Create a Website Account - Manage notification subscriptions, save form progress and more.
Community information and listening sessions have already begun even though the actual development process is many months away. There will be multiple opportunities for Lexington residents and neighbors of the Parcel to have input. These opportunities for input will continue throughout the process. Opportunities for community comment are afforded during the Select Board’s meeting to consider the Local Initiative Program or LIP letter of support as well as during Zoning Board of Appeals’ hearings for the Comprehensive Permit. Abutters are notified in advance of the opening of the Zoning Board of Appeal’s public hearings. In addition to the Zoning Board of Appeals public meetings, the Zoning Board of Appeals is also required to seek comment from relevant Boards and Committees upon receipt of the LIP application, which provides additional public comment opportunities. The public’s comments and issues throughout the hearing process are explored by the Zoning Board of Appeals and the developer.
Show All Answers
The first goal of the LexingtonNEXT Comprehensive Plan dated September 28, 2022, is “to promote the diversity, equity, and inclusion of people visiting, living, and working in Lexington” and furthermore, to “[r]emove barriers to live in Lexington.” The second goal of LexingtonNEXT addresses Lexington’s need “to provide a range of housing options to enable more diversity in age, income, physical ability, race, religion, and ethnicity.” https://www.lexingtonma.gov/816/Lexington-Next---Comprehensive-Plan
The demand by residents throughout Massachusetts, regionally and locally to live in housing that is affordable far surpasses the supply. The Town of Lexington Community 2023 Community Preservation Plan Needs Assessment dated December 2023 details how “[t]he effort in Lexington to maintain a range of affordability’ is increasingly difficult.” The demand is evidenced in the multi-year-long waiting lists for the Lexington Housing Authority Villages, the Lexington Housing Authority single-family units, LexHAB’s multiple waiting lists, the average number of applicants for LexHAB’s Fairview and Farmview properties, applicants for first-time homebuyer units and the Commonwealth’s 7500 “families who are either homeless or at risk of being homeless.” For instance,“[t]he most recent lottery for the SHI general wait list was held in October of 2021. There were ninety-six applicants on this list; as of this writing, LexHAB has only been able to place one of those applicants in a home.” (p.17-19)
In Lexington, 21% of all Lexington households make below 80% of the area median income, which is considered by HUD to be low income (Source: HUD Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy (CHAS) 2016-2020; HUD Income Limits 2020). 65% of low income renters and 76% of low income owners pay more than 30% of their income for housing which is considered to be cost burdened (Source: 2016-2020 American Community Survey; DHCD Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI); US Census 2020).
People who need housing that is affordable could be your children, young families just starting out, town employees, teachers, your server at a restaurant in town, or people working at local businesses. A rent increase, divorce, loss of a spouse, job loss, or other adverse circumstances may create additional needs for housing that is affordable as well.
People often look at a community’s Subsidized Housing Inventory or SHI as an indication of the acceptable number of affordable homes and for determining a community's compliance with Chapter 40B, Massachusetts' comprehensive permit law. Lexington’s subsidized housing inventory percentage of 10.95% has been trending down since 2020 (Source: Metropolitan Area Planning Council 8.2023 Report).
The SHI percentage includes market-rate units that are part of a development if at least 20% of the units are occupied by households earning less than 50% of area median income or if at least 25% of the units are occupied by households earning less than 80% of area median income. In actuality, only 684 out of 12,252 (Source: 2016-2020 American Community Survey; DHCD Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI); US Census 2020). Lexington households are truly affordable for lower-income households or only 5.5% of the total housing stock in Lexington.
In recent years, tight standards for mortgage loans and high home prices have made it impossible for many people to buy homes, causing more people to become renters. Rental prices are out of reach for many, due to large numbers of renters and the scarcity of rental inventory. Homes with rents that are affordable will enable residents to pay less for housing, go beyond basic necessities and buy healthy food, have better access to health care, spend more at their local businesses, and live where they work. In turn, this creates opportunities for investing in Lexington’s future through the creation of jobs, improved mobility, and payments-in-lieu or tax revenue to the Town. Communities that are diverse and inclusive are more likely to form bonds and create a sense of belonging for all residents. Creating housing that is affordable is consistent with LexingtonNext, the Community Preservation Committee’s 2023 Needs Assessment, the Select Board’s Housing Goals and Priorities, and why the Affordable Housing Trust was created. Housing that is affordable affects all of us.
Article 33 asks Town Meeting to allow Parcel 68-44 (town-owned land) to be designated for use as affordable housing. The Article authorizes the Select Board to start the process to explore affordable housing on the Parcel 68-44 and to enter into a land disposition agreement or lease for use of Parcel 68-44 for purposes of affordable housing. The Article does not seek to approve a specific proposal or number of apartments. This is the first step in a multi-year endeavor to develop affordable housing on a parcel of underutilized Town-owned land.
Parcel 68-44 is approximately 3.1 acres of land which was a gift of land from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to the Town of Lexington, which the Town accepted in 1978 for the purpose of conservation, recreation, or housing. It has not been used or designated to be used since its gift to Lexington 46 years ago. It is currently zoned Government Civic. The Parcel is not identified as a priority site in the Open Space and Recreation Plan. The Parcel is not designated as conservation land. Additionally, the Recreation Committee unanimously supports Article 33.
Lexington needs ”to produce a range of housing types in a variety of locations throughout Town” which includes developing housing that meets “the town’s housing goals, such as subsidized housing, on underutilized municipal properties.” LexingtonNEXT, Objective 2.1. The urgency of this need cannot be overstated (See Question #1.) https://www.lexingtonma.gov/816/Lexington-Next---Comprehensive-Plan
After reviewing approximately 300 Town-owned properties, the Affordable Housing Trust has determined that the Lowell Street and North Street site is the only Town-owned property currently available and feasible for a multi-family development of all affordable housing in Lexington. The other Town-owned properties are too small or otherwise unbuildable, are designated or planned to be used for other purposes, or are landlocked among other reasons.
All affordable housing as envisioned for the Lowell Street parcel presents a rare chance to build a meaningful number of all affordable homes
The Affordable Housing Trust commissioned a title search, a Phase 1 21E Environmental Assessment, a wetlands delineation, an engineering survey, and a soil type and groundwater investigation. The Affordable Housing Trust also attended a Development Review Team (DRT) meeting with members of the Planning Department, the Fire Department, the Police Department, the Building Department, the Health Department, the Town Engineering Department, the Sustainability and Resilience Officer, the Zoning Department, the Land Use Department, and the Economic Development Department.
Based on the information obtained, the land was determined to be developable.
Early on, the Affordable Housing Trust established its Values. These values demonstrate a commitment to provide affordable housing prioritizing a diversity of lower incomes and to create high-quality, sustainable housing that is well integrated into the community, that will remain affordable for future generations, and that supports diversity, equity, and inclusion. The AHT’s goal for Parcel 68-44 is to leverage CPA funds to create an all-affordable, family-oriented rental housing that is respectful of and well-integrated into the community. This housing will be for income-eligible (see Question #31) households with a mix that will include one-, two-, and three-bedroom units. The number of units and other aspects of the design will be determined during the development process with ample opportunity for community input.
A town-owned parcel is a unique opportunity to provide all affordable apartments by highly leveraging the Town’s resources with federal and state funding to deliver the most affordable housing apartments per dollar of Town funds. Affordable housing on privately owned land envisioned under the MBTA Multi-Family and SRD Zoning Articles usually includes a mix of market rate and affordable housing typically resulting in only 1 affordable apartment for every 8-10 market-rate apartments.
If Town Meeting approves Warrant Article 33, the Town will issue an RFP for affordable housing. Similar to the process previously used by the Town to evaluate RFPS, the Town will review any proposals received, evaluating the affordability levels, number of apartments, site plan, building design, parking and other criteria. If a proposal meets Town goals and is approved by the Select Board, the Select Board will enter into a land disposition agreement or long term lease with the successful proponent. The proponent will be required to secure permits, Zoning Board of Appeals approval, federal and state approval, complete site plan reviews, proceed with the LIP 40B process (which is described in Question #16), and secure financing before commencing construction. There will be many opportunities for community input throughout the process.
If the Town receives an acceptable proposal and the Town enters into a land disposition agreement, it would include safeguards that would return the parcel to town ownership if the development is not completed as proposed. The Town may alternatively choose to lease the land for a long-term 99-year lease which would have similar safeguards. In either case, the Town’s interests would be protected.
There are pros and cons to leasing the land or entering a land disposition agreement. The Town Counsel will advise on these and the Select Board will determine which is the most advantageous route for the Town to pursue at the appropriate time.
In addition, affordable housing apartments will be protected by an affordable housing restriction to ensure that the provisions are preserved in perpetuity.
Affordable housing developers create housing for households as defined in Question #31. For instance, these would include individuals or families with jobs in town, school nurses, and teachers among others (See Question #2). The affordable housing developer identifies and secures resources to fill the gap between the rents that are affordable to eligible residents and the costs of creating the housing. These gaps may be filled by capital subsidies and/or rent payment subsidies. Securing these subsidies is the unique work of the affordable housing developer. While market rate and affordable housing developers build housing, affordable housing developers also build a complex financial, equity, and regulatory framework. They are not just creating physical structures, but also designing a financial model to bridge the gap between market prices and what eligible residents can afford.
Typically, all affordable housing requires 6-12 different sources of funding from state, federal, and private sources, including government grants, low-income housing tax credits, private investments, and loans to finance the development, construction, and operation of housing that is affordable. A local commitment is required to leverage these other funding sources.
Almost all of these specialized subsidies target the creation of affordable housing for rentals. Creating affordable homes for owners would require the Town to provide the bulk of the funding."
The potential disposition or lease of the land and funding by the Affordable Housing Trust is anticipated to be Lexington’s direct contribution. The amount of Trust funds will be determined by the development costs, the development pro forma and financing plan, and the subsidies secured. This will be used to leverage the bulk of the necessary funds from state, federal, and private financing. The leveraging model has been used throughout the Commonwealth countless times and it has successfully demonstrated that local funds will go far towards the creation of many affordable homes.
The Commonwealth’s Local Initiative Program 40B Comprehensive Permit (LIP) encourages the creation of affordable housing where the municipality is engaged. Lexington has used this process before in the creation of the LexHAB properties at 52 Lowell Street (Farmview) and 11 Fairview Avenue.
Established by the Commonwealth in 1990, the LIP Comprehensive Permit process is more streamlined and efficient than rezoning. Furthermore, the Town will save money with this simplified process without sacrificing community and Town input on the development and design.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires substantial documentation including letters of support from the municipality (the Select Board will hold a public meeting), housing partnership, site plans, letters of interest from construction lenders, site control documentation, sample floor plans and elevations and proposed marketing materials to apply for a Comprehensive Permit. Unlike conventional housing subsidy programs, in which a state or federal agency must approve every aspect of financing, design and construction, LIP allows most of these decisions to be made by the municipality.1 The Town and the affordable housing developer jointly submit the application. After the Commonwealth issues a Project Eligibility Letter, the applicant may then submit a formal application to the Lexington Zoning Board of Appeals for a LIP Comprehensive Permit. The Zoning Board of Appeals is the permit granting authority under M.G.L. Chapter 40B.
State statutes and regulations, such as the Wetlands Protection Act, Title 5, and all building codes, remain fully in effect under the Comprehensive Permit. The Zoning Board of Appeals receives comments and recommendations from applicable boards and committees and holds a series of public hearings. Such issues as traffic, safety, parking, wastewater treatment or other environmental studies will be reviewed. Since this is an application for the LIP Comprehensive Permit, the affordable housing developer will work cooperatively with the Town. Once the Zoning Board of Appeals has reached an informed decision and closes the public hearing process, the Zoning Board of Appeals will issue a decision approving as proposed, approving with conditions, or denying the permit.
Article 33 initiates a process that could take approximately 4-6 years including construction.
These zoning changes allow for the creation of market-rate multi-family housing. While affordable housing may be included in MBTA or SRD zones; the percentage of affordable homes would be limited to 10-15% depending on the size of the development. An all-affordable housing development using Town land as envisioned for Parcel 68-44 is a rare opportunity to build a meaningful number of all-affordable homes geared towards lower-income residents.
The expected approval process does not require a return to Town Meeting. Town Meeting recently voted to enable MBTA and SRD zoning that also does not require Town Meeting approval on a property-by-property basis and the zoning creates an environment giving housing the potential to be developed with a site plan review. Lexington has a successful track record with prior LIP 40B comprehensive permits (e.g., Farm View on Lowell Street). The LIP Project Eligibility Letter (see Question #16) requires that the developer has site control as will be evidenced in the Land Disposition Agreement or the long-term lease. That well-defined review process, the terms and conditions in the RFP and resulting Land Disposition Agreement or long-term lease plus the terms of the Comprehensive Permit (after numerous public meetings with the Zoning Board of Appeals and applicable boards and committees) provide ample opportunities for reviewing stakeholder and community input and to protect the Town’s interests. Returning to Town Meeting would limit and possibly eliminate proposals received, add up to another year to the process, and make the development more expensive with the delay.
The RFP will outline the goals of the Town for the development of the parcel including creation of housing that is a) respectful of and well-integrated into the surrounding community and environment; b) is of high-quality design and construction, and c) maximizes the protection of resource areas and natural features. The RFP will seek proposals for all affordable family-oriented rental housing targeting a range of incomes from 30%-80% AMI (averaging 60% AMI as required to leverage state and federal funding) and creating a mix of apartment sizes of 1, 2, and 3-bedrooms. The RFP will include the selection criteria and process. The RFP will also require an expectation for the applicant to obtain a LIP Comprehensive Permit and provide conceptual design plans, initial proposed financing structure, rental management expectations, details of the implementation plan and timeline, and other supporting documents.
The site was evaluated from a strictly construction and engineering framework. However, the RFP applicants will use many additional factors and criteria to determine the number of units that they will submit in their proposal.
The number of proposed apartments in the development won’t be known until a proposal pursuant to an RFP is accepted by the Select Board. A land disposition agreement or long-term lease negotiated with the affordable housing developer will set forth agreed-upon terms and conditions. Affordable housing funding sources, like federal and state Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, depend on certain economies of scale. These affordable housing tax credits and other funding sources are critical to creating all affordable housing.
A handful of townhomes or duplexes would not be eligible for federal and state subsidies and low-income housing tax credits and in that event, the Town would bear the bulk of the financial burden for construction (See Question #10.) Furthermore, building only a few affordable homes at the Town’s expense would cause the Town to miss out on an extremely rare opportunity to advance its affordable housing goals in a meaningful way. This opportunity is especially important given the urgent need for affordable homes and also considering that Lexington has produced so little affordable housing in the last thirteen years. The addition of affordable homes on the Lowell Street parcel would represent only a small fraction of Lexington’s housing stock which stands at 12,252 homes (Source: US Census 2020). This modest increase would only scratch the surface of addressing affordable housing needs in the area.
During the Design Review Team meeting (See Question #7), Town Staff indicated that a traffic study will be required during the permitting process to identify traffic impacts and any recommendations to address them.
There may be opportunities to enhance walkability including the addition of a crosswalk at the Lowell Street intersection. The parcel of land is only .5 miles from the Market Basket Plaza.
There is a sidewalk on Lowell Street on the opposite side from parcel 68-44. There are crosswalks with a pedestrian signal for the Lowell Street sidewalk to cross North Street. The importance of additional sidewalks in this neighborhood has been acknowledged in the Town Bicycle and Pedestrian plan.
Lexington has applied for a grant through the new Regional Transit Innovation Grant. If awarded, it would create a bus route from Waltham to Burlington via Lexington. This would increase service from every 60 minutes to every 30 minutes. This will facilitate the many transfer opportunities along the route (LRTA#14, MBTA #350, #351, #62, #76, #62/76, #61, Waltham Commuter Rail, and Lexpress service and REV Alewife Shuttle).
If the grant is not awarded, existing Lexpress service already in that area via Route B travels Market Basket, the Burlington Mall, Lahey Burlington, the Wegmans area and the connecting services (LRTA #14, MBTA #350, #351) and in the other direction to Lexington Center and connecting services: MBTA #62, #76, #62/76, and the other Lexpress routes and REV Alewife Shuttle.
The number of proposed apartments and the proposed apartment sizes won’t be known until the proposals are received and one is chosen. It is not possible to project the number of students until that time.
It is also illegal under the Fair Housing Act of 1968 as well as under the Massachusetts Fair Housing Law to discriminate against families with children.
That said, Joe Pato and Rod Cole of the School Enrollment Working Group wrote an open letter in Feb 2023 in regards to concerns over a hypothetical addition to Lexington of 1200-1500 households in connection with the MBTA Multi-Family and the SRD 2023 Town Meeting Zoning Articles The findings from the Five Year Enrollment Forecasts for Lexington Public School: FY2015-FY2020 Report of the Enrollment Group study show that new developments take time to fill out (from a student enrollment perspective) and that even when fully occupied have an occupancy ratio less than 1 per unit (since the majority of units don’t have students). Further, student ages tend to span multiple grades. For instance, if one looks just at the elementary schools, broadly there were approximately 10,000 households and 6 elementary schools so roughly 1600 households per elementary school. https://zoom.joepato.org/2023/02/open-letter-regarding-the-effects-of-housing-expansion-on-school-enrollment/
The Lexington Assessor has not seen any obvious market value impact or assessment impact (either positive or negative) on surrounding properties from similar developments such as Locke Village, Courtyard Place, Lexington Housing Authority properties, Jefferson Drive, Pine Grove Village (on Judge’s Road), Avalon Apartments, and likewise the properties adjacent to the all affordable Farm View property on Lowell Street.
The parcel is subject to the Town of Lexington Storm Water Bylaw (https://ecode360.com/12207814) and subject to the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act (https://www.mass.gov/doc/310-cmr-1000-the-wetlands-protection-act) and the Town of Lexington local wetlands bylaw (https://ecode360.com/10529372).
The wetlands on the site were delineated by a wetlands scientist, and an application for that boundary will be reviewed by the Conservation Commission in a process called an Abbreviated Notice of Resource Area Delineation to be filed in early spring 2024. Approximately 25% of the site is located within a wetlands buffer zone. The due diligence undertaken by the Affordable Housing Trust indicates that the site can support a feasible scale of development for all affordable rental housing while leaving the wetland resource area undisturbed.
Town Engineering staff have been consulted and have not identified water or sewer concerns in this area. (See Question #7.)
Prior to the beginning of construction, the successful applicant will need to submit a detailed construction and noise mitigation plan to the Town that addresses these and other construction concerns.
Figure 1* shows the current income limits for households of 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 people as determined by the US Dept. of Housing & Urban Development. These are percent of Area Median Income (AMI). The future apartments anticipated for the parcel would most likely be for households earning 80% or less of Area Median Income. There will also likely be a mix of households with incomes ranging from 30% to 80% of AMI.
*Source: Income limits are calculated by HUD (U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development) for the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH HUD Metro FMR Area.
The Affordable Housing Trust has already started holding informational sessions with the neighbors. The Trust has also met with the Capital Expenditures Committee, the Planning Board, the Recreation Committee, the Appropriation Committee, the Lexington Housing Assistance Board, the Lexington Housing Authority, the Housing Partnership Board and has reached out to the Commission on Disability, the Council on Aging, the Human Rights Committee, the Greenways Corridor Committee, the School Committee, the Sustainability Committee, the Transportation Advisory Committee and the Tree Committee and will continue to reach out and have conversations. The Affordable Housing Trust has also reached out to a wide variety of community groups and spoken with the Association of Black Citizens of Lexington, the Brazilian Americans of Lexington, the Chinese American Association of Lexington, the Indian Americans of Lexington, Lexington Pride Coalition, and will continue reaching out to other community groups.
See question #11, What are the Town's options for this parcel if Warrant Article 33 passes?
See question #11, What are the Town's options for this parcel if Warrant Article 33 passes?
Terms like “attainable” and “workforce” are not officially defined, however they are often interpreted as approximately 120% of Area Median Income. Also, see question #21, What is the Request for Proposals (RFP) likely to include?
See question #9, Why all affordable?
See question #22, How much affordable housing is expected to be built? and question #14, What will be the Town's anticipated commitment?
Full question: "I would like to better understand the Lexpress service as it could be used by future residents of parcel 68-44. From the map of route B, it looks like the northbound route detours on North St so it would stop in front of any new housing. The map indicates that the detour is only executed on outbound routes. On return from Burlington, the bus goes straight down Lowell St. The instructions also say "Bus cannot stop on Middlesex Turnpike; Drivers may be able to pull in - just ask!" So I am asking - where would the bus safely stop on Middlesex Turnpike when it is traveling southbound? What crosswalks should a person utilize to return safely to a future parcel 68-44?"
Answer: Route B turns off Lowell St at North, which becomes Muller Rd, and it is via that road that Lexpress enters the Middlesex Commons area (Market Basket, Hmart, etc.). Due to the way that area is laid out, there is not a way for us to reasonably cut through that parking lot on the way back, so we do indeed travel on Lowell St back to Lexington.
As for stopping on Middlesex Turnpike, please note the area of North & Lowell is outside the area of Middlesex Turnpike which is in Burlington. To board/alight on Lowell St, one just waves to the bus to board, and to get off the bus, one just pulls the cord on the bus to signal they wish to alight. On Lowell St, and more specifically at Lowell & North, one could board/alight right at Lowell & North.
(If a person needs to board/alight on the Turnpike, such as at Barnes & Noble (as an example), we kindly ask that they notify us in advance so that we can find a safe place for driver to pull in and out without causing much delay or hardship to other riders. (This is not a common request.)) If with this development the Town wished to install more of a traditional bus stop with signage at Lowell & North, that could also be considered.