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Zoning Reform for Quality of Life

Massachusetts’ state zoning laws are some of the most outdated laws in the country, which explains why in the past three decades many attempts have been made to change these laws. Although municipal level zoning reform laws have been passed, none of these attempts at the state level have been successful. This lack of success is why this project has been created.

The photo above is the team and our sponsors

(From left to right: Tom Gammel, Senator Harriette Chandler, Tyler Fazsewski, Ryan Kolb, Jennifer Burnham, and Tim Daley)

Student Researchers

Jennifer Burnham is a junior majoring in Biomedical Engineering at WPI. She is involved in many organizations on campus and is the Chapter Life Vice President of Alpha Xi Delta, President of  Students Promoting Animal Welfare (SPAW), a member of Colleges Against Cancer (CAC) and a member of Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES). In her spare time she like to watch movies and go to the beach.

Tyler Faszewski is a junior at WPI, he is currently studying mechanical engineering and plans on staying a fifth year to study fire protection engineering. After school Tyler hopes to obtain a career in the field of fire protection in the New England area. Tyler, a member of the varsity swim team, spends most of his time at the pool and rec center at WPI.

Thomas Gammel is a junior here at WPI majoring in Biomedical Engineering with a concentration in Biosensors and Instrumentation.  Thomas devotes a lot of his time to his studies, varsity football, and his fraternity Lambda Chi Alpha. When he isn’t doing that you can often find him relaxing with friends or doing some sort of sport related physical activity.

Ryan Kolb is a junior here at WPI and he majors in Management Engineering with a concentration in Operations Management. He has been a member of the WPI men’s varsity basketball team since his freshman year. He is also a member of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC). In his spare time he enjoys listening to music, hanging with friends, and fishing.

Project Description

Throughout this seven week term we will be working alongside the office of Senator Harriette Chandler to gather information to aide the senators in their attempt to pass a Zoning Reform Bill in Massachusetts. The zoning reform bill aims to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts and the passage of this bill will hopefully aide in the improvement of the lives of the citizens of Massachusetts.

Zoning ordinances benefit the community by establishing design standards for the land use and define land use regulations for commercial, residential, industrial, or parks. Zoning ordinances regulate how the land is used and can affect the quality of life of citizens through some of these elements:

  • Improve public transportation and increase walk-ability
  • Maintain and protect recreational and open spaces
  • Improve air quality and conserve fuel
  • Create affordable housing

These are only a few major benefits gained through zoning reform, but all can attribute to improving the quality of life of individuals. Our team has set forth goals and objectives which will ideally be accomplished by the end of the seven week term. Our overarching goal is to assist Senator Chandler’s office in promoting and passing a state zoning reform bill to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Massachusetts. We hope to achieve this goal by satisfying these objectives:

  • Characterize the purpose, structure, and content of previous bills submitted in Massachusetts
  • Characterize the purpose, structure, and content of state zoning reform bills that were successful/unsuccessful in other states
  • Identify the nature, range, and purposes of zoning reforms that have been proposed in the United States in recent years
  • Solicit opinions from and educate key stakeholders in Massachusetts about the need for zoning reform
  • Develop model language for the proposed zoning reform bill

By achieving these objectives, we will complete tasks such as  analyzing zoning reform laws in other states, gathering opinions from the general public of Massachusetts, interviewing city and town planners throughout Massachusetts, and holding focus groups of Massachusetts Senators to determine their opinions regarding zoning reform bills that have already been introduced. We will also analyze the language used in previous Massachusetts state zoning reform bills and in bills that have successfully passed in other states.

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