natural features. In 2008, the Planning Board created the Special Permit Residential Development bylaw to encourage development of alternatives to conventional subdivisions with more diversity of housing types. It has had very limited success in producing that diversity. Article 33 is a targeted update to the SPRD bylaw to further encourage the type of housing that Lexington wants.

Q: Why is this proposal coming forward now?


  • In 2018 the Select Board, in response to an initiative from that year’s Town Meeting, created an ad hoc committee to develop an improved version of the SPRD bylaw. The Committee made interim reports to Town Meeting in 2019 (PDF) and 2022 (PDF).
  • After extensive outreach to experts and stakeholders, lengthy deliberations, and a robust public process (see next question below), the committee has now completed its work and is bringing this proposal to Town Meeting.
  • Details of the proposal have been evaluated and are reality-driven from the committee members’ diverse professional perspectives, with input from the public, builders, zoning experts, landscape architects, and housing professionals.

Q: Did the Committee seek input from the development community and the Lexington community?

A: Yes. Over the course of more than four years, the SPRD Ad Hoc Committee held multiple open public listening sessions, panel and roundtable discussions with building and planning department staff, relevant committees and commissions, state and local housing advocates and building and real estate professionals experienced with the current SPRD bylaw. All meetings of the committee were taped by Lexmedia. We also sought input from builders and architects who have constructed the type of neighborhoods that Lexington desires and that Article 33 seeks to encourage. The Committee held countless public meetings, revising and adapting their work based on the input received. In 2023 we met with the following groups and incorporated their input:

  • February 8: Planning Board public hearing
  • February 9: Cluster Housing Study Group
  • February 13: Select Board
  • February 14: Commission on Disability
  • February 15: Planning Board public hearing
  • February 21: Housing Partnership Board
  • February 23: Community-Wide Meeting at the Community Center
  • February 28: Sustainable Lexington Committee
  • March 1: SPRD Committee makes changes in response to feedback
  • March 1: Planning Board public hearing
  • March 2: Town Meeting Members Association Information Session
  • March 3: League of Women Voters First Friday forum

Q: What does Article 33 change in the existing SPRD bylaw?

A: The current SPRD bylaw has three development models: Site Sensitive Development (SSD), Balanced Housing Development (BHD) and  Public Benefit Development (PBD). An additional model, Open Space Residential Development (OSRD) was approved by the 2022 Special Town Meeting. Only PBD and OSRD require the inclusion of income restricted (affordable) housing.

Article 33 amends the SSD, and replaces the BHD and the PBD with a new model: Compact Neighborhood Development (CND). SSD as amended and CND both require a percentage of inclusionary housing, allow more variety of housing and creativity in siting than the current bylaw, and use the site plan review process, rather than special permit.

Q: This proposal requires SRDs to undergo a major Site Plan Review process with the Planning Board. Why not require a Special Permit?

A: Throughout the committee’s work, we heard feedback that the review process should be clear, consistent, and as predictable as possible.  The Site Plan Review process achieves this goal, while retaining the Planning Board’s power to thoroughly review and shape a project with appropriate conditions. While approval of conventional subdivisions is straight forward and involves little negotiation with the Planning Board, the Special Permit process has sometimes been open-ended and unpredictable, causing developers to default to the conventional model.

Article 33 requires that SRDs go through the Planning Board’s Major Site Plan Review process before a builder can get a building permit. This requires the same abutter notification and public hearings as the current Special Permit process and allows a 150-day review period. The Planning Board’s Site Plan Review regulations (https://ecode360.com/37993657) have extensive requirements.

All Applicants must submit:

  • A definitive site development plan, which includes an existing conditions plan
  • A site plan
  • A parking plan
  • A circulation plan
  • A construction plan
  • A landscaping plan
  • A lighting plan
  • An off-street parking and loading plan
  • Architectural plans including architectural renderings, building elevations, and a color rendering of the proposed structure from the public way
  • A zoning narrative that demonstrates compliance with the applicable requirements of the Zoning Bylaw and the Planning Board Regulations.

    A public hearing must be held per Section of the Lexington Zoning Bylaw, including abutter notification, advertised for two weeks prior to the date of the hearing, just as for a Special Permit.

    The Site Plan Review process provides consistency and predictability to applicants, abutters, Planning Board members and staff.
  • It has clear rules and a predictable process similar to that of conventional subdivisions instead of an open-ended, uncertain negotiation in which applicants can never be sure what they might be asked to do in order to receive approval through the Special Permit process.
  • To get the variety of homes that Lexington wants, Article 33 levels the playing field by making SRDs more competitive with conventional subdivisions while maintaining community input.
  • Site Plan Review provides policy implementation consistent with our goals, our comprehensive plan, and our housing production plans, and does so in a consistent manner regardless of who is sitting on the Planning Board.

The Similarities between the Site Plan Review and Special Permit Requirements

Site Plan ReviewSpecial Permit
Public hearing required?YesYes
Abutter notification required?YesYes
Ability to continue hearing?YesYes
StandardsSpecific standardsGeneral goals
Approval if all standards are met?YesLess predictable
Can Planning Board attach conditions?YesYes

Q: What Can the Planning Board do to modify a project under site plan review?

A: The Planning Board has created regulations and may impose conditions to ensure compliance with its regulations. The current list of regulations governs many elements, including landscaping, building planning and design, parking and transportation, construction standards and outdoor lighting. See §176-12 for the full list.

Q: What type of homes are allowed in SRDs by Article 33?

A: Both SSD and CND subdivision models permit a variety of housing types, including several homes within house-sized buildings. Depending on the configuration of the parcel, there might be traditional single-family homes, cottage homes, town homes, and two to four-unit multi-family homes. 

Q: Will homes in Special Residential Developments have Universal Design for accessibility?

A: Accessibility requirements are controlled by state regulations, and they become more rigorous as the number of homes created increases. The multi-family buildings envisioned for SRDs are subject to stricter accessibility requirements than one- and two-family homes.

Q: Will homes in Special Residential Developments be sustainably built, heated and cooled?

A: All new SRDs must comply with the state’s Stretch Energy Code and the new municipal opt-in stretch energy code adopted by Town Meeting this year, as well as all other Lexington sustainability requirements.

Q: Will SRDs provide for the preservation of open space?

A: Yes. All SRDs will require 15% of buildable land to be reserved for common open space. In addition, SSD regulations make specific provision for the preservation of natural features such as trees, slopes, and wetlands.

Q: Are SRDs in Article 33 subject to Historic Districts Commission oversight, the Historical Commission Demolition Delay Bylaw and Conservation Commission wetlands permitting?

A: Yes.

Q: What is the maximum building size allowed in SRDs by Article 33?

A: The maximum building size is smaller than that allowed in conventional subdivisions (section 4.4.2). In the RO residential zoning district, buildings in an SRD in Article 33 would be a maximum of 9,350 square feet. In the RS and RT zoning districts, maximum building size would be 7,030 square feet.

Q: What is the maximum size for an individual home in an SRD under Article 33?

A: In the Compact Neighborhood Development model, the largest home could not exceed 2,800 square feet GFA (which can be significantly larger than the actual living area, see Question 14 below)). The average home size could not exceed 2,250 square feet GFA, leading to smaller homes than are currently being built.

In the Site Sensitive Development model, the maximum home size could not exceed the maximum building size allowed. Historic structures are exempt from this limit.

Q: What is Gross Floor Area (GFA)?

A: GFA is defined by the Lexington Zoning Bylaw. The amount of building that is permitted to be built on an individual lot or subdivision parcel is calculated by square footage – gross floor area. In Lexington, the gross floor area of an individual home, includes all floors, and is defined to include basements, porches, garages and half stories or walk-up attics. Actual living area is significantly less, depending on the design of the home.

Q: Is affordable housing required by Article 33?

A: Yes, both the SSD model and the CND model require construction of inclusionary housing, or a payment in lieu of construction into Lexington’s Affordable Housing Trust. In each model, after calculation of the base GFA permitted in the development, an additional GFA of 15% is added specifically for affordable housing. Two thirds of this square footage must be in housing units affordable to households making up to 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI), which will be eligible for inclusion on our Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI). The remainder may be workforce housing (generally affordable to households making up to 150% of the AMI).

Q: Why Are Payments in Lieu allowed for developments of six or fewer homes?


  1. The question of payments in lieu of construction of affordable units will only arise in the case of Site Sensitive Developments, since the smaller size of homes in a Compact Neighborhood Development will naturally accommodate inclusionary units. For smaller Site Sensitive Developments, fitting in additional affordable units may make it more difficult to preserve the natural features of the parcel. Meeting the requirement of 15% GFA for affordable homes might result in a portion of a home, or one markedly smaller than the others. The bylaw makes clear that inclusionary homes should not be distinguishable from market rate homes, and allowing a payment into the Lexington Housing Trust avoids this problem. The payment for a development will be set by the Planning Board, pursuant to regulation and will be based on the cost of constructing 15% of allowed GFA. The SPRD Committee’s intent, and prior practice of the planning board, is that the calculation not be limited to hard construction costs.
  2. These payments are an important source of continuing funding for Lexington’s newly established Housing Trust. The money will be available to help fund the purchase of small homes for use as affordable units, or it will be applied to the creation of affordable homes in larger developments. When made, such payments will provide a source of funds for the Trust, supplementing Town appropriations.
  3. Providing this option to builders is a key part of the compromise consensus reached by the Committee in creating a zoning option that will actually be used. While it is tempting to zone only for our most favored option, if it discourages developers from building these projects, we are left with the by-right conventional subdivisions we are seeing now, which contribute neither funds nor units toward our affordable housing goals.

Q: What is a density bonus and how does it affect the number of homes that can be built in SRDs?

A: SRDs are required to add 15% to the allowable GFA in a development to be devoted to inclusionary housing. Because inclusionary housing units are deed-restricted to sell for prices well below market rate, they are built at a loss. To help defray the cost of building these units in a subdivision, SRDs permit a builder to construct an additional 15% square footage of market rate housing over the base GFA permitted.

Q: How many acres of lots in Lexington would currently qualify for a Special Residential Development under the proposed bylaw?

A: An SRD can only be built where a conventional subdivision would be allowed. This requires a tract of land with at a minimum two contiguous lots that meet the dimensional and other requirements of the existing bylaw. If an owner of a large lot subdivided their lot, or purchased the lot next to them in order to construct housing under this bylaw, all lots would need to be fully compliant with existing dimensional requirements, be on a public street, and not be constrained by wetlands or flood plain.

Q: Does Article 33 help discourage teardowns of smaller homes to be replaced with large ones?

A: This article does not address teardowns. It is an amendment to the specific part of the zoning bylaw which governs residential subdivisions and offers an alternative to conventional by-right subdivisions. This article creates incentives for a developer to build smaller and more varied home types rather than large single-family homes.

Q: What is the projected impact on schools?

A: A study of past trends finds that the number of students enrolling in LPS is not directly correlated with the number of homes in Lexington. See Open Letter, Enrollment Working Group (PDF).

Q: What is the difference between Article 33 and Article 34?

A: Article 33 amends the existing Special Permit Residential Development bylaw, as requested by the Town Meeting in 2018. It further encourages the use of alternatives to conventional subdivisions to support the Town’s housing goals. Conventional subdivisions, and hence SRDs, may be developed on any parcel in town large enough to subdivide into multiple fully compliant lots that meet existing zoning requirements.

Article 34 creates a new path for multi-family housing on lots in specific limited districts, as required by state law.

Q: Does Article 33 require a simple majority or a super majority to pass?

A: Article 33 requires a simple majority for approval by Town Meeting.

Q: If Article 33 passes, would subsequent revisions require a simple majority or a super majority?

A: Generally, if an amendment makes it easier to develop housing, it will require a simple majority.

Q: Who is on the SPRD Ad hoc Committee?

A: The Committee includes housing advocates, real estate lawyers, local real estate professionals, local builders, members of the Planning Board and neighborhood advocates. Members were appointed by the Select Board to represent diverse perspectives so as to encourage a consensus proposal that would realistically be implemented in Lexington.

The current committee members are:

  • Jill Hai, Chair and Select Board representative
  • Scott Cooper, commercial real estate attorney
  • Heather Hartshorn, Executive Director, Lexington Chamber of Commerce
  • Charles Hornig, Planning Board representative
  • Wendy Manz, attorney, former Planning Board member, Lexington Housing Partnership Board member, former Community Preservation Committee
  • Joyce Murphy, Lexington real estate agent
  • Richard Perry, Lexington builder
  • Betsey Weiss, Lexington Housing Partnership Board Vice-Chair, former Community Preservation Committee

Previous committee members are:

  • Richard Canale, Planning Board representative
  • Matt Daggett- Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee
  • Taylor Singh

Q: Some Definitions


  • Affordable Housing is housing that costs less than 30% of a household’s monthly income. It is defined by household size.
  • Subsidized Housing is subsidized by someone to bring the rent or purchase price down and make it affordable to households at a certain income level, usually expressed as a percentage of the Area Median Income (AMI).
  • The Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI) is a list of homes maintained by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) that meet certain requirements. In most cases they must be restricted to households making less than 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) and be subsidized to be affordable to households with income 10% of the AMI less than the restriction income. Some market-rate rental homes may also be included under the statute.
  • Low Income Housing is subsidized to be affordable for households making between 50% and 80% of the AMI. There is also Very Low-Income Housing (30%-50% of AMI) and Extremely Low Income Housing (<30% of AMI).
  • Workforce Housing is subsidized to be affordable for households with incomes between 80% of the AMI and the lower end of affordability of available market-rate housing. Lexington is currently using 150% of AMI as the upper bound.
  • Inclusionary Zoning requires some subsidized homes in a new housing development as a condition of approval.

Article 34

Q: In the Village Overlay (VO) District there is a height bonus when the street floor is nonresidential. The max height allowed is 60 feet if the nonresidential uses on the street floor are permitted, and max height is 52 feet if the nonresidential uses on the street floor are not permitted. This makes it sound like properties currently zoned residential can now build a project by right with unpermitted commercial uses on the street floor. Is that true? Or would there be a process by which the owner needs to get permission to now have commercial/nonresidential use on the property?

The Planning Board has mentioned the 186 Bedford Street project as an example multifamily housing project that Lexington may hope to encourage with Article 34.

To help us understand the scope/scale of possible projects that may come about from Article 34, particularly out in the neighborhoods abutting residential houses in the proposed VO Districts, could you walk me through the 186 Bedford Street project as if it had hypothetically been proposed after Article 34 zoning would be approved? If I recall, the Ciampas first proposed a gigantic L-shaped 3-story building that covered a huge percentage of the lot (plus additional impervious parking surface), with 30 apartments on floors 2 and 3 and first floor commercial. It was a big ugly, boxy looking building that completely dwarfed the direct abutting houses. (I can't find sketches of it anywhere).

The neighborhood was not thrilled, and I think the PB also had concerns. Because this project was not by right, the Ciampas met with the neighbors multiple times; cut the project height and reduced to two stories; agreed to preserve the original historic Victorian house in the design; changed the design style to go well with the mansard Victorian and surrounding neighborhood colonials; made smaller and fewer apartment units to appeal to a variety of tenants; added transition landscaping and space between the now 40 foot tall building and the direct abutting houses; and made numerous other changes to the original proposal. In general, that original proposal was way out of scale with the neighborhood, and the Ciampas eventually, because they needed approval from the neighborhood/PB/Town Meeting, reduced the scale and ended up with a so much better project that fit better, looked better, and felt a little better to the neighborhood.

If they had proposed this project with Article 34 zoning in place, my guess is they would have proposed the same gigantic L-shaped building, but it would be 52 feet and 4-stories, with an additional 15 apartments on the extra floor.

Would any of those changes above have been made or would they have been able to move forward with a project similar to the first one they proposed? What changes could the PB require, and what if any could neighbors require or request?

A: If the zoning as proposed in Article 34 is adopted and if it had been in place at 186 Bedford Street, I think it would look very much the same, maybe not any different at all. Any future projects proposed if Article 34 is adopted would still need to go through the Planning Board’s Major Site Plan review application and public hearing process. When property owners are interested in doing something they usually contact staff to review preliminary plans to get input on their plans. Once an application is submitted there is a public hearing with the Planning Board, which includes abutter notification and the Board and neighbors can weigh in on the proposal. The Planning Board members, staff, and any else can request changes of the Applicant. Applicants are generally responsive if requests are reasonable and doable.

Q: Has the Right of Way belonging to the MBTA been factored in to the plan to expand the CB district -- it looks like it's wide enough to require town be in touch with the MBTA. Or maybe you already have?

A: Zoning is at the local municipal level on the Town’s official zoning map. The Planning Board has carefully considered the zoning map with the proposed zoning map amendment. No MBTA approval is required nor does the zoning map change have an impact on the MBTA use. Only a small portion of the right-of-way is proposed to be changed from residential to be in the CB zone consistent with the surrounding area.

Q: Please provide the acreage and unit capacity of each overlay district, using the Compliance Model set forth in Appendix 2 of the Compliance Guidelines for Multi-family Zoning Districts Under Section 3A of the Zoning Act.

A: The proposed zoning overlay districts is 227 acres dispersed throughout town, an aggregate of 2% of Lexington’s total land area. We do not have anything from the state’s Compliance Model, so we cannot provide information that we do not have. After any zoning amendment approval by Town Meeting there is paper work that must be submitted to the Attorney General’s office for their review and approval. Then after that the zoning goes to the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) for them to review and determine compliance. After Town Meeting adoption we’re supposed to send the state the GIS shapefiles.

Q: Do any districts other than the Center not count towards our minimum unit capacity requirement?

A: The Planning Board’s proposal fully complies with the state statute. Lexington Center complies with the law, but not fully with the specifics in the Guidelines.

Q: I've seen several claims that our minimum acreage requirement is 80+. I believe that is incorrect and that our minimum acreage is 50, as long as those 50 acres can produce a unit capacity of 1,231. Please clarify our minimum acreage requirement.

A: The requirement for Lexington is for at least 50 acres and to zone for a housing capacity that could allow at least 1,231 units. Half of the district must be contiguous and meet other specific criteria outlined in the Compliance Guidelines. There are no requirements for construction, the requirement is to adopt zoning only. (Updated 3/24/23 to add more information.)

Q: In the presentation at the Town Meeting information session, the Planning Board stated that development in the overlay districts would be subject to Major Site Plan Review, but I don't believe that is specified in the Motion. Please clarify the type of site plan review that will apply if Town Meeting passes Article 34.

A: Any future development applications under article 34 in any of the multi-family village overlay districts would be a major site plan review application, we typically use the term “Site Plan Review” per Section 9.5 of the Zoning Bylaw; hence, the importance of Article 37’s proposal to extend the decision deadline longer to 150-days from the existing 60-days. It is imperative that Town Meeting adopt article 37 to allow more time to review any future applications.

Section 7.5.3 Procedures and Regulations of proposed Article 34 says any development under this section requires Site Plan Review by the Planning Board. Minor Site Plan review is an administrative staff function.  Only the Planning Board members have authority to review and approve any future development proposed for the village and multi-family overlay district development.

Q: In reviewing the mass.gov site related to the MBTA communities, I found the following:

“(b) An MBTA community that fails to comply with this section shall not be eligible for funds from: (i) the Housing Choice Initiative as described by the governor in a message to the general court dated December 11, 2017; (ii) the Local Capital Projects Fund established in section 2EEEE of chapter 29; or (iii) the MassWorks infrastructure program established in section 63 of chapter 23A.”

How much does Lexington receive from each of these funds on an annual basis?

A: Lexington has received $2,670,500 in MassWorks grants over the last ten years for various intersection and sidewalk improvements. In the first year of non-compliance, the Lexington Housing Authority could lose approximately $31,000 in State Operating Subsidy (10.6%) which support its annual budget as well as DHCHD Capital Project Funds.

MassWorks Projects:

  • Hayden Ave sidewalk design and construction at $868,250
  • Hayden/Waltham/Route 2 conceptual design $201,250
  • Hayden / Spring intersection design and construction $425,500
  • Concord / Spring intersection design and construction $425,500
  • Spring Street sidewalk and Waltham St intersection approximately $750,000

Q: For the properties in the VO districts where the underlying zoning is Residential (RS/RO), will article 34 now allow commercial/retail uses on the street floor by right (or special permit)? Those uses are currently not allowed (not even by special permit), but the motion says that in the VO district a building can be 52 feet tall if "the nonresidential uses are not permitted in the underlying district," which sounds like projects will be allowed to have unpermitted uses on the street floor (and get a height bonus for doing so). Could you clarify?

A: If the underlying zoning district doesn’t allow businesses uses, the VO would allow light business uses (the uses currently allowed in the Central Business & Retail Shopping Districts) which requires a site plan review approval and public hearing with the Planning Board.  Any proposed nonresidential use would not be “unpermitted” it would require a site plan review approval by the Planning Board.

Q: How might Article 34 contribute to (or detract from) Lexington's ability to achieve its net zero goal? If new development moves forward, what articles / regulations would be in effect that might make these new developments more sustainable than the buildings they would be replacing?

A: Article 34 works in concert with the Town’s sustainability and net zero goals. Multifamily housing (and housing diversity in general), especially near mixed-use areas, reduces dependency on single-occupancy vehicles and encourages walking, biking, and transit use. These are essential steps for reducing Lexington’s transportation emissions. Multifamily developments are also by their very nature more efficient and less energy intensive than large single family homes. All relevant energy regulations, such as the specialized stretch code regulations (Article 26) and the Fossil Fuel Ban Demonstration Program regulations (Article 27) would apply to developments covered by the proposed Article 34 zoning changes.

Q: Does Article 34 need a simple majority to pass at Town Meeting or a 2/3 majority? What if Article 34 was separated into multiple articles?

A: Article 34 requires a simple majority to pass at Town Meeting. If Article 34 were separated in to multiple articles without substantive alterations, the articles would still require a simple majority, subject to confirmation from Town Counsel.

Q: If Article 34 passes at Town Meeting, what would be the threshold of votes needed to make amendments to the Zoning Bylaw at a future Town Meeting?

A: This would depend on the hypothetical amendments proposed. There are strict requirements for what can be amended through a simple majority. More information is provided by the Commonwealth at the following link: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/voting-threshold-guidance

Q: What kinds of zoning ordinance or bylaw can be enacted with a simple majority vote? 

A: Under the newly amended section 5 of the Zoning Act, a zoning ordinance or bylaw can be enacted by a simple majority vote, rather than the 2/3 supermajority that applies to other zoning amendments, if that ordinance or bylaw does any of the following:

  • Allows for multi-family housing or mixed-use developments “as of right” in an eligible location.
  • Allows for open space residential development as of right.
  • Allows accessory dwelling units, either within the principal dwelling or within a detached structure on the same lot, as-of-right.
  • Allows by special permit accessory dwelling units in a detached structure on the same lot.
  • Reduces the parking requirements for residential or mixed-use development under a special permit.
  • Permits an increase in the permissible density of population or intensity of a particular use in a proposed multi-family or mixed-use development that requires a special permit.
  • Changes dimensional standards such as lot coverage or floor area ratio, height, setbacks, minimum open space coverage, parking, building coverage to allow for the construction of additional residential units on a particular parcel or parcels of land.
  • Provides for the transfer of development rights or natural resource protection zoning in instances where the adoption of such zoning promotes concentration of development in areas that the municipality deems most appropriate for such development, but will not result in a diminution in the maximum number of housing units that could be developed within the municipality.
  • Adopts a smart growth or starter home districts in accordance with section 3 of Chapter 40R of the General Laws.

Key terms such as “multi-family housing,” “mixed-use development,” “accessory dwelling unit,” “transfer of development rights,” “natural resource protection zoning,” and “eligible location” are now defined in section 1A of the Zoning Act.  (February 26, 2021)

Q: On Slide 14 of the presentation, it predicts that Article 34 MBTA Communities multi-family by-right zoning would yield "400-800 new units in 4-10 years". Can you provide the details and basis for this prediction, including In which of the zone(s) and parcels these units would potentially be?

A: We looked at the proposed zoning overlay districts and analyzed the specific properties. Our estimate evaluated:

  • the existing structures
  • current use of the properties
  • natural features such as the topography and slopes
  • known wetlands and resources areas
  • size of the lots
  • current market conditions
  • local knowledge of a property’s history
  • known easements
  • environmental conditions
  • shape of the lots
  • parking availability
  • typical permitting and construction timing

The large majority of properties in the overlay districts are small, so we expect development would be incremental. Given the vacancy and last year’s disapproval for lab proposal, the largest property we think is most likely to be developed is the former Tennis Club/Boston Sports Club property at 475 Bedford St. that has potentially approximately 3.5  acres that could be developed for housing.

Q: If Town Meeting approves this Article, and subsequent development exceeds expectations, would these changes be reversible? Would any reversal (full or partial) require 2/3 approval?

A: Future changes would require a zoning amendment, the same process that is currently underway with a Town Meeting vote to approve any future zoning amendments.  The specific change would determine if a super or simple majority would be required. 

Generally, if the zoning amendment is proposing more housing through a non-discretionary permit process that requires a simple majority vote.  

If the zoning amendment is not permissive for housing and if it were proposing to make housing more restrictive, that would require a 2/3 voting threshold. More on voting thresholds.

Q: Would any reversal be required to grandfather in projects already underway? Would landowners have ground to sue for loss of value?

A: If article 34 is adopted, if there were any projects already submitted they would not be impacted by any future amendment because they would be subject to the zoning in place when they submitted their application.  If article 34 is adopted then later amended, property owners in those districts have a right to submit plans to obtain a zoning freeze to maintain zoning on their property for eight years if submitted prior to a Town Meeting vote.

Q: The structure of this Article accepts the MBTACA requirement of By-Right development, but adds several incentives on top, designed to encourage mixed-use development over residential-only. If our goal is really to encourage mixed-use development, why not do so more directly where we are allowed? Wouldn't it make more sense to apply the current structure, which complies with MBTACA, to the minimum acreage; and to apply a separate structure to the remaining acreage, in which our desired outcome (mixed use, of reasonable scale) is more directly required?

A: The Board’s zoning proposal is primarily over commercially zoned properties with some residential properties included in nearby areas.  Residential uses and nonresidential uses are not permitted currently in most areas, only very limited housing is allowed above the ground floor in the center business district presently. The village overlays that are on residentially zoned properties give owners the option of doing only residential, or adding in a nonresidential use.

Q: In the Multi-Family Overlay (MFO) District, including the Center, what is the maximum height allowed? I assume "bonus" feet do not pertain as all development in MFO must include commercial first floors.

What is the parking regulation for the Central Business (CB) Zone?


  • A-1: For the MFO District proposed in Article 34, if someone pursues development in the MFO the maximum allowable height is 52 ft., which is 4 stories total and the ground floor is required to be nonresidential. The Board arrived at this maximum height to allow three-floors of residential above a commercial use.
  • A-2: For both the MFO District proposed in Article 34 and the CB District, the minimum required parking for any residential dwelling is 1 per dwelling unit and the non-residential use parking requirements are the same as required today in the CB district depending on the proposed use.

It should be noted the zoning requires uses to provide the minimum amount required; more parking can be provided.  Presently many homes across town have more than 1 parking spaces, but the zoning only requires a minimum of 1 space per dwelling.

Q: Will the historic commission have any control over development in the center. My understanding is they can only control exterior architectural details on existing buildings. They have no control on demolition or construction, other than a 1 year delay on demolition. My understanding is that there powers are discretionary in nature due to the subjectivity of what is historical, therefore a developer will argue that the MBTA law takes precedence (no discretionary zoning). Can we ask the HDC or Town Counsel?

A: The Historic Districts Commission’s authority still applies with no changes.  The MBTA Community Zoning is party of the state’s Zoning Act Section 3A but the Historic District Commission operates under their own legislation, separate from the Zoning Act.  The recent “MBTA Communities law” does not affect the historic districts.

The HDC works with Applicants to make sure historic elements are retained and they have set up a process for property owners where they encourage an early informal review to make sure owners are on the right track.  The HDC has specific Historic District Design Guidelines and a process for applicants (PDF).  Most modifications to the exterior architectural features of any building, structure, or site in a Historic District, such as the Battle Green, and any new addition, new construction or demolition requires approval from the Historic District Commission.

Q: Is the Historic Districts Commission able to approve/deny the design of proposed buildings in Historic Districts on the basis of whether they interfere with "line of sight?" For example, could the HDC require that a proposed building have a set-back or height reduction in certain locations or parts of a parcel so as to not be visible from important areas such as the Battle Green?

A. The Historic Districts Commission (HDC) has specific Design Guidelines that they use when reviewing applications and they have to approve all exterior construction prior to any building permits.  The focus of the HDC’s purview is on protecting the historical context and the integrity of the historic elements. The Design Guidelines talk about building massing, storefronts, siting, and materials.  

For additions, the HDC recommends additions be setback from the historic façade so that it does not detract from the historic portion of a building. For new construction the HDC and the Design Guidelines are intended to ensure new buildings will be compatible with their immediate surroundings in terms of siting, setbacks, scale, design, and materials. 

New construction and exterior alterations in a historic district, such as the Battle Green, must receive approval from the HDC.  If Article 34 is adopted and there was interest staff would recommend working with the HDC very early in the process before submission to the Planning Board.  The HDC and Planning Board would need to work closely together on any future applications. 

Q: Looking at the Marrett Rd / Spring St, the article has extended the VO zone beyond the current commercial zone into the surrounding residential district approximately doubling it. As far as I can interpret from the article, this will essentially rezone that area as commercial, since lower floor area can (should) be used for commercial purposes. Can you confirm my interpretation is correct, or explain why it is not

A. Yes, the VO in the Marrett Rd./Spring St. intersection is an overlay district that is proposed over the commercial properties in the CN (Neighborhood Business)  and the CSX (Commercial Service Expanded) and some residential properties in the RS (one family) zone are included in this zoning proposal.  If adopted, the properties in the RS zone would be permitted to develop a multi-family residential building or they could also provide some light business uses on the street floor, which does introduce new nonresidential uses not currently allowed.  The VO zoning allows for uses permitted in the CRS (Retail Shopping) and CB (Central Business (the Center)) zones.  Article 34 is an Overlay Zoning District so the underling existing zoning will remain but the Overlay offers and additional optional zoning layer for property owners.

Article 36

Q: When will more information be available regarding the specifics of how the dimensional controls would change? I am a TM member, and a constituent sent an email stating that he does not want 60-foot-tall buildings in Lexington Center. Please post more detailed information on the Town website so that TM members and citizens can decide what a yes or no vote would mean to them.

A: In article 36 no changes to the dimensional controls are proposed. Article 36 is amending the zoning map for the subject areas to be in the Central Business (CB) zone. The CB zone currently allows up to 25 ft. maximum height. This article does not change the maximum height of 25 ft. Separately, article 34 proposes an overlay district that allows up to 52 ft. in height under certain specific conditions detailed in article 34.

Q: Could you please explain the process for transforming our municipal parking lot into a CB usage? Would the town have to sell the land to a private party first? If so, would that require a town meeting vote? Could the town itself develop a CB usage? Would that require a vote by town meeting?

A: Currently there are no plans for the municipal parking lot.  The parking lot is owned by the Town. Any change to a commercial use, sale, lease, or other arrangement would require approval from the Select Board and Town Meeting.

Q: Is the CB zone by-right development under site plan review or does it require a special permit and town meeting vote? 

A: Each zoning district has specific uses that are allowed under different conditions, some uses are not allowed in the CB (such as a Funeral Parlor), some uses are allowed by Special Permit in the CB (such as fast food service or real estate office and bank), some uses are allowed by-right. New construction of more than 10,000 SF requires site plan review.  Town Meeting does not approve specific new uses and new businesses, just as they don’t today in the CB district.  Town Meeting approves zoning changes or changes to Town land. 

Q: If the municipal lot were ever developed what would be the plan for parking in Lexington Center? In other words, how would the transition be managed? How would those lost parking spaces be replaced?

A: It’s too early to say exactly what would happen because there is no proposal.  The Select Board would drive any future process and bring a full proposal to Town Meeting.  The Select Board values the municipal parking and realize the critical need for parking. If there were ever development plans for the municipal lot I would expect parking to be retained on the property and rearranged on the lot.  It’s also common for parking to be underground or at a ground level with any new development above parking.

Q: If 36 fails to pass and 34 passes, does the 34 overlay district still apply to the municipal lot?

A: Yes, articles 34 and 36 are completely independent zoning amendments.

Q: Please ask the Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) for their position on article 36?

A: The EDAC took up the following motion on March 2, 2023 and voted unanimously to advise the Select Board:

The Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) supports the overall spirit and principles of the Article 34 rezoning bylaw which presents an important opportunity to vitalize Lexington’s economy to bring a variety of small and large businesses that contribute to the tax base and provide goods and services to meet the needs of residents, employees, and visitors. The new range of mixed commercial and housing types in a variety of locations throughout town would promote the synergistic goals of Lexington economic vitality together with diversity, equity, and inclusion of people visiting, living, and working in Lexington while supporting the growth of small and large businesses. Additionally:

  • The EDAC recognizes that Article 34 goes beyond the minimum requirements of M.G.L. c. 40A § 3A (a)(1) and supports this rezoning opportunity to develop Lexington towards achieving the economic vitality objectives as laid out in the 2022 Comprehensive Plan.
  • The EDAC recommends a more rigorous analysis and oversight of Lexington Center development opportunities be addressed by the Planning Board through the planning process and that the Planning Board should adopt and publish reasonably necessary site plan review regulations around parking, circulation, and transportation, and other areas specific to Lexington Center. 

Article 37

Q: If article 37 were to fail, could the town planning office cope with the current 60-day limit by hiring additional staff?

A: The sixty days definitely is not enough time now-a-days. There are legal advertisement requirements in the local newspaper which used to be printed daily so it was much easier but over time as printed newspapers have become less common these sorts of deadlines are near impossible even if we had a lot more staff because we have to send notices to the newspaper at only certain times.

Lexington has had a 60-day timeframe for Site Plan Review applications for some time, but this type of application used to be less common with the Planning Board. Until recently, special permits were the most common application before the Planning Board. Special Permits and subdivision applications typically take 3-5 months to complete so the Board’s proposal to allow up to a maximum of 150-days is common for applications for new construction.

Staff and the Planning Board always review material as efficiently as possible, but if we got into a situation where the deadline came, it would mean a project could be constructively approved as submitted without an approval from the Planning Board. Town Meeting warrant articles 33 & 34 both call for new site plan review applications, which is why myself and the Planning Board also felt it was important to bring forward this zoning amendment now. Applicants typically assume a 6- month period for permitting so 150-days is not a delay for applicants but is very standard for a new construction project. Below are some recent applications that came before the Planning Board:

  • 69 Pleasant Definitive Site Sensitive Development (144 days with 4 public hearings)
  • 35 Hayes Ln. Site Sensitive Development (65 days, 2 public hearings) – included a preliminary sketch plan process
  • Emerson Gardens Lexington Meadows (46 days)
  • 95 Hayden Ave./Hobbs Brook (2 public hearings, 62 days) – received a preliminary review through Town Meeting process
  • 12-18 Hartwell Ave. (55 days)

There are no requests for staffing increase in the Planning Division so more staff wouldn’t help, although of course I’d like to have more staff but I don’t see that happening any time soon. The Planning Board’s proposal for up to 150 days is really what is needed to ensure projects are being reviewed and that Applicants also have time to respond. Major Site Plan Review applications are new construction projects which includes a tremendous amount of information and entails a very technical review. Minor site plan review applications are things like an addition or small exterior changes to commercial properties. A Major Site Plan Review is when there is exterior construction for commercial and industrial projects over 5,000 sq. ft. so it’s usually a new building and new use.

We also have no control over when applications are submitted and the timing is critical. When applications are submitted during Town Meeting, many at the same time, or the day after the deadline that is a cause for concern. The 150 days is a more realistic timeframe for board members, applicants, and neighbors without it being too long or too quick. Some of these 60-day approvals have gone so fast Applicants didn’t realize what they were agreeing too and then have to return to the Planning Board for modification requests.

Most of the applications received a preliminary review by the Planning Board first, but with the new Site Plan Review projects that would come forward if Articles 33 & 34 are approved, there is no requirement for a preliminary sketch plan filing. Sometimes the Planning Board can review projects in 60 days but for new construction more time is needed. When we met the time frames in the past it was because they went through a Town Meeting or Sketch Plan and public hearing process first.

The trigger for a major site plan review also applies for multi-family residential and for projects that trigger a review under Section 6.9 of the zoning bylaw. But no site plan review is required for a single or two family house if the lot is already existing.

Article 40

Q: For our Chief Equity Officer: How might Article 40 lead to greater (or less) diversity, equity, and inclusion in Lexington's population?

A: In order to understand the impact of this article on diversifying Lexington we would need to do a deep dive into knowing the demographics of individuals who purchase larger homes versus smaller homes. We do not currently have data on this particular topic, therefore I’m not sure whether or not Article 40 could increase or decrease diversity in Lexington’s population.