Housing Choice Act Working Group

Eastbound train arrives in Lincoln Station.


Childcare Program - Provided by LEAP (Lincoln Extended Activity Program)

8:30AM - End of Meeting



$40 per Child. Please pay by check when you arrive. Thank you!


2023 11 30 - Deeper Dive into Calculations

For those who enjoy a granular look at how the numbers work, here is additional information from Utile:

Wetlands Calculation Explanation: You will notice in this iteration of our calculations that there has been a change in the relationship between the units/acre cap (which has generally been lowered) and the modeled unit capacity (which has generally stayed the same or increased slightly). This is because we have implemented an override option in the compliance model spreadsheet that alters the way open space and wetland deductions are handled. We learned of this override after seeking advice from the State on how to better address Lincoln's unique wetland constraints and get the model to more accurately account for them. Below is an explanation of how this "wetland open space override" works. The default of the model is to first subtract all undevelopable wetland area (excluded land in the State model), and then subtract an additional 20% of total lot area for open space to approximate the impact of setbacks on maximum building footprint as well as any lot area needed to meet parking requirements. With the "wetland open space override" we have implemented, the compliance model spreadsheet is now allowing wetland area to count towards that 20% open space requirement, which more accurately represents the actual development potential of Lincoln properties that have significant wetland area. To provide an example, 140 Lincoln Rd (Ryan Estates) under the default model calculation method is handled as follows: 85% of the land area is subtracted because it is undevelopable (excluded) wetland area, then an additional 20% of the land area is subtracted for the minimum open space requirement leaving no developable area and therefore no modeled unit capacity. With the "wetland open space override" implemented, the model calculation is handled as follows: the model assesses which is greater - the excluded wetland area or the 20% minimum open space requirement - it then subtracts whichever is greater, in the case of 140 Lincoln Rd the excluded wetland area (85%) is greater, so it subtracts that 85% from the total lot area leaving 15% as developable land for parking and building yielding a unit capacity of 87 units under the original 18 units/acre cap for this district. We were then able to reduce the units/acre cap to 11 units/acre which caps the maximum number of units on this lot to exactly 87.

Units per Acre Cap Explanation: The units per acre maximum written into each subdistrict’s zoning is a hard cap with which developers and property owners will have to comply. The units per acre zoning parameter does not specify unit size, so it will allow for a range of unit sizes. However, the maximum allowable number of units will remain constrained by the size of the property multiplied by the units per acre cap.

Interpreting Modeled Unit Capacity Numbers: For those who have been working in the State Compliance Model Spreadsheet or have been speaking to people who have, you may be focused on the difference between four numbers provided in the "summary" tab of that spreadsheet: Modeled Unit Capacity vs. Dwelling Units per Acre Limit vs. Max Units per Lot Limit vs. Final Unit Capacity per District. The number you should be focused on is the Final Unit Capacity per District, which includes all the zoning constraints. The other unit capacity numbers shown reflect the application of specific constraints that are applied cumulatively to arrive at the overall modeled unit capacity. Here are a series of slides that show those relationships.

2023 11 29 - Refined Unit/Acre Calculations; Is E Compliant?; and Special Town Meeting info!

  • Here are the maps and updated tables showing the units per acre zoning for each of the four options developed by the Housing Choice Act Working Group.  There are changes in the unit/acre calculations because our consultant, Utile, worked with the state to refine calculations when there are significant wetlands involved.
    • FAQ:  Is the units/acre number a binding number?  Yes!  The allowed units/acre will be written into the zoning bylaws and is a maximum, regardless of the size of the units.
  • Is E Compliant? In the professional opinion of our consultant, E does not appear to be compliant because the south Lewis Street subdistrict is smaller than 5 acres and is not contiguouswith the rest of the Lincoln Road subdistrict.  As with all the options, we will continue to keep the community informed of any changes.
    • As was discussed at Monday's Select Board meeting, there will be 5 Options on the ballot, including E.  No matter which Option is chosen by voters on Saturday, the Housing Choice Act Working Group will make any technical fixes that are required in order to ensure that what we are bringing to Town Meeting in March is deemed compliant.  This would continue to be done through a public process.
  • Updated FAQ:  How is property assessed?  Please scroll down for additional information from our regional assessor.
  • Special Town Meeting information:  Please visit the Special Town Meeting web page for logistical information and more information about all the warrant articles.

2023 11 22 FAQs - Updated 11/28/23

What is Option E? A group of residents submitted an option that was reviewed at the November 21st Housing Choice Act Working Group (HCAWG) meeting. Documents describing the option, as submitted, may be found in the documents section of this web page.  The link to the meeting recording is here:  https://us06web.zoom.us/rec/share/OWG-84wg0A5W2q8JB2fYWrWAoTq7sMmr4Mv8qCJRRMn0IV7INcFS1evLwQljYv8-.1lOpdFNjrb0Yvp2Q

Will property value assessments change with rezoning? - Updated No. Properties are assessed based on their current use, not on future possible use.  If a neighbor’s property changes use, that still does not affect assessment.  Assessments change when an individual property’s use changes. Following is additional information from the Town's Regional Tax Assessor:

"While Fair Cash Valuation based on highest and best use is the statutory standard, the Appellate Tax Board (ATB) has ruled time and again that Assessors cannot speculate about a property's highest and best use, even if among a property's allowable uses under zoning we can envision a more intensive (and profitable) one.  Assessors must have concrete evidence to support a highest and best use exceeding that of current use.  

One of many examples that we as Assessors confront is how to handle the valuation of larger land parcels.  For instance, there may be a parcel that could potentially support a residential subdivision comprised of some number of building lots.  Without an approved subdivision plan that demonstrates the owner's ability to meet all of the many zoning, conservation, septic, and other regulatory requirements, we as Assessors cannot, on speculation, assess the property for anything other than its current use.

In another example, one might hold that a commercial property is underdeveloped and should be deemed to have a better, highest and best use.  The ATB has not allowed such speculation.  

In still another example, we could say that homes built in the 1950's and 60's are generally more valuable as vacant lots and have a highest and best use that begs for the construction of a much larger and more valuable home.  The ATB would frown on such speculation.  I dare say our taxpayers would as well.

The law on the books does not envision the practical problem one faces in fairly determining highest and best use.  We start with the statutory definition but are then guided by the guidelines provided to us by the courts.

Would the rezoning of a land parcel to allow the construction of a 30-unit development immediately result in a higher valuation?  The simple answer is no.  Take the development of that same parcel a bit further down the path with the necessary engineering work completed and an approved plan in place, and rest assured that your Tax Assessor will spring into action rendering an assessment commensurate with a new "highest and best" use determination."

Why is the commuter parking lot included in the Village Center subdistrict? All of the options developed by the HCAWG include the Village Center subdistrict which is comprised of the Mall (owned by the RLF), Doherty’s, and the two town-owned commuter parking lots (the resident lot and the one at the back of the Mall).

  • Both commuter lots are currently part of the South Lincoln overlay district. Keeping the lots in the Village Center overlay district is consistent with past practice and planning principles.
  • As the HCAWG has said from the beginning, and in keeping with planning discussions over the past several decades, including it in the Village Center subdistrict gives the town planning flexibility.
    1. The Mall area is small (4 acres). Including the parking lot allows for more holistic planning.
    2. Including it gives the Town leverage in conversations about how that area is redeveloped.
    3. Residents have expressed strong support for developing moderate and affordable housing. Including the parking lot signals to the state and potential developers that Lincoln is serious about transit-oriented planning.  This would help the Town gain access to housing development funding that is only available to municipalities.  This funding is what would make moderate/affordable housing possible.
    4. It is also a signal to the MBTA that we are doing our part and expect them to do theirs when it comes to providing an accessible station and improved service. 
  • Because it is town-owned land, ANY change in use of the parking lot requires a 2/3 majority vote at a Town Meeting. This would still be true even if it is rezoned as part of the HCA. There is no downside to including it as part of a rational zoning process.

Is the vote for an option at the Special Town Meeting binding?  The HCAWG and the Select Board will consider the vote binding subject to any necessary technical changes needed for compliance.

  • No matter which option residents choose on December 2nd, the proposal will need to go through an initial compliance check by the Executive Office of Housing & Livable Communities (EOHLC). 
  • If changes must be made for compliance, they will be shared with residents as soon as possible before the March Annual Town Meeting.

Why are we voting in March when the deadline for compliance is December 2024?   The Select Board and Planning Board began talking about the Housing Choice Act in January of 2022 when the legislation was passed (https://www.lincolntown.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Minutes/_01312022-4365). The guidelines were finalized over the summer of 2022, and the Select Board appointed the Housing Choice Act Working Group in the fall.  The discussion and process has been ongoing for close to two years.  

In December 2022, the Town submitted an Action Plan to the state which was approved in January of 2023. The plan included a timeline for compliance, and the Town process is in keeping with the approved timeline which stated that work will be complete and ready for Town Meeting in March.

Compliance is a multi-step process and technically complex, making it important to allow time for each step in order to be compliant before the end of 2024.

  1. Submit option to EOHLC for a preliminary compliance check at least 90 days before a Town Meeting vote.
  2. Approve HCA zoning at Town Meeting (majority vote required).
  3. Submit approved warrant to the Attorney General.
  4. Submit zoning to EOHLC for final determination of compliance.

2023 11 14 Housing Choice Vote @ December 2nd Special Town Meeting

At its Monday meeting, the Select Board voted to add a Housing Choice zoning vote to the Special Town Meeting warrant.

What does that mean?  The Housing Choice Act Working Group (HCAWG) has developed multiple rezoning options that will satisfy the state law, giving Lincoln a choice about how to comply with both the “letter” and “spirit” of the law.  Only one option will be brought to the March 23rd Annual Town Meeting.

  • On December 2nd, voters at Town Meeting will use an in-person form of ranked choice voting to choose which option moves forward! (Click here to see how that works.)

How many options?  Currently there are 4 options that have been developed to span resident views about how much of the rezoning should be near the MBTA station. They all meet the HCAWG’s criteria 1) rezone near public transportation to promote decarbonization and climate adaptation; 2) codify, where appropriate, existing multi-family housing; 3) lay the groundwork for creating new housing to meet people’s needs; 4) support our commercial center; 5) be proactive, shape our future, and stay eligible for state funding.

If you are someone who believes there is an additional option that meets the criteria and should be considered, now is your opportunity to weigh in:

  • Send your suggestion to Jennifer Glass (jglassselect@lincolntown.org) and Paula Vaughn MacKenzie (vaughnp@lincolntown.org) before noon on Monday, November 20th!
  • The HCAWG meets on November 21st and the working group will determine the final slate of options for December 2nd.

What if I can’t make it to the Special Town Meeting? Unfortunately, early voting is never an option for any Town Meeting Article.  The law does not provide for that.

We look forward to seeing everyone in the Lincoln School Donaldson Auditorium 

on Saturday, December 2nd at 9:30AM!

2023 11 10 Community Forums - Slides & Recording

The two community forums on Wednesday, November 8th were well attended. Thank you to all who attended. The slides are here, the link to the evening Zoom session is here, and the link to the chat file is here.

2023 11 07 Additional FAQs

A number of people have contacted the HCAWG, Planning Board, and Select Board with questions about the Housing Choice Act in general and specifics of the options in particular.  Here is a list of questions from several people. Before addressing them, a reminder of the principles the HCAWG has used throughout this effort:

  • The Town’s Vision Statement: “Fostering economic, racial, ethnic, and age diversity among its citizenry through its educational, housing and other public policy.” 
  • Rezone near public transportation and town amenities
  • Codify work Lincoln has done to develop multi-family housing over the decades.
  • Lay the groundwork for housing options to meet the needs of young adults, families, our local workforce, and those ready to downsize.
  • Support and maintain our small commercial center. 
  • Promote decarbonization and climate change adaptation by rezoning near transportation and amenities.
  • Proactively tailor zoning to fit Lincoln’s unique character.
  • Keep Lincoln eligible for numerous housing, infrastructure, transportation, and sustainability related grants that will help us achieve town goals while mitigating the impact on property taxes.

The document with the compiled questions and answers is here.

2023 11 07 Answers to Rural Land Foundation FAQs (provided by the RLF)

What is the RLF? What is the LLCT? 

“…let us set out in the hope that our descendants may say it has been not less well with them than it was with us and with our fathers. It is a goodly land; and may they in their day feel blest in its possession, no less than do we in ours.”
– Charles Francis Adams in his 1904 Anniversary Address in Lincoln

Out of this belief was born the mission of both the Rural Land Foundation (RLF) and the Lincoln Land Conservation Trust (LLCT): to preserve the rural character of Lincoln. Since the mid-20th century, the two Lincoln-based non-profit organizations have played important roles in helping Lincoln face development head on to protect the town’s legacy of open space, agriculture, and recreation.

The RLF’s main activities include leading creative land planning projects that balance open space preservation with other Town needs such as housing (please see the examples in Appendix 1 and 2). RLF also owns and operates the Mall at Lincoln Station for the benefit of Lincoln residents. The RLF’s conservation activities are funded by proceeds from the Mall at Lincoln Station, and through private donations at the time of land acquisition.

The RLF and its sister organization, the Lincoln Land Conservation Trust (LLCT) work together to acquire, protect, and steward conservation land in Lincoln. They share the same set of Trustees (17 Lincoln residents), staff, and office space. For many conservation acquisition projects, RLF will make the initial land purchase and then donate the conservation land to LLCT or a public agency such as the Town to be held in perpetuity. Proceeds from the Mall are the main source of support for both organizations’ missions.

Why does the RLF own the Mall at Lincoln Station?

In the early 1970’s a 71- acre portion of the Codman Estate came on the market and RLF stepped in to purchase the land on behalf of the Town.  RLF then spent the next several years working with the Town and the Lincoln Foundation (a non-profit housing organization) to develop a creative land development and conservation plan for the property. The implementation of the plan resulted in 55 acres of land (including Farm Meadow, used by Codman Farm) conserved, 12 acres of land deeded to the Lincoln Foundation for the development of low- and moderate-income housing (Lincoln Woods), and 4 acres of land set aside for commercial development (the Mall at Lincoln Station) which helped pay for the land acquisition.  RLF worked with a developer to create the Mall at Lincoln Station through a ground lease option.  That Option enabled RLF to purchase the property back from the developer and it did so in the late 1980’s to help the town maintain control over its commercial center.  Since that time the RLF has owned and operated the Mall for the benefit of Lincoln residents with proceeds from the Mall funding its land conservation activities.  (For more detailed information on the Codman Land purchase see Appendix 1.)

How has the RLF benefited the town?  

The RLF was founded in 1965 with the purpose of strategic real estate development that prioritized land conservation. In the nearly sixty years since its inception, RLF has played a key role in helping Lincoln protect its legacy of open space while ensuring the 20th and 21st century needs of its residents are met. 

RLF’s first such development project is emblematic of its mission. RLF purchased the 109-acre Wheeler Farm to develop 10 clustered residential lots and conserve 50 acres of open space. (More on this in Appendix 2.)  Since then, RLF has led numerous conservation projects, helping to preserve nearly 40% of Lincoln for the public benefit.  

More recently, RLF helped to secure the development of the 16-acre Wang property located at 100 Bedford Rd.  This $2 million plus multi-use project included three acres for a new athletic field for the town, four acres to serve as the new home for the Birches School, a nature-based micro school, and nine acres to be placed into conservation, with land management provided by LLCT and the Town. 

Today, RLF continues to play the role of strategist, helping the Town of Lincoln shape its future by continuing to embrace smart development and, through acquisition, to secure conservation opportunities that would otherwise be lost. The combined dedication of staff, trustees, members, and volunteers, coupled with the generosity of public and private donors and Mall proceeds, ensures that the work we do continues to preserve the rural character that has made Lincoln a haven of open space for generations and will continue to do so for years to come.

Why does the RLF want to rezone the Mall?  

RLF would like to rezone the Mall to ensure the viability of commercial space in Lincoln now and in the future. The RLF’s Trustees also believe that creating the opportunity for mixed-use development, i.e. allowing housing, will increase the financial stability of the site and meet the Town’s need for more affordable and moderately priced housing. 

RLF is seeking rezoning rather than going through a Town Meeting process to approve a redevelopment project. The primary reason for this is that Town Meeting is a lengthy, expensive, and highly uncertain process.  If we do not rezone, then we will be competing with Housing Choice compliant towns all around us that allow mixed use development by right.

In the early 2000’s, when the Post Office wanted to leave and Donelan’s was requesting a larger space, the RLF invested over $1.5 million of its endowment and took out a loan for several million dollars to keep the Post Office at the Mall and preserve the viability of a grocery store in Lincoln. RLF went through a lengthy Town Meeting process for approval, and the delays almost cost the project its viability. 

Since the Mall’s inception, the RLF has continually reinvested in the space and its retail tenants and has tried to maintain a mix of retail that meets residents’ needs.  This has included the RLF responding to the reinvestment needs of a stream of restaurants, as well as the rebuild of the Donelan’s roof after its collapse in 2011 due to historic heavy snows.  At the time, the Town was without a grocery store for well over a year as Donelan’s debated whether to return.  RLF searched for other grocery stores and quickly found that our rural density precludes most grocery stores from even considering a Lincoln location.  Fortunately, we were able to negotiate with Donelan’s and convince them to stay, but the town was very close to not having a local food shopping option. RLF’s Trustees see rezoning the Mall as the first step towards an even more profound reinvestment into Lincoln’s commercial center and as an important way to continue to fulfill RLF’s and LLCT’s missions. 

Lastly, RLF is seeking the rezoning to increase the site’s value to ensure its ability to continue its conservation work. Such an improvement in value would result in renewed and higher- quality commercial space, the creation of housing, and the support of existing commercial space through the negotiated sale or lease of the Mall.  Proceeds would also go towards paying down the RLF’s mortgage and, hopefully, towards funding an endowment that would back the RLF’s and LLCT’s continued conservation activities in Lincoln in support of the Town’s Open Space and Recreation Plan as well as other conservation opportunities that may arise.  The goal is to be able to continue our conservation activities with the same creativity, vigor, and determination we have deployed from the beginning of our organizational history through the present day and well into the future.  

Why don’t we just make the Mall an HCA subdistrict? 

The Town and the RLF are committed to ensuring a vibrant retail center in Lincoln. The original HCA guidelines did not allow Towns to require commercial space within the HCA zoning. Therefore, although the Housing Choice Act Working Group has consistently proposed rezoning the Mall concurrently with the HCA zoning, the Mall area did not originally count as part of the HCA proposal. However, in August, the State revised the HCA guidelines and will now allow up to 25% of the Town’s required zoning unit capacity to come from a mandatory mixed-use housing district (MMU). Now, rezoning the Mall as part of the Village District contributes 125 zoned units out of the 635 for which Lincoln must zone.

Why is Mall redevelopment important?

Mall redevelopment will:

  • Help address the regional housing crisis, providing an attractive and moderately priced “transit oriented” option for the community.
  • Refresh the commercial area of the Mall, improving the space for existing and future tenants.
  • Support RLF’s continued ability to spearhead conservation projects in Lincoln, and the organizational support needed for the RLF’s and LLCT’s activities.
  • Support RLF’s climate change policy by ensuring new buildings meet the stretch code and by demonstrating a commitment to public transportation.

Why is Mall redevelopment challenging?

Redeveloping the Mall is challenging for a number of reasons:

  • The site is compact and the demands on it are high. A design needs to be attractive but also functional. For example, there must be adequate parking and safe turning radii for delivery trucks.  
  • RLF respects its tenants and their lease structures. RLF would need to be considerate of tenants’ wishes and ensure minimal interruption to their operations. 
  • Changing market conditions. Retail is hard to predict. Tenants may not renew their leases or may request more or less space in the future. 

Has the RLF chosen a developer to redevelop the Mall? 

  • No, the RLF has not chosen or contracted with a developer.  RLF has been working with CIVICO to develop a vision for the Mall that is attractive and financially viable.
  • RLF is also engaging a design firm to depict a few design ideas that will be shared with the Town before the Annual Town Meeting. The Town will be invited to share feedback. 
  • If the rezoning passes at Town Meeting, RLF will seek further design input from Town residents and officials before putting the designed project out to bid.
  • The RLF does not have the funds to redevelop the Mall itself, it must partner with a developer.
  • This could be a sale or a 100-year ground lease of the property.  Any such sale or lease would be conditioned on the design ideas that were shared with the Town residents at Annual Town Meeting and through public forums after Annual Town Meeting.

Why does the RLF feel it is appropriate for the Town to apply for a MassWorks grant to help defray the costs of the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) upgrade at Lincoln Woods?                                                                                                                                                The Mall currently uses the services of the WWTP owned by The Community Builders (who own Lincoln Woods).  The RLF believes that both Lincoln Woods and the Mall at Lincoln Station contribute to the broader public good of the Town of Lincoln as well as the thousands of constituents served by these two entities more directly.  The State welcomes such grant applications and clearly sees the public benefit of these sorts of redevelopment efforts as well.  

Importantly, the receipt of one grant does not preclude the Town from receiving another. For example, the Water Department would still be able to apply for a grant to defray the cost of the water main replacement between Bedford Rd tank and Rt 117.  However, if the Town does not approve the HCA zoning, it will not be eligible for such MassWorks grants. 

2023 11 03 Update:

In response to community feedback after State of the Town, the HCAWG asked Utile to develop additional options that respond to resident comments, while staying true to the principles and benefits to the community that the HCAWG has used throughout option development.  Those principles are:

  • Rezone near public transportation and town amenities.
  • Lay the groundwork for housing options to meet the needs of young adults, families, our local workforce, and those ready to downsize.
  • Support and maintain our small commercial center. 
  • Promote decarbonization and climate change adaptation by rezoning near transportation and amenities.
  • Proactively tailor zoning to fit Lincoln’s unique character.
  • Keep Lincoln eligible for numerous housing, infrastructure, transportation, and sustainability related grants that will help us achieve town goals while mitigating the impact on property taxes.

To learn about the options, please join us at one or both of our forums on Wednesday, November 8th! (See registration info above.) 

2023 10 27 Update - Slides from October 24th Planning Board/Multi-Board Meeting

Thank you all for your patience in waiting for the slides from Tuesday’s meeting.

We know that there were questions about some of the numbers, and we wanted to make sure we could go through the information with our consultants at Utile before publishing the slides.

This is the phase of the process when we are getting down to details such as how many decimal places are we going to use in the calculations.  There were some instances where numbers were being rounded inconsistently, and those have been fixed.

It is important to note that while the numbers on these slides may be slightly different from what you see if you watch the video, the changes had no impact on the land included or the structure of the different options.  ALL are compliant and can be summarized as follows:

  • Option C:  The entire district is within 1/2 mile of the MBTA train station.
  • Option D1:  Reduces the Codman Road subdistrict substantially; slight reduction to the Lincoln Road subdistrict; adds Lincoln North as a subdistrict.
  • Option D2:  Reduces the Codman Road subdistrict substantially; slight reduction to the Lincoln Road subdistrict; adds Battle Road Farm as a subdistrict.
  • Option D3:  Eliminates Codman Road subdistrict; slight reduction to the Lincoln Road subdistrict; adds Battle Road Farm as a subdistrict.

The slides are here and the recording of the meeting is here.

Please join us at one of the Community Forums on Wednesday, November 8th!

2023 10 18 Update:  Option C Submitted for a Pre-Adoption Compliance Check

As noted below in the 2023 10 12 update, at the Select Board meeting on October 16th, the Housing Choice Working Group, the Select Board, and the Planning Board, voted unanimously to submit Option C for a Pre-Adoption compliance check.  As part of this compliance check, the Village Center District has been submitted for approval as an "Eligible Location".  This will allow the Town to take "credit" for 125 units the zoning will allow in the new Village District. EOHLC has 90 days to complete its review.  

The full submission can be found here.  Please note that the links to the attached documents do not work.  You may access documents through the links below:

Option C 3A District Spreadsheet

Option C Mandatory Mixed Use District (MMU) Spreadsheet

Codman Road 3A Subdistrict shape file

Lincoln Road Lewis Street Subdistrict shape file

Lincoln Woods Subdistrict shape file

Village Center MMU District shape file

2023 10 12 Update:  What's it all about?

What Housing Choice (Section 3A) does…

  • Requires towns with an MBTA Commuter Rail stop to create a zoning district that allows a building density of at least 15 units/acre within 0.5 miles of the station. 
    • In Lincoln, our district must be at least 42 acres and must be zoned for a minimum capacity of 635 units.
    • Law is focused on zoning near public transportation and amenities in order to be more sustainable.
  • Allows building within the zone by right:  Lays out what a property owner is allowed to build by getting a building permit; no special permit required.
  • Excludes from development:  conservation land, wetlands and drinking water buffer zones, institutional land, town-owned land, and public and private rights of way. 
    • Any decision about doing something with town-owned land requires a Town Meeting vote.
What Housing Choice does not do
  • Require production of housing.
  • Compel communities to pay for infrastructure for future development (e.g waste water treatment).
  • Supersede Lincoln’s Demolition Delay Bylaw, wetlands protections, Title V of the MA Environmental Code (septic), or the Planning Board’s Site Plan Review process.
  • Allow towns to require commercial space within the 3A district.
  • Allow communities to get a waiver or exemption of the law.
So why is the town talking about a development?
  • To make our small commercial area economically sustainable, the Rural Land Foundation, which owns the 4 acres of The Mall, is seeking the opportunity to redevelop the Mall to include housing.
  • Housing units at the Mall would help subsidize renewing part of the commercial space, and more people living there has the potential to provide more customers to support our businesses.
  • The current proposal is for a phased approach that would create 85 - 100 units.
  • There are no other development proposals under discussion.
What’s happening now?
  • Based on community feedback received between June and September, we have submitted Option C (which puts all of the 3A district within the 0.5 mile radius of the MBTA station) to the state for a compliance check. See below for a chart showing zoning capacity versus existing units within the proposed Option C.
  • Based on additional questions from the community, we are also exploring two more variations of the zoning.
  • Please keep reading to learn about upcoming community forums!Chart showing the delta between zoning capacity inproposed district versus current units of housing.
As noted in our 10/12 update (https://www.lincolntown.org/1327/Housing-Choice-Act-Working-Group), we are working with our consultants on two more variations of the zoning. Last evening (Monday, October 16th) the Select Board, Planning Board, and HCAWG convened during the Select Board meeting to review the schedule and to hear public comments and questions. Below is the meeting and outreach schedule for the upcoming month and a half .  A post card with this information will be mailed out within the next few days - please be on the lookout! Copies will also be available at Town Offices.

 November 8, 2023 community forums

Upcoming dates

2023 10 12 Housing Choice Working Group Update

~ NOTE:  There will be further discussion about the HCA at Monday, October 16th Select Board meeting. ~


Meeting ID: 918 3237 5325; Passcode: 378902

Agenda:  http://www.lincolntown.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_10162023-5268

On Tuesday evening, October 10th, the Select Board, Planning Board, and Housing Choice Act Working Group (HCAWG) met to review the three Housing Choice zoning options that were presented in public forums prior to and at State of the Town.  The committees reviewed Options A, B, and C and also reviewed the feedback from residents who either attended State of the Town or responded to the subsequent online survey.

Here is a link to the slide deck with presenters' notes.and the results (State of the Town + online) are captured in the chart below. 

Pie chart showing results of the Housing Choice Survey 2023 SOTT

At the meeting, a number of residents asked whether the HCAWG could consider an “Option D” that would shrink the size of the zone around the train station, take the 125-unit “credit” for rezoning The Mall, and put some of the district in the northern part of Lincoln. 

Also, residents asked questions about the 10% affordable requirement that will be part of the zoning.  Lincoln has “Inclusionary Zoning” that requires 15% affordable units for any development over 5 units.  The Housing Choice Act allows towns to include up to 10%.  If a town would like to require more, it must conduct an economic study to prove that the requirement does not make development economically unfeasible.  Lincoln received a grant to contract with a consultant to look at a range of housing scenarios and both ownership and rental models.  The study determined that given the height and density restrictions we are proposing, and the fact that we rely on septic systems or waste water treatment plants, 15% is not viable across a full spectrum of development sizes and models.  For 15% affordability to be accepted by the state, a wide variety of scenarios must work.  A couple of the project types in the study are considered economically feasible, but that is not enough for us to require 15% affordability in the HCA zoning.  Lincoln, like other communities, has a long history of using Affordable Housing Trust funds to achieve a higher percentage of income-restricted housing.  This strategy can be used throughout the HCA district.  The links to the study are here and here.  

After discussion:

  1. The three boards voted unanimously to submit Option C to the Executive Office of Livable Communities (EOHLC) for a compliance check.
  2. The boards agreed to ask the Town’s consultant, Utile, to model the “Option D” scenarios and to discuss them at the November 13th Select Board meeting.

Residents are always welcome to contact Jennifer Glass, Select Board representative, HCAWG at jglassselect@lincolntown.org or Margaret Olson, Chair, Planning Board at margaret@margaretolson.com with additional questions.

2023 10 01 Update

Session took place in the Lincoln School library.

Couldn't make it to State of the Town? Here is a link to the slide deck with presenters' notes. Also, we are taking additional feedback until Thursday, October 5th! Please use this link.

Participants listen to the presentation.

2023 09 27 Update

Here are the 3 Options under consideration. See you at State of the Town!

A table summary of the three options that will be presented at State of the Town

A includes Lincoln North; B includes Battle Road Farm

Option C is entirely near the MBTA train station

2023 09 17 Update


There is a new FAQ about state grants below. Keep scrolling to learn about grants the Planning Department has secured in the past several years, and to learn more about the types of grants we may want to apply for in the future.

See below for a link to a recent article that discusses penalties for towns that do not comply:

August 2023 Boston Globe article: "State stiffens penalties for towns that snub new MBTA housing law"

Section 3A Guidelines - Current list of grants impacted by compliance.

Learn more and bring your questions to State of the Town. See you at the Lincoln School @ 10:00am on the 30th!

The Planning Department has secured just over $1.5M in state grants since 2021.

2023 08 22 Update


8/22/2023 Meeting Recording: https://us06web.zoom.us/rec/share/0wiAV0unLO5wi1pgE8efLF1wp0bpbCVJ0UXtZQ1m8AtvIlss_lJGp0Zjpo8jjC05.tTDnD6Xcqw3Q-1MX

2023 08 16 Update

The Housing Choice Act Working Group has been busy scheduling and hosting neighborhood meetings during the month of July. There was a neighborhood meeting at Battle Road Farm on July 12th and another well attended meeting at The Commons on July 14th. There will be additional meetings in the South Lincoln neighborhood in September.

In response to the two public forums that took place in June and the neighborhood meetings in July, we have developed a FAQ memo to answer commonly asked questions. To view it, scroll down to the bottom of the page or click here.  

The Planning Board will host a presentation and discussion at their meeting on September 26th. This will be a zoom meeting and the zoom information can be found below.

Planning Board Meeting:  Tuesday, September 26, 2023 07:00 PM 


Meeting ID: 826 4476 5504; Passcode: 078148

+13017158592,,82644765504#,,,,*078148# US (Washington DC)

+13052241968,,82644765504#,,,,*078148# US

STATE of the TOWN MEETING:  SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2023, 10:00AM - 3:00PM at the Lincoln School! The HCAWG will be providing the latest zoning proposals and looking for resident feedback!

2023 06 30 Update

Housing Choice Act Working Group Meeting Recording & Slides

Link to the Zoom recording: https://us06web.zoom.us/rec/share/skQ7MNNlsFnlNxYW5xOehkbBbxso_zlrF1hHnlpGYucJyS8eW2POo71Fupw_bgHo.I77k31lDQz16zLJ_

Slides including "Option 7" that was introduced at the June 30th HCAWG meeting.

Minutes from 6/30/2023 meeting.

2023 06 23 Update

About 70 people tuned in to the virtual Public Forum on June 20th. The recording of the forum is here. The Housing Choice Act Working Group will be meeting VIRTUALLY on Friday, June 30th at 9:30am. Click here for the agenda and here for the Zoom link.

2023 06 16 Update

A Lego board depicting the area and buildings around the MBTA station.Today's Housing Choice Public Forum was attended by approximately 40 people. There was a presentation by the Town's consultant, Utile, and then attendees broke into groups to discuss options for compliance, ask questions, and provide feedback. To see the slide deck, please click here.

The next forum will be Tuesday June 20th at 7:00pm via zoom.  Register at https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0rc-Cgpz8iH9ybJDskmn_IOcDP07pZuF9s.

To see the comments and questions posted on sticky notes during the forum, go to Housing Choice Act Forum Padlet

Town residents attending the forum.

Donaldson Room set up.

2023 06 07 Update

Postcard advertising June 16th and June 20th public forum.

The June 6, 2023 Multi-board meeting was well attended with over 60 representatives from Lincoln's array of Boards and Committees as well as members of the public. The meeting focused on two big ideas.  The first being how the Town can comply with the HCA and the second being a proposal to create a Village Center Mall District that would allow the RLF to pursue a mixed-use redevelopment of the Mall. The Working Group with technical assistance from its consultant, Utile Design, presented a detailed explanation of the Housing Choice Act requirements and four possible pathways for the Town to achieve compliance. In addition, the RLF presented their vision for a mixed-use redevelopment of the Mall. To view the slide deck, please click here. The recording of the meeting is here: 

Passcode: Wj&=3F5=

2023 05 11 Update

Upcoming Public Forums: The Housing Choice Act Working Group is hosting three public forums in June to share possible ways to comply with Housing Choice Act zoning requirements for MBTA communities. ALL residents are welcome! Learn about the proposals, ask questions, and help shape Lincoln's path forward.

2023 03 16 Update

Lincoln is subject to M.G.L., Chapter 40A, Section 3A (a.k.a. Housing Choice Act, Housing Choice Initiative, or MBTA Communities Act) because we have an MBTA commuter rail station. The HCAWG, comprised of representatives of multiple town boards and departments, has been meeting since the fall of 2022 to understand the implications of the Act for Lincoln.  At its March 16th meeting, HCAWG met with Utile Design to review how the state calculates “developable land” and to walk through an initial analysis of current zoning in Lincoln to begin identifying areas that might be logical places for rezoning.  As a starting point, and in compliance with the law, Utile presented high-level information about current housing density within 0.5 miles of the MBTA station. Additionally, based on ideas submitted by HCAWG members, Utile provided an initial analysis of current housing density 0.5 mile from the MBTA bus stop on Hanscom Drive and in other areas of town where there is currently multi-family housing. 

It is important to remember that the Housing Choice Act’s goal is to create transit-oriented zoning areas where multi-family housing is allowed “by right.” 

Also at the meeting, the group discussed the clarifying guidance issued by the Attorney General on March 15th.  Her statement makes it clear that the law makes compliance mandatory, and that towns may be subject to litigation:

“All MBTA Communities must comply with the Law. Communities that do not currently have a compliant multi-family zoning district must take steps outlined in the DHCD guidelines to demonstrate interim compliance. Communities that fail to comply with the Law may be subject to civil enforcement action. Non-compliant MBTA Communities are also subject to the administrative consequence of being rendered ineligible to receive certain forms of state funding.Importantly, MBTA Communities cannot avoid their obligations under the Law by foregoing this funding. The Law requires that MBTA Communities “shall have” a compliant zoning district and does not provide any mechanism by which a town or city may opt out of this requirement.”

Next Steps:  

April 2023: HCAWG members will submit ideas and questions to Utile to further refine ideas about zoning areas’ boundaries and locations. The group will continue to consider different ways to create proposals regarding possible locations, sizes, and density of new zoning districts, and the zoning amendments that the town needs to approve to comply with the Housing Choice Act.  Later this spring, the HCAWG will hold a public forum to present work to date and to gather questions and ideas from the community. We look forward to a robust conversation with residents!

Spring – Fall 2023: Community engagement.

March 2024:  Town Meeting vote on proposed zoning bylaw(s)

2023 02 07 Update

At its February 7th HCAWG meeting, Paula Vaughn-MacKenzie, Director of Planning and Land Use, announced that Lincoln has been granted “interim compliance” with the Housing Choice Act (HCA).  The Town is in compliance because our Action Plan and timetable, which were submitted to the Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD) in December, were approved on January 27, 2023. Interim compliance remains in effect until December 31, 2024, by which time compliance will require a Town Meeting approved zoning bylaw that meets the requirements of the HCA. 

The goal of the Housing Choice Act (M. G. L. c 40 A, Section 3A) is for MBTA communities like Lincoln to approve zoning bylaws that help meet the State’s high demand for housing in a manner that promotes the use of public transit.  As of February 8, 2023, almost all the 175 MBTA communities have submitted action plans.  Want to read them?  Visit https://www.mass.gov/doc/submitted-section-3a-action-plans/download.

Next Steps

To help us develop zoning proposals that will meet the HCA requirements, Lincoln received a $20,000 grant from Mass Housing Partnership. This grant will cover the costs of a consultant to work with the Housing Choice Act Working Group to create a map of possible locations in Lincoln that could serve as viable options for rezoning that is consistent with the requirements of the Act.  

During the next year and a half, the Working Group will consider different ways to create a zoning bylaw that complies with the Act, present options to the community, and partner with residents to shape and refine a final proposal.  Ultimately, it will be up to Lincoln voters at the March 2024 Town Meeting to decide whether to adopt a Housing Choice Act zoning bylaw.

2023 01 03 Update

The Housing Choice Act Working Group (HCAWG) is a group of residents representing a range of boards and committees who, along with members of our town professional team, were brought together by the Select Board to study the state’s 2021 Housing Choice Act. Our mission is to understand the Act’s implications for Lincoln, draft pathways to compliance, and engage with residents. Our work together began this past fall and will likely continue through the end of 2024.  The goal of the Housing Choice Act is for towns and cities to approve zoning bylaws that help the state meet the high demand for housing. During the next year and a half, the HCAWG will develop different ways to create a zoning bylaw that complies with the Act, present options to the community, and partner with residents to shape and refine a final proposal. Ultimately, it will be up to Lincoln voters at the March 2024 Town Meeting to decide whether to adopt a Housing Choice Act zoning bylaw.

To help engage with the community, the Working Group formed a communications team.  Information will be sent out on a regular basis via LincolnTalk and posted on the this webpage. This set of FAQs is the first of many updates we will be providing to residents.

We look forward to the coming conversations!

-       The communications team (Kathy Shepard, Gary Taylor, and Jennifer Glass)

FAQs - updated October 27, 2023

Will increased development near Lincoln station, Lewis Street, and Codman Road disrupt a wildlife corridor?

The Answer is No.  

Increasing the overall density of residential housing on existing developed or partially developed areas will not materially change wildlife movement.  

Wildlife biologists and conservations use the term wildlife corridor to refer to vital areas necessary for animals to fly, swim, and run from their breeding, feeding, and wintering habitats.  Fortunately, much of Lincoln’s wildlife has mastered movement through a suburban landscape.  Even bears and moose have made their way from western MA to Concord, Lincoln, Lexington, and Weston.  

The bigger factors which affect wildlife movement in Lincoln (and other towns) are the existing roadways/highways, physical barriers (e.g., jersey barriers, chain link fences).  Lincoln can reduce further impacts on wildlife moving by locating future housing in previously developed areas and avoiding construction in wetlands and large unfragmented fields/forests.  The current HCA proposal is mindful of this. 

Three official and well-researched studies and documents which help local planners, Commission members and community members plan conservation efforts include: 

  • MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program
  • BIOMap which is a collaboration of The Nature Conservancy and the MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.  BioMap guides strategic protection and stewardship of lands and waters that are most important for conserving biological diversity in Massachusetts.
  • Sudbury Valley Trustees’ SuAsCo Regional Prioritization Plan. The Habitat for Biodiversity theme focuses on significant blocks of aquatic, wetland, vernal pool, and forest habitat; areas of uninterrupted interior forest; priority natural communities; natural communities that are underrepresented in preserved lands; rare and endangered species habitat; migration corridors; and climate resiliency.

In reviewing these maps, the main area that is arguably a corridor goes roughly along the river near the Farrar Pond Village condo area (darker green in the attached BioMap for Lincoln). Concord has three wildlife tunnels that go under Rt 2 in that area. There is also an area around Goose Pond (and the fourth wildlife tunnel under Rt 2 is located there, and it is also considered a priority habitat) but as you will see from the attached maps these are not near the town center nor do they connect to it. 

BioMap:  The Future of Conservation in Massachusetts

Natural Heritage Endangered Species Locations in Lincoln, MA

Sudbury Valley Trustees - Important Habitat for Biodiversity

The 40% of Lincoln which is permanently protected provides important food, water, and shelter for wildlife.  To Quote Lincoln’s 2017 Open Space and Recreation Plan:

Lincoln’s pioneering conservation efforts and smart development planning have been recognized at regional, national, and international levels. The extraordinary inventory of existing open space is a result of the cooperative efforts of public and private organizations and many individuals working together over the long-term to achieve the vision of a “town that cherishes its rural, agricultural character, small-town heritage, open space, and historical legacy.” The product of these efforts is a rich resource of conservation land that secures important trail connections, provides recreational opportunities, maintains wildlife corridors, preserves farmland, and conserves critical habitat.

Rezoning existing developed and partially developed areas in town near public transportation is an example of smart development planning and will not infringe upon Lincoln’s conservation efforts.

Potential Excess Land in Submitted Model:

There was a small oversight which does not substantively alter Option C nor does it cause any compliance issues.  The key points are as follows:

  1. The parcels identified (128, 127, 131, 133, and 0 Lincoln Rd) were initially included in the Lincoln Rd / Lewis St. Subdistrict but were later removed because they contained a negligible amount of developable land and thus yielded no units (17 acres of the 17.17 acres covered by these parcels is excluded land and thus does not contribute towards modeled unit capacity).
  2. Utile failed to catch that these parcels had not been deleted from the parcel list included in the District 2 tab, which is the reason for the discrepancy.
  3. Correcting this discrepancy does not create any compliance issues. It has no impact on the reported number of units or acreage of the subdistricts included in Option C, but it does result in a small increase in overall density from 15.3 to 15.5. 

Setbacks and Parking Requirements:

Below is a chart that lays out the height limits, setbacks, and parking requirements for each potential subdistrict:

HCA Dimensional Controls

Does the Town rely on state grants and what are the consequences of losing access to selected state grants?

One of the questions that has come up in conversations about the Housing Choice Act  is whether it would be detrimental to lose access to selected state grants.  Below is a chart that shows grant funding that the Planning Department has secured since 2021. (For those who can’t see the image, go to https://www.lincolntown.org/1327/Housing-Choice-Act-Working-Group). In total, Lincoln has received $1.5M, with another $820,000 for which we have applied and are awaiting a decision.

Grants have been or are currently being used to:

  • Draft Lincoln’s Climate Action Plan (learn more at State of the Town on September 30th at the Lincoln School!)
  • Update the Town’s Municipal Vulnerability Plan, with $50,000 set aside for a resiliency project
  • Design an upgrade to the waste treatment plant that serves The Mall and Lincoln Woods (and any future development on those properties or the Town-owned MBTA commuter parking lot at the back of The Mall parking lot.)
  • Build the accessible roadside path that now extends from the Town commuter parking lot (next to Doherty’s) to the Police Station and over to a new crosswalk to Codman Farm.

In addition to seeking funds to upgrade the water water treatment plant, there are other big infrastructure    needs in town such as water main replacement. For example, the 2.7 mile long stretch of water main that runs from the 5 corners to The Mall is in need of replacement, which is estimated to cost $7M - $8M. And, we know there will be more water infrastructure needs over time. Without outside funding, the cost of bonding these projects would be shouldered by residents who are on the Town water supply.

Governor Healey recently released her Capital Improvement Plan which adds funds to a number of grant programs.  The plan’s investments over five years include:

  • $1.2 billion in economic development funding, with $163 million for local communities, including grant opportunities through the Community One Stop for Growth application portal
  • More than $125 million for municipal climate-focused grants, including almost $24 million in fiscal 2024 for the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness planning and action grant programs
  • More than $270 million per year for local transportation programs, including $200 million for the Chapter 90 local road and bridge program
  • $134 million for library construction grants for the renovation and expansion of municipal libraries
  • $50 million in Cultural Facilities Fund grants
  • $74 million in local support for technology investments through capital programs
  • The use of $736,000 to unlock $4.1 million in federal funds for ambient air monitoring, as well as support for community-based resilience programs and for parks, trails and open space
  • $10 million for the launch of the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security’s Digital Roadmap, which will improve access to Commonwealth digital services
  • Download the capital investment plan (1.2M PDF)

What are the potential impacts on Town finances?

In 2020, the South Lincoln Planning & Implementation Committee (SLPIC) commissioned the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) to do a study on the financial impact of increased housing in the Lincoln Station area.  Based on a buildout of 240 net new units in the Village Center area, MAPC conducted a buildout and fiscal impact analyses.  Although some of the parcels identified in the study may be different than the final Housing Choice Act parcels, the information remains relevant.  The study used a variety of housing units including studio, one, two and three bedroom units.  The analysis estimated the anticipated revenues generated by new development against the costs attributable to the increased demand for public services and forecasted the net cash flow and concluded that whether a project was mixed-use or purely residential, the fiscal impact to the Town including additional school costs, tax revenue, and other required services, would most likely be positive.  To view the study, please click here.

A similar fiscal impact study conducted before the development of Oriole Landing predicted a positive impact on town finances of approximately $100,000, which has proven to be true.

What are the potential traffic impacts? 

Another question that has been raised is the impact of the traffic that may be generated by the creation of more housing.  As part of the SLPIC planning process, a traffic analysis was conducted by an outside consultant based upon traffic data collected in the area of the Mall in December 2019 and January 2020.  (Note:  Data collection preceded the impacts of the COVID Pandemic.) Also considered were the potential impacts of large housing projects then under development in Concord and Sudbury.  The study compared a no-build scenario and two levels of buildout:  240 and 275 units, both well above the potential 125 units currently contemplated in the redevelopment of The Mall.  The study concluded that the increase in traffic expected from buildouts at these levels within the Lincoln Station area would not significantly alter traffic operations compared to the no-build conditions. The study observed that the Codman Road/Lincoln Road intersection might approach safe limits and thus should be monitored for increased traffic and accidents which might indicate a need for corrective measures.  To view the traffic study, please click here.

What is the potential impact on the Lincoln School population?

Former Lincoln Public Schools Superintendent, Becky McFall, addressed the question of whether additional students from new housing would negatively impact the schools.  She noted  that enrollment in the Lincoln School K-8 was in the low 700’s in the years 2001 through 2004.  Since then, there has been a gradual decline in enrollment resulting in the 2021 enrollment of 524 students as of October 1, 2021.  She welcomed the opportunity for more school age children to attend the Lincoln Schools.  To read her memorandum, please click here. The School Committee also issued a statement regarding the school population in their Fall 2022 newsletter. To read the letter, click here.

Lincoln’s real world experience with concerns about increased costs, fiscal impact, traffic, and school children shows that the projections of the reports and studies above are likely accurate.  As previously noted, Oriole Landing, completed in 2020, is a 60 unit rental property with 25% of the units being affordable to households earning 80% of Area Median Income (AMI).  The analyses required by the Planning Board forecasted a net positive fiscal impact on the Town as it relates to municipal costs and an estimated 7 new school age children. Both of these projections proved accurate.  To review Civico’s Financial Pro-Forma and Fiscal Impact Analysis for Oriole Landing, please click here.

Shows current enrollment compared to building capacity.

Shows current enrollment compared to building capacity.

Will the Town have any control over projects developed in the Housing Choice district?


Planning Board:  Any development that is allowed under the Housing Choice Overlay District will require Site Plan approval.  As part of the Site Plan Approval process, the Planning Board will review how an individual project complies with the zoning requirements, including design guidelines, parking, traffic, circulation, lighting, screening, and stormwater control.

Historical Commission:  Any proposed project that includes partial or total demolition of an existing building must comply with the Demolition Bylaw that is administered by the Historical Commission. Any proposed changes to the exterior of a building or structure that is in the Historic District must apply to the Historic District Commission for approval.

Conservation Commission:  All projects must comply with Lincoln’s wetlands protection bylaws.

Sustainable Construction:  All projects must comply with the Specialized Stretch building code adopted by residents at the March 2023 Annual Town Meeting: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/stretch-energy-code-development-2022. In addition, Lincoln has applied to be one of the 10 towns piloting a “no new fossil fuel hook-ups” policy for new construction and gut renovations. Once Lincoln’s application to the state is approved, proposed projects will need to comply.

What about wastewater treatment capacity?

The HCA does not require towns to have wastewater treatment facilities in place within the zoned areas. It is the responsibility of the developer to provide the necessary infrastructure.

Currently, the Town is working with The Community Builders and the Rural Land Foundation (RLF) to design an updated and expanded wastewater treatment plant at Lincoln Woods.  The Lincoln Woods plant services the Mall (which is owned by the RLF). An expanded facility would also service the redevelopment project being put forward by the RLF.  The Town received a $400,000.00 grant from the State to pay for the engineering and design work going on now.  The design will be completed by June 30, 2024.  To enable the construction of the updated wastewater treatment plant, the Town would work with The Community Builders to submit a MassWorks grant application to help fund the upgrade.  To review the studies that have been completed regarding the WWTP, please click here.

MassWorks grants are the only available large money grants that help cities and towns with the costs of building infrastructure.  To learn more about MassWorks grants, typical projects and awards, please click here.  

Do we have enough drinking water capacity?

Yes. The Water Department issued a memo in August 2023 that outlines current and potential usage and capacity. Click here to read the memo. 

Will additional housing jeopardize the Town’s Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI)? 

No. The Towns current SHI based on the 2020 Federal Census is 12.83%.

The Town is currently doing a feasibility study to determine whether the 3A HCA District can support a 15% affordable housing requirement. If the study determines that it can, the zoning will require any project to include15% affordable residential units at 80% Area Median Income (AMI). If the study determines that a 15% requirement is too high and will make a multi-family project economically infeasible, the 3A regulations allow a 10% affordability requirement. In either case, the Towns SHI will not be in jeopardy.

To see the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities Chapter 40B Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI) as of June 29, 2023, please click on this link:  https://www.lincolntown.org/DocumentCenter/View/79217/LIncoln-SHI-as-of-July-2023--FINAL

What is the “Housing Choice Initiative/Act,” “MBTA Communities Act,” or “section 3A”?

In 2021, to address the scarcity and high cost of housing in Massachusetts, the state created a new section of the State Zoning Act (G.L. c 40A, § 3A) to support the goal of producing 200,000 homes needed to meet the Commonwealth’s housing demand. Part of the act requires the 175 communities served by the MBTA and Commuter Rail (“MBTA Communities”) to zone for at least one district where multifamily housing is permitted “as of right.” Failure to comply makes the town ineligible for a variety of housing, infrastructure, and development grants, and exposes the town to litigation. 

On March 15, 2023, the Attorney General issued clarifying guidance regarding compliance1:

“All MBTA Communities must comply with the Law. Communities that do not currently have a compliant multi-family zoning district must take steps outlined in the DHCD guidelines to demonstrate interim compliance. Communities that fail to comply with the Law may be subject to civil enforcement action. Non-compliant MBTA Communities are also subject to the administrative consequence of being rendered ineligible to receive certain forms of state funding.Importantly, MBTA Communities cannot avoid their obligations under the Law by foregoing this funding. The Law requires that MBTA Communities “shall have” a compliant zoning district and does not provide any mechanism by which a town or city may opt out of this requirement.”

What does this mean for Lincoln? 

Lincoln is designated as a commuter rail community, and the rules state that to comply with the law, we must have zoning bylaws that meet the following requirements:

  • At least one zoning district must permit “multifamily housing” uses “as of right.” (“As of right” means that provided site plan requirements are met, the use is allowed. Boards can shape the project but cannot deny permission. Every zoning district must have at least one “by right” use.)
  • The multifamily district(s) must be of a “reasonable size” and must allow a minimum gross density of 15 units per acre. In Lincoln, we need to create a zone or zones that add up to at least 42 acres.
  • The multifamily housing must have no age restrictions and must be suitable for families with children. In Lincoln, at least 20% of the 42 acres must be located within ½ mile of the commuter rail station. 

How is Lincoln meeting the requirements needed to comply? 

  • To comply with the specific statutory requirements of the new legislation, Lincoln has established a Housing Choice Act Working Group (HCAWG) by vote of the Select Board. Its members are:  
    • Michelle Barnes, Lincoln Land Conservation Trust
    • Abigail Butt, Director, Council on Aging & Human Services
    • Bill Churchill, Zoning Board of Appeals
    • Rachel Drew, Housing Commission
    • Bob Domnitz, Planning Board (until end of March 2023)
    • Steve Gladstone, Water Commission (beginning April 2023)
    • Andrew Glass, Historical Commission
    • Jennifer Glass, Select Board
    • Tim Higgins, Town Administrator
    • Darin LaFalam, Superintendent, Water Department
    • John MacLachlan, School Committee
    • Geoff McGean, Rural Land Foundation
    • Craig Nicholson, Planning Board (beginning May 2023)
    • Terry Perlmutter, Council on Aging & Human Services Board
    • Kathleen Shepard, Conservation Commission
    • Gary Taylor, Planning Board
    • Paula Vaughn MacKenzie, Director, Planning and Land Use.  
  • The HCAWG is meeting monthly and will develop zoning proposals regarding possible locations, sizes, and density of new zoning districts, and the zoning amendments that would need to be made.
  • The HCAWG is committed to robust and frequent engagement with the community and will use a variety of outreach methods to communicate with residents.

What is the timeline for creating a bylaw to establish a new zoning district?

  • January 2023:  Deadline for submitting an Action Plan and Action Plan Timeline to the Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD).  Lincoln submitted the Action Plan in December 2022. 
  • February 2023 – March 2024: 
    • HCAWG and Planning Board develop zoning proposal(s)
    • Public engagement
    • Planning Board and multi-board hearings
  • March 2024:  Vote on Zoning proposal at Annual Town Meeting. The decision to adopt a bylaw rests with voters! The new zoning requires a simple majority of those present at Town Meeting.
  • December 2024: Submit Town Meeting-approved zoning bylaw to DHCD for final compliance.

To assist with developing the zoning district(s), Lincoln has been awarded a $20,000 grant from the Mass Housing Partnership for a 3 - 4 month project to be completed no later than June 30, 2023. The money will be used for technical assistance to do the modeling of the various proposed district areas that will be brought to the community for consideration.

Why comply?

  • Community Goals:  Residents have repeatedly expressed support for ensuring a range of housing options in Lincoln. The Housing Choice Act can be a tool to shape future housing development around mass transit in ways that balance housing with other stated community values such as environmental and land stewardship, and support for our local businesses.
  • Fiscal Responsibility:  Compliance ensures that the town remains eligible for multiple state funding opportunities such as the MassWorks program and the Housing Choice Grant program. For example, MassWorks offers grants of up to several million dollars for projects focused on: drinking water and wastewater; bicycle, pedestrian, and roadway infrastructure; and housing and economic development. (Visit https://www.mass.gov/guides/community-one-stop-for-growth, https://www.mass.gov/orgs/massworks, and https://www.mass.gov/how-to/housing-choice-grant-program for more information.) 

What’s Next?


Overview of Section 3A of the Zoning Act

Section 18 of chapter 358 of the Acts of 2020 added a new section 3A to chapter 40A of the General Laws applicable to MBTA communities and provides:

An MBTA community shall have a zoning ordinance or by-law that provides for at least 1 district of reasonable size in which multi-family housing is permitted as of right; provided, however, that such multi-family housing shall be without age restrictions and shall be suitable for families with children.  For purposes of this section, a district of reasonable size shall:  (i) have a minimum gross density of 15 units per acre, subject to any further limitations imposed by section 40 of chapter 131 and title 5 of the state environmental code established pursuant to section 13 of chapter 21A; and (ii) be located not more than 0.5 miles from a commuter rail station, subway station, ferry terminal or bus station, if applicable.

The Department of Housing and Community Development, in consultation with the MBTA, is required to promulgate guidelines to determine if an MBTA community is in compliance with Section 3A.  DHCD promulgated preliminary guidance on January 29, 2021 and updated the guidance on December 15, 2021.  

DHCD Preliminary Guidance on MBTA Communities.  Click here.  For the updated Guidance click here.

On January 31, 2022, at a joint Select Board/Planning Board/SLPAC meeting, there was a briefing of the Housing Choice Legislation applicable to MBTA communities and the DHCD updated Guidelines.  For the power point deck used at the meeting, please click here.